Sample Syllabus

This syllabus is from ENG 243: Science Fiction and Fantasy.  The OER does not include material on fantasy other than in Part 3 on Romanticism.

Jefferson Community College

Watertown, NY 13601

English 243: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Contact Hours:  3

Credit Hours:    3

Type of Hours:  Lecture                                                      Prerequisite: English 102

Course Description


English 243 is a literature elective which provides a survey of major readings in science fiction and fantasy literature. Reading selections will reflect the major literary movements within these speculative fiction genres. Students will become familiar with significant economic, political, and social influences on texts and will engage in oral and written literary analysis, interpreting a variety of representative texts.

Instructional Goals

English 243 students will

  1. Read actively, synthesize effectively, and respond critically to assigned science fiction and fantasy literature;
  2. Demonstrate how to apply basic literary terminology and methodology to interpret literature using textual references and relevant commentary;
  3. Discuss and write about prominent science fiction and fantasy authors, texts, and varying time periods;
  4. Explore the literature’s distinctive social, cultural, and historical/political influences;
  5. Complete diverse writing assignments, other than formal essays, designed to develop their analytical and interpretive skills;
  6. Write formal, literature-based essays that support arguable theses in clear, interesting, and appropriately developed styles for an academic audience;
  7. Employ Standard American English and correct grammatical structure, integrate citations from literary texts into their writing, and document these texts according to MLA style;
  8. Demonstrate increasing autonomy in achieving each of these goals.

Course Methods

These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Class discussions
  • Audio-visual resources
  • Group investigation and discussion
  • Live productions
  • Guest speakers
  • Oral interpretation of texts


The English Faculty’s policy is to require formal and informal literary analysis as the primary means of evaluation. The techniques for measuring student performance must be consistent with course goals and instructional methods. Individual instructors are expected to specify the number and types of assignments on their course outlines. One example is as follows:

Analysis Essays                                           1650 points (33%)

Participation                                                  1450 points (29%)

Tests                                                               1400 points (28%)

Homework and Quizzes                               500 points (10%)

Important: You are evaluated on both process and product in this course.  To earn passing credit on any essay, students must attach a complete rough draft—defined as a paper using cited sources and of the required minimum length and source use—to the discussion board by the due date listed in the schedule.  Any final copy must reflect significant improvement from the rough draft.

Homework and essays must be submitted as Word or RTF files in Times or Arial font.  No other fonts are accepted.  Pasted-in work or work in other file formats will not be considered, so save as a Word file in whichever program you use by selecting Word under file type.

Grading Criteria

The English faculty approves the use of a grading grid for formal essays.  A copy of this grid is posted in Course Information.

Course Topical Outline

The course must include, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Definition and classification of science fiction (e.g., space opera, AI, alternative history, alternative future, cyberpunk, feminist, dystopian, utopian)
  • Definition and classification of fantasy literature (e.g., high fantasy, young adult, contemporary, dark fantasy, mythic, paranormal)
  • Historical overview of science fiction and fantasy genres
  • Methods of literary analysis
  • Literary terminology
  • Coverage of literary critical theory
  •  Major themes in science fiction and fantasy
  • Modern & postmodern economic, political, and social influences on science fiction

Participation Expectations

Classes in this format are not self-paced.  Neither are they taken in isolation.  Here is how the participation works.

  • You would write at least eight substantive postings to earn the basic (70% grade) grade for each board.  Write more than eight posts to earn more than the average grade.  To earn an A grade in a discussion, write more than eight posts.  Participation is predicated on your doing more than the minimum.
  • A timely presence matters. When any discussion board opens, you must post within forty-eight hours to avoid a penalty.  Your activity level and consistency figure greatly in the grades you earn.
  • Large gaps in posting activity are unacceptable.  For each gap in activity of three full days or more between postings, you will lose one-third of the points for that discussion.  Notice the each there.  Miss that many days three times and you’d have no points—even if you posted fifteen other times.  Consistency matters.
  • Responses to others, rough drafts, and peer edits—if properly developed—may count as quality discussion postings.
  • Failing to peer edit others’ (two edits) work results in a failing discussion score.
  • Only posts with short sentences as subjects (see below) will count.

Each post has two fields that you must complete correctly in order to get credit: Message and Subject.  No matter how well written your message, if your subject isn’t clear or acceptable, your post does not meet the criteria for acceptability.  You will lose credit if you do not follow the two key rules below.

Rule #1: The message content of your posting must introduce relevant information which teaches us something new.

Your job here is to provide new information which is appropriate to the issue being discussed.

  1. Is your message accurate?
  2. Is it relevant to the issue under discussion?  How so?
  3. Did you teach us anything new?
  4. Have you added to the academic atmosphere of the course?
  5. Is your information properly cited using MLA format?  (This includes any summaries, paraphrases, or quotes—even of other students’ postings.)

Note: Saying “Yes, I totally agree” is a non-informative message that, while it might be good for the class social environment, adds nothing to the teaching presence (knowledge) of the course.

Rule #2: The subject line for your posting must be a short complete sentence which conveys the point of your message.

Create a sentence-form subject line for your discussion postings that conveys the main point.  It is not enough to use a keyword as your subject; use a short sentence (a complete sentence, but not more than about 10 words) summarizing the message’s main point. Write the subject after creating the message. 

This requirement accomplishes two goals:

  1. It requires the writer to think about and clearly state the main point of the message.  The author must have a clear understanding of the material; this aids in learning and memory.
  2. It provides the reader with advance information which is helpful in organizing and learning the message content.  Readers should be able to determine the essence of your comment just by reading your subject

Late Paper/Late Work Policy

No late work will be accepted without prior permission.  Essays are due by the end of the day (11:59 Eastern Standard Time) on the due dates listed in the scheduleGive me reasonable time to respond to your request that I accept the work late.  Late papers accepted under those circumstances would lose 10% for every day they are late.  Notify me promptly by email if you use a boon:

Printer/computer problems or lack of access to the text are not acceptable excuses for failing to turn in work.

Excessive absences (of a week more) without communication with the professor are not allowed.  In nearly all situations, you are able to contact me promptly.  If a situation arises, let me know as soon as possible.  I will not entertain requests that you be allowed to complete a course after a month’s absence, for example.


When a draft is due and you don’t submit it on time, the discussion board and final copy grades are failing.  Grading for the late essay’s final copy begins at 59%.  Students may not opt out of major assignments; no further work will be accepted till the essay is submitted and evaluated.

I reserve the right to treat late work on a case-by-case basis.  Absences are covered in the College Catalog; what you may think is an acceptable absence probably isn’t . . . Read that policy carefully.

Acceptable Academic Sources

All assignments have acceptable source guidelines on the assignment sheets.  Internet searches often lead to nonacademic information resources, such as, Encarta,,,,,, etc. These sources may not be used, as they are not academic.


Jefferson Community College believes that all persons should be extended civility and respect, regardless of factors such as opinion/view, institutional role, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation or age. Teaching and learning are the focus of Jefferson Community College. Accordingly, the College is committed to creating and maintaining positive learning and working environments both in and out of the academic classroom.

While it is understood that disagreement will and should occur in a collegiate setting, open communication, intellectual integrity, mutual respect for differing viewpoints, freedom from unnecessary disruption/disorder, and a climate of civility are important institutional values.

Academic Honesty

You will not present any ideas, patterns of reasoning, or others’ words as your own work.  Anything that is quoted, summarized or paraphrased must be documented properly in MLA style.  For instance, if a student failed to quote direct use of a source’s words, they would create a plagiarism situation even if the work was cited, since the lack of quotes indicates that your words were used.  Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment or for the course.

We assume that all ideas and facts in your reports are your own unless you cite a source (oral or written, professional or student), using MLA documentation style.  Any words not in quotes are yours; if you fail to quote others’ words—even if you cite—this creates a plagiarism situation.  These are easily spotted and dealt with.  You had best police yourself before I have to.  Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse, and neither is the idea that you were just “getting inspiration” from a source.  (While the course is gamified, this plagiarism tracking is not the sort of game I enjoy.  It is easy for me and a student’s bad choices will be spotted, but I don’t enjoy this nonsense.)

Students engaging in plagiarism are subject to at least a “zero” grade for that assignment.  With severe cases of plagiarism, students may be withdrawn from the course with an “F.”  This policy is your warning to avoid plagiarism. If serious plagiarism occurs, a letter indicating the plagiarism is placed in your student file.

I reserve the right to deal with plagiarism on a case-by-case basis.  I may revisit and regrade earlier assignments found plagiarized if a later assignment contains plagiarism.

Each of your essays must reflect new writing for this class only. Such work earns no points.  Essays previously written for high school or for another course will not be accepted.  You may not double up an essay for this and another class, as this is a form of self-plagiarism.  Students may not reuse source data from previous papers.

The College Catalog covers the College’s academic honesty policy: “It is expected that all work you submit is entirely your own unless you have given another source credit using MLA guidelines.  All forms of plagiarism require disciplinary action, which may range from earning no credit for an assignment to failing the course to expulsion from the College.”  Consult the College Catalog for additional details.

Avoiding Plagiarism

  • If in doubt about whether you must cite or not, cite the work.
  • Cite as you write the paper so that you do not have to go back and guess at what was used where.
  • Work on adding signal phrases (or tag identifiers) that indicate where a source begins and why that is a credible source.
  • Quote any used words, as unquoted quotes can be plagiarism even if cited.
  • Avoid doing rushed or late work.
  • Google searches or the first pages of hits should not be your first resort when researching.

Course Schedule and Organization . . .  and a Little Warning

The Course Information area in Blackboard contains your schedule.  It is organized by unit with weekly tasks set out, as well as the day of the week and date.  There is much to cover in the first unit as you are getting used to the course.  Do not be overwhelmed.  Once you get used to posting, drafting, editing and resubmitting essays, it is fairly simple and later weeks have few instructions.

Online Success is Simple. . . Just not Easy

  • Basically, we post in the active discussion forum, ask public questions in the Ask the Class forum, ask private questions via email, and attach homework assignments by attaching our Word file within the unit’s Assignments folder.  Other than attaching work or clicking “Submit” to post, there are not many technical aspects to the online format.
  • You own the course.  Therefore, you participate actively.  Each gap of over three full days results in you losing one-third of that board’s participation points.  You should not be taking the course if you plan on posting only “every once in a while,” as it is more involved.  The trade-off is that you determine the directions discussions take.  Taking one’s learning seriously means being present, active.
  • Each unit, a complete rough draft of your essay is required on time for the essay—and the discussion score—to earn passing credit.  I value both the product and the process.  Do poorly on the process and the product will suffer.
  • You peer edit at least two essays in the discussion board each unit, offering specific suggestions that improve at least two other students’ papers.
  • We read common texts and back up our points about them with details and reason.  We’re less interested in the particular opinion you have than in how you support and exemplify it.

Once you grasp how one unit flows—with a flurry of early postings followed by reading, homework, more posts, drafting, more posts, peer editing, more posts, and the submission of a final copy—we do this repeatedly.  The good part of this is that, if you can master the system, you will earn high scores.  Conversely, to the extent that you fail to participate or to do work on time, you’ll earn disastrously low scores.

That’s it!

Proper Expectations Matter

This is a course in critical reading, critical thinking, rhetoric and research.  Having taught online every semester since 2002, I can share the top few student misconceptions about academic writing.  Most relate to expectations.

  • The course is not self-paced.  You cannot hope to succeed in this course without actively logging in and discussing the material.  It’s not a weekends-only course.  In fact, there are huge participation penalties for not posting frequently.
  • Disappearing for a few weeks without notice has immediate consequences.  Since I accept no late work without prior permission, it’s important not to make one’s posts endangered species!
  • Reading turns into writing in valuable ways.  That’s what this course is about, but it may not be an attitude you walk in with.  Students must learn to annotate their texts, taking the reading process seriously and turning what they marked up into occasions for writing.  In other words, mark up your book in some fashion. The page is not sacred.  Annotation isn’t something you can’t learn now just because you never did it or don’t see its immediate value.
  • In high school, many of you did well by merely summarizing readings or reacting strongly and vaguely.  Believing something strongly does not open a space for respect in academic writing; on the contrary, it is likely a spot where readers will find faults in logic!  Editorializing (skipping from point to point with no examples) or using undefined, abstract ideas (think graduation speech or sermon) will not suffice at this level.  Neither can you put in likely-looking quotes with no setup or commentary and expect that to be impressive to academic readers.  Everything shows.
  • Although it’s a forum, our discussion isn’t a chat room.  You’ll use detail and post new ideas, questions, and specific replies to others.  (“Facebook, it ain’t,” though!)  We are skeptics and we have read what you are writing about, so back up any airy opinions.
  • Your text’s first few chapters will help you with reading and writing critically.  For instance, much of it is given to how we create a short sentence title for each post.  Yes, even this matters!  As a famous textbook’s title contends, “Everything’s an Argument.”
  • I view clichés as stand-ins for authentic expression, so avoid these.
  • Not posting is a sure way to fail.  The only way I know you’re reading is if you write about the reading.  Everything will show, so if you master participation you’ll likely have an easy time on the essays (drafts of which are posted and edited in the discussion boards).  Posting, drafting, editing . . .  this is all about improvement and attention to detail.
  • I’m not a big believer in talent, that notion that one either is or is not good at writing, art, or math.  Effort matters.  As one textbook noted, “Writing offers equal-opportunity hassle for all.”  I adhere to the idea that this is the single most important college class you will take.  Where else will you train in research, reading, rhetoric, and critical thinking?
  • Unless you adopt the attitude that you’ll do more than the minimum—and on time—you will struggle.  I designed participation so you would have to do more than eight posts to earn strong scores.  (Again—not self-paced—so you can’t dash these off in Week One and take a vacation.)
  • Again, many students believe writing involves putting the right-looking quotes into the right-seeming spots and moving on as if something occurred.  This may work at the high school level—in fact, it may be encouraged by today’s high-stakes testing environment—but in college, you will be shown up quickly if you only generalize or do nothing after overused quotes.  Your readers are critical and know the readings.

Additional Considerations

A grade of “Y” (abandoned the course) will be assessed if you miss two or more weeks of activity.

Faculty Information

Joshua Dickinson

E-mail:                                        Office: 6-204B

The Private Messages feature in Bb is turned off, so we use your CannonMail account for general and private messaging.

Phone: (315) 786-2221                                                               I have voice-mail.

Office Hours:

None for summer courses.

Virtual Office Hours: Call 315 767-6609 or email to