How to Use Newsroom 101 in Your Course

The most important things:

  • Require the exercises. Do not make them optional.
  • Schedule them. Do not let students cram them into the final weeks.
  • If possible, give regular in-class, on-paper tests based on the homework.
  • Make “Quiz 1″ your first assignment. It covers what students need to know before they can begin working.
  • If you have not already done so, look at the link to how other teachers have used Newsroom 101 with their courses. It's under the Professors menu.

munich-1220908__340Don’t have time to make a plan? — Use this one:

  • Make Newsroom 101 exercises worth 20% of the course grade.
  • Require students to complete 200 quizzes. Col. 1 of the gradebook gives you the count of the quizzes each student completed. Use this count:
    • Require 120 to be completed by the week before midterms.
    • Require the rest to be completed by the week before finals.
  • Assign a midterm Newsroom 101 grade, and a finals Newsroom 101 grade, each based on how many units the student completed by then.
    • Grading: 100 or more = A, 90 = B, 80 = C, 75 or below = D.
  • If your course emphasizes AP style, require all the AP units. Start with the quick overview of AP style so students can begin using the basics right away.
  • If your course emphasizes grammar, require all the grammar units.
  • Offer extra credit to students who complete more than 200 units by the week before finals.
  • If you have time, modify this plan with the material below. As possible, set up additional due dates that are followed by an in-class quiz on the Newsroom 101 homework to that point.
  • Review the quizzes yourself. Pick key examples to review in class. Have students team up and defend their answers.
  • Assign one of the Dow Jones Grammar Tests each week as a reality check. Preferably, administer it in class, but for discussion only, not for grades. Remind students that, when they apply for a job or internship, their performance on a comparable test may influence their chances.

You can choose which quizzes to use, with this exception: In order to assign a quiz marked "Review" or "All," you must also assign the 3 or 4 quizzes that are listed as its prerequisites.

Give your students a list of the quizzes you want them to complete, and tell them to ignore the others (or offer them for extra credit). It is rarely practical to hide the quizzes you do not assign (although you will find directions under the Professors menu). Think of Newsroom 101 as a workbook in which you assign certain units but not others.

If you have time to make your own plan, do this:

Choose which units to use. Decide which Newsroom 101 units you will assign. Count the number of quizzes you will assign (there are 288 in all, minus what you omit) and divide these so they are due on specific dates.

Assign the units. Do not make them optional. In spite of everyone’s best intentions, few students do this work voluntarily, no matter how self-directed they consider themselves to be. You are like their personal trainer in the grammmar gym. Students come to you because they need someone to tell them what they need to do, then make sure they do it.

Set due dates. It is important to spread the exercises over the semester. If students wait till the last two weeks of the semester, they will not retain much. The way to spread the exercises over the semester is to have due dates and check them.

Give in-class quizzes on the online homework. Realistically, you may not have time to administer additional quizzes in class, but if you do, those quizzes will help students remember what they learned from Newsroom 101, and they will give you an additional way to measure student progress.

Ideally, on homework due dates, give an in-class quiz based on the material in the homework.

Grade by the number completed. Assign students a grade based on the total number of quizzes they complete. This count appears in Column 1 of the gradebook and provides a convenient way to identify which students are keeping up. (Note: If this column reads “Error,” let us know and we will repair the complicated code required for this simple count.)

You might decide that the Newsroom 101 grade is worth, say, 20 percent of the final grade, and the Newsroom 101 grade is determined as:

  • 100 points if you complete 200 or more quizzes,
  • 90 if you complete 180 or more,
  • 80 if you complete 160, and
  • no credit for fewer units completed. (Adjust these numbers to suit your students, subject and assignment load.)

Discourage cramming. Require that work be completed throughout the semester, to discourage cramming at the end.

How long do the quizzes take?

Students who read at a rapid pace, have good grammar skills and have more familiarity with journalistic style can complete 200 quizzes in Newsroom 101 in as little as 6 hours, ideally spread over a few weeks.

Students who read more slowly and need more practice in grammar, usage, spelling and style will need 15 hours or more total.

Logs imply that some students have required as long as 30 hours. We suspect they experienced frequent interruptions and needed often to start again, and it is likely that for some of this time the computer sat unattended.

Please assign this material so students work at it, a little at the time, over an extended period and do not cram it into a week or two.

If students complain that Newsroom 101 quizzes take too long as homework, teachers usually take that opportunity to impress students with the high standards students must achieve if they hope to succeed in the communication field.

When students find that Newsroom 101 homework takes a long time, this is an indication that they need more practice on the basics of grammar and style before they can get up to the speed they will need as professionals.

About the count of quizzes completed

Column 1 of the gradebook counts the number of quizzes students have completed at the required standard -- 90 percent for regular quizzes, 80 percent for review quizzes.

Some details:

  • You cannot assign the Review quizzes by themselves. Be sure to include their prerequisites, which are listed below each review quiz in the display of quizzes.
  • Two sections have proved so challenging for students that we set the standard to 80 percent to reduce frustration and encourage more teachers to assign them. Those are hyphens and spelling -- where each quiz requires a score of 80 percent or higher, not 90 percent.


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