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Nov 07
English classes – a fun way to gain valuable skills

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Christopher Spradlin, of North Platte, works on an assignment using an app on his smartphone. The incorporation of personal electronic devices into the classroom is just one of the many ways English instructors at Mid-Plains Community College have created a fun and interactive learning environment.

Almost all students are required to take an English Composition class as part of a degree program at Mid-Plains Community College. 

The classes provide students with the written skills needed to be successful both personally and professionally and prepare them for advanced studies requiring written expression.

"I personally build my English Composition classes to teach students to be effective academic researchers regardless of their field of study," said Jean Miller, English instructor. "My goal is to prepare them not only for research writing at the university level, but also for effective academic research during their career." 

A new way to learn 

Just because the classes are required doesn't mean they can't be fun. 

The English instructors at MPCC are constantly looking for new and creative ways to excite their students about learning. Smartphones and iPods are commonplace in the classroom as are videos and other interactive forms of multimedia. 

The flipped classroom model English instructor Kristi Leibhart began using this fall is a prime example. 

Flipped learning is a blended teaching style that introduces students to content outside the classroom - often online. Conversely, homework and other assignments that would have traditionally happened outside the classroom are moved into the classroom, mixing face-to-face learning with independent study. 

"Students can begin the learning process for each new concept at home, in their dorm room, at the coffee shop or even on the bus on the way to the next game," said Leibhart. "That way, when they enter the classroom, they are prepared for the face-to-face work, and I can really dig in. We begin writing and shaping the paper, do some revising activities and are able to work on a much deeper level because that first layer of learning already took place." 

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Betzy Castellanos, of Lexington, completes an assignment using multimedia in English instructor Kristi Leibhart's "flipped" classroom. 

Leibhart uses a program that integrates videos and interactive activities with the text students read. Quizzes and concept checks along the way gauge student understanding at regular intervals before they move on. 

Because of the media-rich presentation of content, students are more likely to complete their assigned reading, retain what they've read and show up to class prepared to learn. 

The content is available both online and off, and an app syncs information across all registered devices, so students can easily toggle back and forth - allowing them to study anytime, anywhere. 

There are highlighting and note taking options, and Leibhart can add her own notes to assignments, including reminders and study tips. Tracking tools allow her to assess student understanding and engagement and give her the opportunity to provide timely feedback or address any learning gaps. 

MPCC English Instructor Dr. Jessie Allen uses a "YouTube" channel to "flip" certain aspects of her classes as well. For example, instead of lecturing during class about how to make a Works Cited page then having the students make their own page at home, Allen posts Works Cited tutorials on YouTube and assigns the videos as homework. After the students have watched the videos, they create a Works Cited page in class.   

Literature 

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Literature is another branch of study that lends itself to the imagination and can be a fun experience for students at MPCC. It provides an opportunity for students to examine a variety of story-driven texts that introduce them to different genres and cultures and help them develop critical analysis and response skills. 

"Stories exist all around us – in books, on the internet, and even on TV or in video games," said Allen. "Depending on their interests, students can choose coursework at MPCC that will allow them to study novels, plays, short fiction, nonfiction, poetry, television programs, films or audio texts." 

No matter what students choose to study, their success is the top priority for MPCC's English instructors. 

A low student-to-faculty ratio allows students to receive individualized attention, and classes are offered in a variety of formats and at a variety of times to make the pursuit of a postsecondary education work with busy schedules. On-site, online, distance learning and Sunday College options are all available. 

More information about MPCC and the English classes it offers can be found online at: mpcc.edu.

Heather Johnson
Area Communications Specialist

Heather produces and distributes press releases for the college. She began work at MPCC in 2014. Prior to that, she spent five years as the news director/web manager for Eagle Radio in North Platte. From 2009-2014 she worked as a reporter/photographer for The North Platte Telegraph. Heather has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chadron State College.

Brent L. Cobb
McCook Community College News Bureau Coordinator​​​