Summer 2011

Welcome to TWC5/401

red swirl TWC5/401 prepares you for a variety of technical-communication and information-design tasks such as planning and creating instructions, reports, usability studies, memos, web pages, manuals, and presentations. This course is rhetorically based so that you can determine how to write in any situation by analyzing the purpose, audience, and context; rhetorical aims will shape document preparation and design. You will develop an understanding of, and skills necessary for, working with teams in organizational contexts.

red swirl Our web-based course is arranged around three main areas of emphasis:

We will begin by reading, analyzing, reflecting, and writing together on topics related to technical communication and computer-mediated communication (weeks 1-2)
We will design team-based formal technical reports (weeks 2-5)
We will create professionally designed online presentations of our work (week 5)

This section of TWC 5/401 is an online, web-based course. We will explore, assess, and use a range of writing, communication, and design technologies in this course. Because working together online introduces a wide range of possibilities and constraints, we will take the time to reflect on the ways in which technologies shape, support, constrain, and otherwise affect our work and our interactions.

red swirl Online courses require more time, effort, follow-through, active problem solving, self discipline, and time management than face-to-face courses. Summer five-week online versions are even more intensive, and you should plan to dedicate 10-15 hours per week on the course. Plan to log on daily and to spend a couple of hours daily on this course. Please note on the course calendar that there are three entries for each week: readings, discussions, and production due dates. Plan your time such that you can give the readings the attention and reflection that they will need, including annotating, rereading, and developing your own personal responses. Each week I will post notes, direction, and supporting materials in the course’s Monday Memo.

red swirl Some of the central concepts and questions for the course are concerned with usability and interactivity — their histories, etymologies, theories, and practices — and we will wrangle with that concept in our own communication and sharing of materials. You can help guarantee our successful and productive interactions by proposing alternative and useful ways for us to communicate, write, design, ask questions, and learn together. Always feel free to post comments, questions, concerns, and ideas to the class Discussion Forum.

red swirl A Note to Graduate Students

Graduate students enrolled in the course are responsible for researching and writing an additional Background Report (or “White Paper”) on a Technical Communication topic that you are interested in, and which is negotiated with me. You are welcome to propose a topic and scope. Some timely examples:

  • Intellectual Property: Digital Copyright  & Fair Use: what rights, responsibilities, and current conversations should technical and professional communicators be aware of?
  • Empathic Design: what can technical and professional communicators and designers learn from the newly emerging field of Empathic Design (and vice versa)?
  • Gender & Technology: do men and women read differently? Do they interact with media differently? Do they have different assumptions (or experiences) with technical and professional communication?
  • Content Management Systems: what effects might database-environment writing and content-management systems have on the future of technical communicators?
  • Documentation & Aesthetics: can documentation be beautiful? Should it be?