ENGL 3250 
Professional Communication I  
3 Credit Hours

Course Information
Course Description:
This course is designed to introduce you to various kinds of technical and professional writing. During the course, you will become familiar with technologies of business communication, receive feedback from and provide feedback to others on writing drafts and revisions, learn about the concept of "genre" and its application to technical and professional writing, and discover the role rhetoric plays in effective technical communication. Because this course is an online course, we will learn and experience ways to communicate effectively using e-mail and the Internet, including evaluating website design, the rhetoric of e-mail, the dynamics of online discussions, and particularly audience awareness and communication through technology. The course will go beyond writing itself to encompass graphics and ways they are used to create appropriate interfaces for communicating in computer environments. Throughout the course, rhetoric will be emphasized as an overarching concept essential for communicating in technological environments, both educational and professional.
Course Objectives:
  • Students will write in a variety of technical and professional writing genres and be able to identify characteristics of those genres.
  • Students will learn the importance of effective oral communication in professional settings (and will practice oral presentation skills).
  • Students will have opportunities to work in teams to accomplish writing tasks.
  • By the end of the course, students should have increased knowledge of professional writing formats, genres, and techniques.
  • Students should improve their ability to write clear, audience-friendly professional and technical documents.
  • Students will approach assignments as if they were on-the-job writing tasks. In other words, they will submit work that is professional in appearance and polished, work that would impress an employer or client.
  • Students will build on strengths and reduce the weaknesses in their writing by using each new assignment as an opportunity to apply lessons from the previous assignment.
  • Students will learn rhetorical principles for communicating effectively using technology.
  • Students will explore ethical principles for communicating with others using technology and for researching information.
  • Students will gain a greater awareness of the complexities technology brings to communicative environments in the form of e-mail, Internet communication, and online discussions.
Prerequisites and Corequisites:
 Successful completion of English 1010 and English 1020
Course Topics:
This course will cover rhetorical principles such as ethos, pathos, and logos and ways they can be used effectively to persuade an audience.  We will be covering such topics and communication types as oral presentations, website analyses, visual aids, procedural writing, technical document analyses, and document design revisions.  Some teamwork will be involved in drafting and revising writing.  
Specific Course Requirements:
Students should be independent learners, capable of setting realistic goals and managing time wisely. Knowledge of word processing software is required, as well as ability to navigate the Internet.  WebCT is an Internet-based interface, so students should have the basic skills (such as being able to operate a mouse, open and receive attachments, etc.) that are required for successful completion of a course conducted solely via the Internet.  Students should be able to work through problems on their own, while making lists of ones they cannot solve and need help with which can later be addressed with the instructor or an RODP Helpdesk consultant.  Students will be required to complete all assignments successfully to pass the course.
Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware, and Software Requirements
Required Textbooks:
  Please visit http://rodp.bkstr.com for specific textbook information for this class.
Supplementary Materials:
Students will be required to have access to a video recorder, such as a hand-held video camera, for oral presentations.  The presentations will be taped and then sent to the instructor for feedback.  Tapes should be in VHS format.  Students may choose to submit their presentations in digital format.  The instructor will need to approve the image quality before submission, however.
Hardware Requirements:
Please see the Regents' Degree website (http://www.rodp.org) for specific recommended basic hardware requirements.  Ideally, you should have access to a PC computer with at least a 1GB hard drive, 32 megs of RAM, a 56K modem, and access to the Internet.
Software Requirements:
The course requires use of Microsoft Office, including Word and PowerPoint, and PhotoEditor (or PaintShop Pro).  Use of Internet Explorer is preferred.
Instructor Information
Instructor Name:
Instructor Contact Information:

E-mail Address: 
Office Phone: 
Secretary Phone:
Fax:  

Virtual Office Hours:
Instructor Response Time:
Assessment and Grading
Testing Procedures:
Students will take periodic readiness tests that cover the reading assignments.  In addition, there will be a final encompassing all of the reading material.  Readiness test questions will be in short-answer or true/false form.  The final exam is in essay form.  Readiness tests will be taken online; this will entail your accessing the test, copying and pasting it into Word, completing the test, and then e-mailing it to me as an attachment.  You could also e-mail me the readiness test answers in the e-mail message itself.
Grading Procedure:
Your grade will be calculated based on the following percentages:
  • Analysis of Technical Documents in the Field (10%)
  • Visual Aid Assignment (10%)
  • Individual Oral Presentation (10%)
  • Procedural Writing (10%)
  • Readiness Tests (10%)
  • Website Analysis (10%)
  • Revision Based on Document Design (20%)
  • Class Participation (including active participation in online discussions) (10%)
  • Final Exam (10%)

Each of these assignments relates to using rhetoric effectively in accomplishing communication tasks.  In addition, all assignments connect technology with communication, and each assignment requires inclusion of technical aspects of writing, including document design, graphics, conciseness and readability, audience analysis, and inclusion or exclusion of some elements, such as jargon, depending on audience need.

The following are some basic guidelines I will follow in evaluating your work and that will determine your success in the course:

  • I will consider how well the documents reflect the guidelines for the assignments as discussed in the text and in our online discussions.
  • The writing should follow the principles of effective communication discussed in the text and in class, such as diplomatic tone, conciseness, and readability.
  • I will evaluate your writing based on how completely and clearly the documents are developed.
  • The documents should be neatly and professionally presented.

Using correct grammar and style effectively is crucial for business writing; these things help create a writer's ethos. If there are errors in the writing or if the style is unreadable, chances are that the writing will not accomplish what the writer intended.

I realize, however, that it takes time to learn how to write using correct grammar and an effective style. Therefore, I will not penalize you severely while you are first learning these things, although grammar and style will be parts of your grade. If you continue making the same errors and do not improve your writing style over the course of the semester, however, I will penalize you more severely for not making a sincere effort to improve your writing.

Grading Scale:

A Note about Plagiarism:

90-100--A,  80-89--B,  70-79---C,  60-69--D,  59 and below--F

When you use (for example, summarize, paraphrase, or quote) someone else's media, words, data, ideas, or other works, you must cite your source.  You should be especially careful to avoid plagiarizing Internet sources (for example, e-mail, chat rooms, websites, or discussion groups).  It does not matter whether you borrow material from print sources, from the Internet, from online databases, from interviews, or from a peer.  Failure to cite your source is plagiarism.  Students who plagiarize may receive an "F" or a "0" for the assignment or an "F" for the course.

Assignments and Participation
Assignments and Projects:
This is a general description of the major requirements of the course.  Please see the course modules, the calendar, and specific assignments for more details. 

Analysis of Technical Documents in the Field
After finding a technical document in your field (or one in which you are interested), you will analyze it for audience concerns, such as organization, types of words used, use of graphics, and format and document design.  The purpose of this assignment is to increase your awareness of various technical writing genres and their characteristics.

Visual Aid Assignment
For this assignment, you will create a visual aid, based on some data that I will provide you.  You will determine the best graphical format to present the data accurately, including the text that appears with the graphics.

Oral Presentation
The oral presentation assignment will require you to report technical information to a general audience. The subject matter can be related to a particular field in which you are an expert, or you may need to do some research to familiarize yourself with a technical subject. The presentations will be about eight minutes long and will be submitted on VHS tape or in digital format to the instructor. Activities and information discussed online before the presentations will prepare you to give your presentation. 

Procedural Writing
We will discuss the characteristics of procedural writing and how important it is to ensure that this particular genre meets its audiences' needs.  Background knowledge is one area we will focus on.  You will write a set of instructions based on a specific assignment.  The subject should be technical in nature.

Readiness Tests
This course does require reading from the textbook, and you will be given periodic "readiness tests" to help you demonstrate your knowledge of the reading. You will be taking the tests individually, but you may discuss your answers online with others. After receiving your test grade, you may appeal test results that you feel occurred because of unclear questions, unclear text, or wrong text.

Website Analysis
The Internet is becoming a more popular and essential means of communication, so we will analyze ways to effectively communicate via the Internet and some pitfalls to avoid when using this communication medium.  We will learn several online design principles which might serve as a basis for your analysis of two websites.  This assignment is based on comparison and contrast in a non-essay format.  

Document Design Revision
This final project assignment will ask you to find a document you feel needs improvement, based on principles we learn throughout the semester. You will revise the document, making significant improvements. Then, at the end of the semester, you will turn in your revised version along with the original. The revision should include textual as well as graphical revisions.

Appeals
To appeal the results of a readiness test, you must argue convincingly (in writing) that your answer is correct. E-mail me a message in which you write the test question, your answer, and why you responded the way you did. If I agree with your answer, I will give you points back for your answer. If I don't agree, you will not receive extra points, but don't let that discourage you from trying to appeal on another test.

Class Participation:
Because this is an online class, there will be no lectures or class discussion as such. However, we will be discussing issues from the textbook in online discussion format. You are required to participate by answering certain questions and discussing particular issues each week. These questions will be provided either by me or by one of you. Your responses should be well-developed and detailed enough to indicate that you have been doing the reading, following along with the class, and engaging with the issues. Throughout the semester and at the end, I will be evaluating your responses to determine the grade you will receive. At any time, you can ask me how you are progressing towards meeting this requirement.

In addition, you should participate in communicating with other students and the instructor as learning resources.  You should also check discussion postings regularly for course announcements and possible changes.

Punctuality:
Students should participate in class discussion significantly at least once a week.  Because all of you will be meeting in an asynchronous environment (where each of you can participate whenever it is convenient for you), you will need to make a special attempt to keep up to date with the course, since there are no required class meetings.  In other words, you will have to utilize effective time management skills to stay on track with the course.
Course Ground Rules
The uniqueness of this course mandates certain basic ground rules:
  • Expect to participate in the course by communicating with others and the instructor, especially regarding team projects and interaction.
  • Learn how to navigate in WebCT. 
  • Keep abreast of course announcements. 
  • Use the assigned WebCT address as opposed to a personal e-mail address. 
  • Address technical problems immediately. 
  • Observe course netiquette at all times. 
Guidelines for Communications
Email:
This course requires that most of the communication be done through e-mail.  E-mail is a unique communication medium because it is difficult to perceive the writer's emotions and any innuendos that may be part of the message.  In addition, there are several principles that you can keep in mind that will help you while communicating in this form.  Several things to keep in mind appear in the list below; we will be discussing other principles as the semester continues.
  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members.
Discussion Groups:
A large part of this course will be online discussions.  This is a time for answering questions about the course material, questions that I may ask you or questions you may have for others.  Because the discussion occurs online as opposed to in class, there are several points to keep in mind:
  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker, then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather than starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of others' ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.
Chat:

There may be times when you wish to chat with other members in the class (especially regarding group efforts, such as drafting and revising papers).  Although chatting is not a required part of the class, WebCT does provide capability for it, and you may find it convenient to use when communicating with peers or with me.  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Introduce yourself to the other learners in the chat session.

  • Be polite. Choose your words carefully. Do not use derogatory statements.

  • Be concise in responding to others in the chat session.

  • Be prepared to open the chat session at the scheduled time.

  • Be constructive in your comments and suggestions.

Web Resources:

Library Services

 Virtual Library:
To visit the virtual library, go to http://vl.rodp.org

Technical Support

Telephone Support:
Please call the RODP Help Desk at 1-866-550-7637, or go to the AskRODP website at http://help.rodp.org.

Students With Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with his/her home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

During the course of the semester, changes may need to be made to the syllabus.  Any changes will be sent via the e-mail discussion board.  In addition, students will be individually e-mailed regarding any changes made.

Within the individual sections of this course, there may be slight variations in course syllabi.  However, the WebCT version of the syllabus is the official version.

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