This course in technical communication emphasizes “theory” and “practice.” That means we will learn the theoretical–largely rhetorical–underpinnings of technical communication, while engaging in the practice–which is iterative, recursive, and reflective–of technical communication.
Summary of projects: The course includes the following projects, which are designed to engage you in the processes and products of technical communication in the non-academic workplace: a collaborative blog about issues in technical and professional communication, a final portfolio, an online professional profile (including a resume, professional biography, and relevant social media profiles), a packet of deliverables for a service learning client, a professional development/training module, and several in-class individual and collaborative “lightning” projects. Unless otherwise noted, all documents and artifacts will be submitted on Marca, except for the course blog, which is here on our course website.
Approach: Workplace communication uses both face-to-face and distance interaction, so this class will be a hybrid—for some classes we’ll have face-to-face interaction, and for some we’ll have distance interaction. We’ll do both in order to develop competence in both. You will use Skype and Google Hangout (as similar tools) during the semester.
Balance of individual and collaborative work: The workplace is inherently collaborative. Long-established research indicates that as much as 80-85 percent of workplace artifacts had some collaborative element in their creation. In this course, some of the work you submit will have your name on it as the sole author. Other work will be collaborative—a distinct team effort. All your work will, however, have a collaborative element. Workplace professionals frequently collaborate during planning, drafting, designing, and/or revision—even when one person’s name is on the final deliverable. In this course, refining your collaborative strategies should be one of your professional goals.
Rhetorical focus: Workplace communication is rhetorical, so this course has a rhetorical focus, which means that you will be considering these factors for every project: context, purpose, audience, argument, organization, design, visuals, language conventions. Considering these rhetorical factors will become part of your thinking and form the basis of your own best practices.
Reading: As a class, we will all read some materials in common (chapters from the textbooks as well as articles), but some of your reading will be selected, using criteria I provide, based on the specific artifacts you develop for your clients.
Modalities: Workplace communication is inherently multimodal—written, oral, visual, electronic, nonverbal. You’ll need to be competent in all modalities and know the ways audience’s reactions to modalities shift in various contexts and cultures. Most workplaces expect professionals to be skillful in creating both print and digital artifacts, so in this course some of the work you submit will be print, and some will be digital. Use this course as a way to develop competencies in areas you’ve neglected or avoided.
In-process training: During the course of one project, each of you will prepare a professional development or training module for the class about a topic to aid the projects and to incorporate suggestions from course reading. I’ll assign broad topics that you will refine in consultation with me. You can use PowerPoint, Prezi, video, or other presentation tools. You should design your own original template that you use throughout the semester. These presentations will be accessible in two ways:
- Initially, you will present the modules (remotely or in person, depending on when you’re scheduled to present) to the class, during class time, with you narrating the presentation.
- The modules will be posted and linked to this site, using a common Dropbox folder, so we can refer to them throughout the semester. The presentations should be able to stand alone, with detailed notes, links, and references for users to access and use independently. Independent narration for each module is optional.
At any time, you can, of course, revise/update your module as you learn more. Your training module should be included in your portfolio.
Reflection: You will need to maintain a work log for for each of the projects you complete for two reasons:
- A mark of a professional is the ability to accurately judge how long a project takes to complete. Maintaining a work log lets you assess whether your predictions about the time and efforts needed are accurate and to examine your work patterns. For collaborative projects, the work log lets you determine if the work load has been equitably shared.
- Many studies about the relationship between learning and reflection indicate that long-term learning takes place during reflection about the work rather than simply in doing the work itself. Thus, following each of your projects, you’ll submit a reflection memo that will include excerpts from your work log and include the entire work log as an appendix.
Many thanks to R.E. Burnett and Andy Frazee, whose LMC3403: Theory and Practice of Technical communication syllabi and course design provide the foundation for this course.