Instructor: Quinn Warnick, Ph.D.
Course Location: 360 Shanks Hall
Class Hours: M/W 2:30–3:45 p.m.
Dr. Warnick’s Office: 427 Shanks Hall
Office Hours: M 8:00–11:00 a.m., T 1:00–4:00 p.m., or by appointment
Office Phone: 231-8321 (Leave a detailed message if I don’t pick up.)
ENGL 4814 Overview
The primary objective of Writing for the Web is to help you apply the principles of successful writing and design in online environments. Practically speaking, this means that you will learn to build effective professional websites using standards-compliant HTML and CSS code. In addition, we will spend a significant amount of time writing, both for the web and about the web. Along the way, we will take a close look at the way writing on the web has changed in the last ten years, giving you the opportunity to decide what type of online identity you want to craft for yourself.
Although we will spend considerable time working with various software programs, this is not merely a “tools” or “skills” course; rather, the course is designed to engage you in a critical discussion about what it means to write and design in online environments, prompt you to consider how these environments are changing before our eyes, and prepare you to be an active participant in online communities.
Required Textbooks and Materials
- Blum, Andrew. Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet. Ecco, 2012. ISBN: 978-0061994937
- Duckett, Jon. HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites. Wiley, 2011. ISBN: 978-1118008188
- Kissane, Erin. The Elements of Content Strategy. A Book Apart, 2011. ISBN: 978-0984442553
- A VT Google Apps account, for collaborating with classmates and submitting memos.
- A Dropbox account, for storing, syncing, and submitting project files.
- A Twitter account, connected to an email address you check regularly.
- A Blogs@VT account, for course-related blogging and completion of Unit #2.
- Approximately 100 sheets of paper for printing course readings and your assignments.
By the end of the semester, you should be able to:
- create standards-compliant websites for use in professional settings, using hypertext markup language (HTML) and cascading style sheets (CSS).
- conduct task and audience analysis involved in prototyping and designing websites.
- plan, write, revise, and edit content for professional web documents.
- apply effective design principles to online content.
- evaluate the usability and accessibility of websites.
- understand and solve theoretical and practical problems related to web content for online publication.
- articulate the differences among various genres and formats of online writing, and successfully participate in a variety of online environments.
Class Attendance and Participation
This is a highly collaborative course, and I expect you to fulfill your fair share of group work and to interact courteously with your peers at all times. Most of our class sessions will be conducted in discussion/workshop format, and many of these workshops cannot be recreated outside of class, so regular attendance and active participation are important. My attendance policy is simple: you may miss three classes (for any reason) without penalty. Each additional absence (for any reason) will lower your course grade by 5%, and six or more absences may result in a failing grade for the course. Because our time in class is limited, promptness is important. Each tardy (arriving more than 5 minutes late) and each instance of leaving early will count as 1/2 of an absence. If you are late for class, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have not been marked absent.
Software and Technology
Because this course focuses on writing in electronic environments, you will submit almost all of your work in electronic format and much of your interaction with your peers and your instructor will occur online. Hence, you will need to check your email, the class website, and Twitter regularly to receive important announcements and to participate in an ongoing dialogue with your classmates.
To create and test websites, we will be using a variety of software programs. Some of these programs are quite expensive, so I don’t expect you to purchase them at the beginning of the course. We will use trial licenses for some of these programs; if you find them useful after that point, you may want to invest in personal copies of the programs. However, you will not need to purchase any specialized software to fulfill the basic requirements of this course.
Our course will meet regularly in a computer lab, but you will not be able to complete all computer work in class, so you will either need your own computer or arrange to use one of the on-campus computer labs.
As you complete assignments for this class, be sure to save all your work, both print and electronic. Do not discard any drafts, notes, papers or research materials until you receive a final grade for the course. In addition, be sure to save your work regularly in multiple formats (print and electronic) and multiple locations (e.g., computer, Dropbox, flash drive). Computer problems are a part of modern life, and a crashed computer or a lost flash drive is not a valid excuse for a late assignment.
To fulfill the requirements of the course, you will need to create several accounts at a variety of websites. I am sensitive to the fact that some of you carefully guard your online identity and have chosen to minimize your personal exposure on the web, and I don’t want to force you to leave an electronic trail that may be difficult to erase at the end of the semester. As a result, you may choose to use a pseudonym and/or a “throwaway” email address to create these accounts. That’s fine with me; just be consistent (don’t choose a new pseudonym for each site) and make sure that you let me know what your pseudonym is.
Grading and Evaluation
Your grade in this course will be determined primarily by your performance on three major assignments and two tests. In addition, participating in class discussions, contributing to the class website, and actively blogging and tweeting will influence your final grade. Major assignments will be penalized 10% for every class period they are late. You must complete all major assignments to receive a passing grade at the end of the semester. Shorter assignments normally will be worth 10 points, and all short assignments will be averaged together. Because these short assignments relate directly to the topic of discussion each day, they will receive no credit if they are turned in late.
Major units and shorter assignments will be weighted as follows:
- Unit #1 (Landing Page and Online Résumé): 10%
- Unit #2 (Print-to-Web Conversion Project): 20%
- Unit #3 (Client Project): 25%
- Exams: 20%
- Short Assignments and Workshops: 10%
- Class Participation (in person and online): 15%
- TOTAL: 100%
You can read more details about the major assignments on the assignments page.
All major assignments will be evaluated on a 100-point scale, and final grades will be calculated using the following scale:
- A : 94-100
- A- : 90–93.99
- B+ : 87–89.99
- B : 84–86.99
- B- : 80–83.99
- C+ : 77–79.99
- C : 74–76.99
- C- : 70–73.99
- D+ : 67– 69.99
- D : 64–66.99
- D- : 60-63.99
- F : 0–59.99
Please note that I do not round up when calculating final grades.
All major assignments will be evaluated using the following criteria:
A — Superior Accomplishment. Shows excellent analysis of the assignment and provides an imaginative and original response. Successfully adapts to the audience, context, and purpose of the assignment. Contains no mechanical errors (i.e., the code “validates”) and requires no revisions. The assignment is ready to be presented to the intended audience.
B — Commendable. Shows judgment and tact in the presentation of material and responds appropriately to the requirements of the assignment. Has an interesting, precise, and clear style. Contains minor mechanical errors and requires revision before the assignment could be sent to the intended audience.
C — Competent. Meets all the basic criteria of the assignment, and provides a satisfactory response to the rhetorical situation. There is nothing remarkably good or bad about the work, and equivalent work could be sent out in the professional world following revisions to the organization, style, or delivery of the assignment.
D — Needs Improvement. Responds to the assignment, but contains significant defects in one of the major areas (context, substance, organization, style, or delivery). The assignment could not be presented to the intended audience without significant revision.
F — Unacceptable. Provides an inadequate response to the assignment or shows a misunderstanding of the rhetorical situation. Contains glaring defects in one or more of the major areas (context, substance, organization, style, or delivery). The assignment could not be presented to the intended audience.
During recent semesters, I have noticed that my students are becoming increasingly distracted during class. Not surprisingly, most of these distractions are technological in nature: cell phones, iPads, nonacademic websites, etc. Eliminating these distractions in a traditional classroom might be as easy as banning the use of cell phones or laptops, but in a class called “Writing for the Web,” that approach is not only too simplistic, it’s counterproductive. We will be spending a lot of time staring at screens—lab computers, personal laptops, and cell phones—so you will need to develop the discipline to stare productively. Practically speaking, that means no texting friends, checking sports scores, or mindlessly surfing the web. When class is in session, everything you do online should be related to this class. If I notice that you are struggling to stay focused, I will gently remind you about this policy. If you violate this policy repeatedly, I will ask you to leave the classroom and mark you absent for that day.
If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. You will first need to provide documentation of your disability to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, located in 310 Lavery Hall.
The Virginia Tech Honor Code expressly forbids the following:
- Cheating — Cheating includes the actual giving or receiving of any unauthorized aid or assistance or the actual giving or receiving of any unfair advantage on any form of academic work, or attempts thereof.
- Plagiarism — Plagiarism includes the copying of the language, structure, programming, computer code, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and passing off the same as one’s own original work, or attempts thereof.
- Falsification — Falsification includes the statement of any untruth, either verbally or in writing, with respect to any circumstances relevant to one’s academic work, or attempts thereof. Such acts include, but are not limited to, the forgery of official signatures; tampering with official records; fraudulently adding, deleting, or manipulating information on academic work, or fraudulently changing an examination or other academic work after the testing period or due date of the assignment.
In a writing course, violations of the Honor Code typically take the form of plagiarism. I do not tolerate plagiarism in any form, and I am exceptionally skilled at identifying plagiarized work. If you submit plagiarized work in this course, I will report it to the Honor System and withhold your grade until the Honor System has concluded its investigation. In most plagiarism cases, you will receive a 0 on the assignment, and you may also fail the entire course, depending on the severity of the plagiarism.
Plagiarism occurs when a writer, speaker, or designer uses someone else’s language, ideas, images, or other material without fully acknowledging its source by quotations marks, in footnotes or endnotes, and in lists of works cited. In this course, we will draw heavily upon text, images, videos, and other electronic materials found online; the fact that such material is online does not lessen our obligation to give credit where credit is due. Occasionally, students will unintentionally plagiarize material because they have failed to keep track of their sources as they acquire them. You can avoid this problem by keeping detailed records of your research activities in this class.
As a professor, my academic integrity obligates me to report all cases of plagiarism (regardless of the circumstances) to the Honor System. If you have any questions about plagiarism and how it relates to your work, please talk to me before you turn in an assignment. Once plagiarized work has been submitted for a grade, I have no choice but to enforce this policy.