Introduction and Goals
This course focuses on the writing and communication that take place in business and industry settings. The course is designed to help you develop professional communication skills and to practice those skills in a variety of contexts. We will think about many rhetorical aspects of communication and will focus especially on thinking about efficient methods for reaching particular audiences. We will also discuss technologies, ethics, cultural contexts, information design, visual rhetoric, and usability studies. You will be expected to do a substantial amount of reading, produce a number of different kinds of writing, and be an active participant in our online learning community. This means working on a variety of individual and group activities, just as workers in business and industry do.
Texts and Required Materials
- Textbook: Writing in Professional Contexts (3rd Edition)
- Robust wireless internet access daily
- Google drive account, Google+ account, Google Hangout plug-ins, and Twitter Account
- Other online composing and design technologies as desired/necessary
- WordPress Site (Maintained and updated by instructor for official course documents, unit newsletters, archives of live events, resource curation)
- Google Plus Community (Maintained by instructor, used by instructor and students as main Hub for sharing writing, giving feedback, sharing additional resources, and having digital discussions and conversations)
- Twitter Hashtag (#engl3880) (Used by instructor and students to host a “live” Twitter chat and additional sharing of writing/resources for each unit of study)
- Google Hangouts (Used by instructor and students to host “live” conversations for each unit of study.
Note: This course does not use Blackboard (except for the grade book function) as I am interested in having you compose with the kinds of professional writing and networking tools that you can expect to use in the workplace. The Google+ community is a closed/private community; however, if you share your work publicly on Twitter, you will want to consider your privacy. I do allow you to use pseudonyms for your account creation if you would like your identity to remain private. Also, you’ll want to consider if you should use your existing accounts or create new accounts for the purpose of this course. These decisions are up to you, and I am happy to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of either approach.
At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:
- Write for multiple audiences and purposes
- Demonstrate awareness of intercultural communication
- Communicate effectively, ethically, responsibly, and professionally in a business environment
- Demonstrate skills, strategies, and conceptual knowledge and practice (including revision) to address a variety of communication tasks
- Prepare documents typical of those required in a business environment
- Analyze messages in professional documents
- Demonstrate awareness that writing is socially situated
- Collaborate in writing experiences
- Organize material effectively and in an appropriate style
- Incorporate and balance document design and textual and visual elements
- Make effective use of various writing technologies
- Conduct research in order to produce genre-appropriate documentation
- Compose, collaborate, revise, give feedback and share writing in a host of digital platforms
ProfCom Teaching Philosophy
I will treat you all as professionals who will (or already have) enter the workplace very soon. This means that I expect to engage the course materials, the group conversation, and your and your classmates’ documents in substantial ways, participating multiple times weekly in the course. Also, as your business writing instructor, I will very often point out real instances where you can improve your writing and communication skills. Do not be offended or upset by these moments, they are not meant to make you feel bad but rather to help you become a better communicator. Also, I expect you to understand and protect your own online ethos– a concept we’ll consider throughout the course. Try to be the type of student (or employee) that you would want to teach or manage yourselves. I see you all as adults who do not need me to babysit you or watch your every move. I will simply assume you will be professionals at all times.
I will communicate class updates, announcements, assignment guidelines, etc. through emails, email newsletters, Google+, and this course website (www.engl3880blog.wordpress.com). At the beginning of each unit, you will receive an email newsletter that guides your activities over the unit interval. Some resources will be shared in the newsletter and others will roll out incrementally on the Google+ community. You should check and participate on the Google+ community daily during the weekdays while you are enrolled in this course. You can reach me through direct messages on Twitter and the Google+ Community for general inquiries. Email should be your first line of contact for communication related to course performance and grades; however, I am available for (digital or face-to-face) appointments/office hours on an as-needed basis.
This class uses digital discussion and sharing as a basis for collaborative learning, and engaged participation makes for a more enriching and productive learning environment for the entire class. As such, you will participate daily in the G+ community, posting assignments, raising questions or discussion points, responding to others, and giving substantial feedback on their work. You cannot check in occasionally or show interest simply from time-to-time and be successful. You’ll need to make this course a part of your everyday habits. While most of our conversation and sharing will happen asynchronously on Google+, a live, synchronous Twitter chat and a Google Hangout will be scheduled for each unit. While I encourage you to “attend” all of these digital events, you are only required to attend four (4)–two of each over the course of the semester. Different student groups will facilitate or “host” each hangout, and the hangouts will focus on the readings and course themes as well as the writing assignments.
If you face a challenging situation in regard to your ability to participate, please contact me right away so that we can work out a plan together.
Academic Integrity and Professionalism
The Academic Integrity Policy governs student conduct directly related to academic activities involving ECU students. All alleged violations of the policy must be resolved in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Academic Integrity Policy as found in Part IV Academic Integrity of the ECU Faculty Manual. The Academic Integrity Policy is available to students at: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentlife/policyhub/academic_integrity.cfm. (FS Resolution #10-63, April 2010)
In the context of this course, engaging in the following practices are signs that you exhibit academic integrity and professionalism:
- Being a responsible member of the class community demonstrates your commitment to learning. This means avoiding digital disruptions (particularly for live events) as well as being respectful of other students, the instructor, and any who guests who join.
- Doing and submitting your own original work is expected in this course. Further, the use of all sources should be properly documented in all work for this course. If you have any questions about how or when to cite sources, please contact me. Ignorance is not an excuse for plagiarism or improperly cited work. When in doubt, over-citing is always preferable to under-citing.
- Preparing your work on time is a sign of your professionalism and integrity as an academic. You should turn work in on time whenever possible, just as you would in the workplace.
Because this level of professionalism is expected, work that is turned in within 24 hours of the initial due date will be docked 10%. Work that is more than 24 hours late will receive a 10 additional percent off per day (in other words, after ten days of being late, an assignment can only receive a zero). I do, however, understand that life does not begin or end with class, and I am occasionally willing to grant extensions or otherwise work with you if, and only if, you make an effort to communicate with me through email and have a set of circumstances that is credible. Also, this is not a privilege to be abused; extensions are to be used only if absolutely necessary. Extensions must be requested by email in advance of the due date. Please do realize that I have the right to refuse such a request and schedule your request for an extension accordingly.
Most of the composing you will do in this class will happen in a cloud account, Google Drive. This way, you have access to your work no matter what happens and you can easily share your work online, collaborative with other writers, and give and receive feedback digitally. You are responsible for your passwords and your sharing permission settings, making sure that your documents are available to me and your peers as access and accessibility are key concerns in digital writing. Keep all passwords for your social media accounts private and available.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. One element of this legislation requires that all qualified students with documented disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. East Carolina University seeks to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I am happy to provide accommodation for any student with a documented disability. However, I cannot provide accommodations without approval from the Department for Disability Support Services, and I may not be able to provide retroactive accommodations depending on the situation. As such, any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact the Department for Disability Support Services, Brewster A-114, 252-328-6799. For more information, visit their website.
Grades in this course are rendered according to the Alternate 7-point scale (PLEASE remember this!) published by the Admission and Retention Policies Committee. That scale (shown below), as well as more information about grading, is available here.
Please be aware that high grades in this course are reserved for exceptional work; the default grade for completing work satisfactorily is a “C.” Understand that you begin with zero points and must work to earn points from there; you do not “miss” points as you go along. Also know that I do not “bump up” final grades for students who are close to a higher final grade. I give ample opportunity for you to earn the grade you desire, and it is your responsibility to do so. I make every effort to return grades quickly. In addition, I always want you to understand why you earned a particular grade. If you ever have a question about your grade, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Evaluation will use this four-part matrix.
Excellent/strong (3.7-4.0) – Evidences excellent/strong business/professional writing skills and a deep understanding of rhetorical principles as applied to business communication contexts; only very few minor editorial adjustments needed in documents; shows leadership, keen engagement, in-depth understanding (and, at times, insight); excellent team work; evidences thorough content knowledge, research, and preparedness. Materials are ready with very little-to-no changes to be given to or viewed by clients.
Good (3.0-3.6) – Evidences adequate/acceptable business/professional writing skills and a basic understanding of rhetorical principles as applied to business communication contexts; several minor editorial adjustments needed in documents; shows generally effective engagement, willingness to participate, and team work. Materials are ready to be shown or given to clients with just a few changes or edits/updates.
Acceptable (2.0-2.9) – Evidences less than adequate business/professional writing skills and/or difficulties understanding and applying rhetorical principles; major editorial problems in documents; inadequate or inconsistent engagement, participation, and teamwork. Materials are mostly correct and present but may need more than one round (but no more than two rounds) of edits and changes before being sent to clients.
Poor (< 1.9) – Evidences significant problems in terms of writing ability and/or major misunderstanding of rhetorical principles as applied to business communication contexts; shows lack of willingness to engage or participate, often absent and/or tardy, not full participating or ineffective as a team member. Materials don’t meet client expectations and may need over two rounds of changes or edits before even being ready to be shown to clients.
Specific criteria for each project will be explained when the project is introduced. In all collaborative work, you will be asked to evaluate your peers (and they you). I will use these evaluations in my determination of individual grades for collaborative projects. In general, all members of a group receive the same grade. There are instances, however, were one or more members of a group receive different grades. I reserve the right to lower grades for poor performance.
The following components of the class will contribute to student grades:
Digital Discussion and Participation/Engagement – 200 points
Discussion will be assessed based on student involvement in the G+ community, on Twitter, and in the Google Hangouts. I’ll assess this in two parts, 100 points available before Spring Break and 100 points after Spring Break. We will have a one-on-one digital meeting (Google Hangout) around the midpoint of the semester and I will let you know how you’re doing with participation at that time (with that first 100 points) and this will be your chance to continue on as you have been (if you are doing well) or to revise and improve your performance (if your participation has been lacking). This means you should participate regularly and on time, offer insightful observations and questions that are relevant to course content, demonstrate that you’ve read and understood required materials, contribute links to news stories and other sources related to business communication, and do all this while being respectful and supportive of your peers.
Quizzes and Online Activities – 300 points
During the semester, each week will have either an in-class activity or a quiz. It will vary from week-to-week whether it is an activity or a quiz. Activities will be explained in the newsletters and you will earn full credit for posting and commenting during these activities. Quizzes (handled through Google Form) will be over content from the textbook and they are, of course, “open book.” However, they also are timed—so you should be familiar with the content of the readings before taking each quiz, as you will likely not have time to look up the answers to every question.
Cases – 300 points
You will read three cases throughout this course and you will produce content based on the details of those cases and the activities that accompany them. Each case is worth 1oo points. More detail will following in the unit newsletters about cases.
Final Website Portfolio – 200 points
For this final project, create your own professional website. This site should include a brief statement of purpose, your resume, samples of your writing/work, links to at least two social media accounts that you use professionally and actively, and any other content you deem relevant to your professional life. In terms of depth, your website should contain approximately 500 original words, not counting the words within your writing samples. (Note that this is an approximation to give you an idea of the depth of work I’m expecting, not an actual required word count. You may do some communication on this site through video or graphics, for example, which would mean fewer words would be necessary to convey your message.) Your goal for this project is to develop an online presence that can enhance your professional reputation. My hope is that this project can be useful in your life outside the class; as such, I’m willing to entertain alternative/creative versions of this project if you let me know what your plans are in advance. More details will be available later in the semester on content management systems, and know also that I am happy to help with the technical parts of this assignment. (It’s probably easier than you think!)
This project constitutes your final for this course and as such is due on our Final Exam Day. Please turn your URL in no later than midnight on Sunday, April 30. If you would like feedback on your website or have specific questions about improving it in the future, please email me. (The tight turnaround for grades makes comprehensive feedback on the final impossible, but I’m happy to continue working with you after class.)
All work must be submitted to receive a passing grade in the course.
Participation and Attendance
As in the workplace, participation is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Plan to expressing your ideas, frustrations, questions, confusions, etc., even if you’re not able to articulate them without some hesitation—sometimes ambivalent or ambiguous remarks spark the liveliest discussions. Just as at a job, being late is considered unprofessional, and you should meet deadlines for posting and commenting in our digital platforms.
At the end of the semester, if you “attend” all synchronous “live” events (Google Hangouts and Twitter chats), you will receive 50 extra points. If you attend all but one, you will receive 40 extra points. If you attend all but two events, you will receive 30 extra points, and if you attend all but four, you will receive 15 extra points. If you attend four (two Twitter chats and two Google Hangouts) events, which is the standard requirement, you will receive no extra points. If you attend only three events, you will receive a 15 point deduction. If you attend only two events, you will receive a 30 point deduction. If you attend one, you will receive a 40 point deduction, and if you attend no live events, you will receive a 50 point deduction.
Showing up more than 10 minutes late to a live event means you are counted absent. If you spend the whole event watching TV instead of participating, you are also subject to being counted absent. When I am speaking or your classmates are speaking, you owe us your attention and we owe you the same. This is basic courtesy stuff that you’ll run into the rest of your lives in your jobs and other public situations.
Online Community Behavior
It is important that we have an online community that optimizes teaching and learning and we all share the responsibility for creating a civil and non-disruptive forum. At all times, I expect that we will treat each other with respect and civility. Since this class will be conducted as a community of writers and professionals, I expect you to treat each member of our community with the dignity and respect she/he deserves. No discriminatory behavior directed toward a person’s race, sexual orientation, gender, creed, national origin, age, or disability will be allowed in our class spaces. Behavior that disrupts the learning process may lead to disciplinary action and/or removal from class as specified in university policies, including the Student Code of Conduct. Here are some guidelines for classroom behavior:
- Be on time to live events and be prepared to participate.
- Be civil and respectful to everyone in synchronous and asynchronous discussions. Contributions should be relevant to the topic we are discussing. Discussion is meant to allow a variety of viewpoints that can only happen if we respect each other and our differences.
- If you have unavoidable technical difficulties, contact your instructor and group members immediately and be prepared to find a work around.
Take advantage of virtual office hours anytime you need help, advice, or support. You can also email me anytime, as I answer emails promptly. Be aware, however, that late-night emails sent the night before you need a question answered are not guaranteed a response and that emails or questions asked evenings or weekends may also get a slower response; you are responsible for getting to me early enough to get the answers you need.
I strongly encourage you to set up a virtual appointment during office hours or at another time if you can’t make it during those hours. DO NOT wait until the last week of the semester to ask for help – or if there’s anything you can do to raise your grade – because you are falling behind in class. E-mail is also an excellent way of communicating with me. Students who come to office hours regularly or even a few times a semester historically do much better grade-wise when the class ends.
Writing Intensive (WI):
English 3880 is a writing intensive course in the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at East Carolina University. This course will focus on the development of writing skills. Upon completion of the course students will:
- Use writing to investigate complex, relevant topics and address significant questions through engagement with and effective use of credible sources.
- Produce writing that reflects an awareness of context, purpose, and audience, particularly within the written genres (Including genres that integrate writing with visuals, audio or other multimodal components) of their major disciplines and/or career fields.
- Demonstrate that they understand writing as a process that can be made more effective though drafting revision.
- Proofread and edit their own writing, avoiding grammatical and mechanical errors.
- Assess and explain the major choices that they make in their writing.
This course contributes to the twelve-hour WI requirement for students at ECU. Additional information is available at the following site: http://www.ecu.edu/writing/wac/.
Remember the University Writing Center’s Online Writing Lab is available for you to use. I encourage you to take advantage of this great resource while you’re at ECU.
In a spring semester, snow and ice or other severe weather can occasionally happen, even in Eastern North Carolina. In the event of a weather emergency, information about the status of classes at ECU is available through the ECU emergency alert website and the ECU emergency information hotline (252-328-0062).
If a live event is going to be cancelled for any reason I will try to let you know as early as possible by posting on Google+ and/or emailing.
*This syllabus is subject to change throughout the semester based on the needs of the class. If it changes, I will notify you immediately.
** This syllabus serves as a contract between you, the student, and me, the instructor, and should serve as your guideline for the semester. By staying in this class, you are agreeing to follow all the guidelines given above (as well as any appropriate revisions to this document) and to be responsible for your own actions.