J-Term 2018 Syllabus

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 read, discuss, and apply course material, to produce a number of different kinds of writing, and to be an active participant in our 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)
  • Other online composing and design technologies as desired/necessary

Course Platforms

  • WordPress Site (Maintained and updated by instructor for official course documents, unit newsletters, archives of live events, resource curation)

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Write for multiple professional audiences and purposes
  • 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
  • Demonstrate awareness that writing is socially situated
  • 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
  • Compose, collaborate, revise, give feedback and share writing

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 fully 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.

Class Communication
I will communicate class updates, announcements, assignment guidelines, etc. through emails and this course website (www.engl3880blog.wordpress.com). 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.

Class participation includes coming to each class prepared for the day’s activities. This includes reading and viewing course materials, discussing materials, drafting and revising, responding to others’ work, listening to others’ opinions and commentary, and engaging your classmates and professor with respect. This is a small course, and your participation is necessary to build our learning community.

Academic Integrity and Professionalism
The URI student handbook governs student conduct directly related to academic activities involving URI students. 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 20%. Work that is more than 24 hours late will receive a 20 additional percent off per day (in other words, after five 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 electronically. 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.

ADA Accommodations
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. URI 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 URI Disability 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 their office.

Grades in this course are rendered according to URI’s  7-point scale.

Grade Quality Points Points
A 4.0 485-500
A- 3.7 469-484
B+ 3.3 453-468
B 3 437-452
B- 2.7 421-436
C+ 2.3 405-420
C 2 389-404
C- 1.7 373-388
D+ 1.3 357-372
D 1 341-356
D- .7 325-340
F 0 Below 325

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:


Cases – 200 points
You will complete two cases during 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.

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!)

Course Completion
All work must be submitted to receive a passing grade in the course.

Participation and Attendance (100)
You can earn 11 points during each of the first 11 class meetings. You can earn 12 points during the final class meeting.

Teacher/Student Communication
Take advantage of 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.

Office Hours
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.

Weather/Campus Emergencies
Check for announcements about class cancellations online or call the Weather Line at URI: 874-SNOW (874-7669). The policy on snow days is this: if a due date is planned, we will honor it on the next class meeting (unless an online alternative is created).  Therefore, due dates remain as scheduled.

Unforeseeable Circumstances
If I am late to class (because of an emergency, snow, or severe traffic problems), please wait a minimum of 15 minutes before leaving.