Writing for the Internet -- Syllabus
- MW: 3:00 - 4:15PM
- Dennis G. Jerz
- St. Joseph Hall 403
- Phone: x1909 or 724.830.1909
Cancellation line: 724.830.1000
- Office Hours
- Tue 2–3PM
- Wed 10-11AM
- Thu 2-3PM
- Also by appointment
"Emphasis varies from term to term, e.g. Exposition and Argument, Editorial Writing, Contemporary Journalism." -- Seton Hill University Catalog, 2002-2004.
Although this course is offered under the Journalism umbrella, it will not solely focus on news writing; rather, it will also examine other professional and personal forms of online writing.
This course is designed to survey the many forms of online written communication, focusing on text messaging, e-mail, community reviews and comments, web journals ("weblogs" or "blogs"), web pages, and communally-edited collections ("wikis"). Students will create or contribute to such texts, examine the conventions that have developed for each particular form, and reflect upon their cultural significance.
This is not a course in web page design or computer programming, but neither is it a course for the computer-phobic. You will develop your ability to communicate effectively in several different varieties of electronic text, and cultivate the ability to think critically about communication in cyberspace.
The course is intended to help you achieve the following outcomes:
- demonstrate a thorough familiarity with the conventions of online text (as encountered both in formal/professional and informal /personal contexts), and with the historical and cultural pressures that inform those conventions (for example, why do "smilies" exist and when is it appropriate or inappropriate to use them)
- speak and write knowledgeably about important issues in cyberspace and how they interact with the culture at large
- accurately assess the credibility of a potential source (such as a web page, a press release, or an anonymous tip)
- exhibit communications skills and research methods consistent with the academic standards promoted by Seton Hill University
The course involves workshops, lectures, class discussion, small-group activities, readings, and regular use of a special kind of online journal (a "weblog" or a "blog").
Success in EL230 depends upon active discussion and class participation.
Students are expected to attend every class, and complete the required assignments before every session. Serious and thoughtful participation in class discussions is necessary for effective learning.
Absences may be excused, with prior negotiation initiated by the student with the instructor, for participation in intercollegiate sports, theater or music productions, conferences, or workshops, and the student is responsible for making up the material covered during the missed class including obtaining assignments or handouts (please request notes from a classmates; please do not ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed).At Seton Hill, instructors do not excuse absences for illness or personal circumstances – you should go directly to the vice-president for student affairs instead (see Seton Hill University Catalog, p 28, Excused Absences).
- First unexcused absence:
1.5 points subtracted from final grade. (-1.5)
- Second unexcused absence:
another 3 points subtracted (total: -4.5).
- Third unexcused absence:
another 6 points subtracted (total: -10.5)
- Fourth unexcused absence:
another 12 points subtracted (total: -22.5)
- Fifth unexcused absence: Failure
Excessive unexcused late arrivals or early departures, disruptive behavior, or unpreparedness may compound in my grade book to the point where I treat them as absences. (I'll warn you once.)
If you are absent from class without an excuse approved by the dean of students, on a day when a major assignment is due, the assignment will be counted an extra day late.
Seton Hill University has made a commitment to providing every student with the resources that he or she needs in order to succeed. A formal request for special accommodation must come from the administration. In a pinch I will do my best to accommodate you when asked, but a long-term strategy to help you succeed is not something that I am trained to provide
Available for purchase in the bookstore.
- Kilian, Writing for the Web (any edition is fine)
- Ward, Journalism Online
- (Assorted Online Readings, TBA)
If you already know how to make web pages, and don't want to be bored by the introductory web authorship lessons I will offer, I recommend that you purchase Krug, Don't Make Me Think (it's not in the bookstore, but you can buy it online).
Assignments will include short homework exercises (an average of about 2-3 pages per week), in-class exercises (about 1 per week), an informal oral presentation on an assigned topic, two quizzes, a public online journal (covering both assigned materials and your own online discoveries), a personal web site, an informative or evaluative web site, and a comprehensive final exam. For students with a B+ average or higher in the course, the final exam is optional.
(homework and in-class; averaging one a week, mostly in 1st half of semester)
10% Personal Web Site
(first draft 5%; expansion/revision 10%)
15% Web Journal
(about 300-400 words per week; representative portfolio collected twice over the term, with a 500-word self-evaluation each time; in 2nd half of semester, your exercises go into your web journal)
30% Critical Analysis of a Web Site*
10% Term Project: Informative or Creative Web Site*
(proposal 5%; first draft 10%; revision 10%)
25% Comprehensive Final Exam
(If you have a course average of B+ or better in all the work listed above, you can choose to skip the final exam with no penalty)
10% Class Participation
(I will add or subtract up to a letter grade, based on attitude, enthusiasm, willingness to seek my help, willingness to help classmates, frequency and quality of contributions to class discussion, tone and content of e-mails, etc. I rarely give more than a few points in either direction.)
* English/Journalism majors: save all drafts of these assignments for your developmental portfolio.
A 93.0% to 100% A- 90.0% to 92.9% B+ 87.0% to 89.9% B 83.0% to 86.9% B- 80.0% to 82.9% C+ 77.0% to 79.9% C 73.0% to 76.9% C- 70.0% to 72.9% D+ 67.0% to 69.9% D- 60.0% to 62.9% F 59.9% to 0%
Hard drives do occasionally crash -- just like dogs do occasionally eat homework -- but computer problems are not an acceptable excuse for missing or late work. (If you can give me a printout of your most recent version and a hastily scribbled note that promises you'll get me the completed version by the end of the day, I'm much more likely to be lenient than if you show up with nothing.)
If a last-minute computer glitch prevents you from submitting work (your printer runs out of ink, you forget your floppy disk, etc.), the real problem is procrastination. Plan to finish assignments early enough so that a minor setback won't leave you empty-handed on the due date.
Papers are marked down 10% if they are not on time and submitted in the proper format (i.e. if you e-mail a file when I asked for a printout, or vise-versa), and another 10% each day if the paper is not finished and waiting for me when I arrive on campus (usually around 8:30).
If you are absent from or very late to class (without an approved excuse) on a day when a major assignment is due, the assignment will be counted an extra day late.
If you know in advance that you will be absent on the day of a major assignment, make arrangements with me well in advance (I will usually expect you to submit that assignment early).
(Seton Hill University has made a commitment to providing every student with the resources that he or she needs in order to succeed. A formal request for special accommodation must come from the administration. In a pinch I will do my best to accommodate you when asked, but a long-term strategy to help you succeed is not something that I am trained to provide.)
If you have a disability that may require consideration by the instructor, you should contact the Coordinator of Disabled Student Services at 724-838-4295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class. It is not necessary to disclose to your instructor the nature of your disability. If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disabled Students Services Office, you should offer information in writing which includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments.
Welcome; syllabus; introductions;
Brief comments on: IM, e-mail, community groups, weblogs, web authorship, wikis
Tour of Jerz's web site
|27 Aug||Familiar forms of e-text: text-messaging and personal e-mail||
Bring: transcript of an IM or chat session in which you have participated; a sample of a personal e-mail you have received, and the URL of a web site that you'd like the class to discuss
Read: Short news articles about instant messaging and personal e-mail
Write Exercise 1: How does instant messaging and/or e-mail affect your personal life? Focus on both the benefits and drawbacks. (1p)
Write Exercise 2: Egosurf (that is -- search the Internet for your own name. What did you find?)
|03 Sep||E-mail in the workplace: Ethics and Consequences||
Read: Short news articles about SPAM & e-mail ethics.
Write Exercise 3: Research the origin of the "smiley" :) and summarize what you find (include URLs of sources) (1/2 p)
E-mail draft workshop.
Tour of Amazon.com product reviews, ePinions
Write Exercise 4: Draft an e-mail in which you ask the webmaster of one of your favorite sites for additional information. (Don't send the e-mail yet.)
Read: Introduction & Chapter 1, Kilian "Writing for the Web"
Follow-up on Smileys
Discussion of online reviews.
Tours of Slashdot, GrandTextAuto, KairosNews,
Write Exercise 5: ePinions review of Seton Hill University
Write Exercise 6: Amazon.com review of a product (book, movie, or other item) that already has no more than 5 existing reviews (please don't review Harry Potter or Star Wars!).
Join: an online community with a discussion board or other means where you can leave comments for others to respond to. (It's important that the community is focused around something that interests you.)
Weblog demonstration.Blogging practice.
Write Exercise 7: As part of your participation in your online community, write at least three substantial comments that apply some of what you have learned so far about electronic text (write at least two responses to someone else's writing, and if possible, propose at least one new discussion topic within your community). (Record your activity by printing out the pages where your writing appears, and write a brief paragraph on your experience.)
Bonus: If your writing generates any responses, keep the discussion productively for as long as you can.
Create a weblog (with any luck, "blogs.setonhill.edu" will be up and running by this time)
Work on your blogs.
Read: Short articles on blogging (TBA)
Blog: Locate some blogs that interest you. Choose a theme for your blog.
|22 Sep||Discussion and review of class weblogs.||
Blog -- that is, in no particular order: Post entries in your online journal covering material related to the course, material you have discovered yourself, and anything else that interests you. Read the blogs written by your classmates (especially those alphabetically above and below you). Post comments on their weblogs, and/or post your own original entries that respond to, amplify, challenge, or critique what your peers have written. Do the same for other blogs.
Try blogging for at least a half hour each day this week. If you feel uninspired, read some other weblogs and post links to whatever interests you. Maybe you'll feel more inspired later.
|24 Sep||Metablogging. (Register your weblog with blog search engines; populate your "blogroll". I'll guide you through the steps in class.)||
Read: Kilian, "Writing for the Web" Chapter 4
Continue blogging for at least half hour a day, paying special attention to the way you introduce external links.
Introduction to Web Authorship
Dowload FP Express (slow)
Read: Ward, "Journalism Online" Ch 1 & 2
Blog: Response to readings
|01 Oct||Ungraded In-class Activity: Create a Personal Web Page||
Read: Ward, "Journalism Online" Ch 3 & 4
Blog: Response to readings
Blog: preliminary term project ideas
Reference: A classic fisk
Write: A practice"fisk" (you may choose not to publish it online, but you are welcome to do so if you wish)
Read: "Fisking as a Rhetorical Construct" (at least scan all the linked documents)
Publish: Personal Web Site, First Draft
Blog: Publicize your site. Consider ideas for term project.
Peer Critiques of Personal Web Pages
Brainstorm ideas for term project.
Submit: Blogging Portfolio (I will accept this Friday before 5pm) Print out and annotate 2-4 of your best blog entries; write about 500 words evaluating your blogging experience so far, including your own specific blog entries as well as exchanges of comments (on your blog and on other blogs). Demonstrate how your blog shows you are applying your knowledge of electronic text and awareness of issues that affect online communication.
|13 Oct||Fall Break|
Read: Kilian, "Writing for the Web" Chapters 2, 3, 5
(Remember to continue blogging -- I won't keep nagging you in this space.)
Web authoring workshop
Read: Jerz, "Usability Testing: What is It?"
Read: Kilian, "Writing for the Web" Chapter 7
Lecture: "On the Trail of the Memex"
|Publish: Personal Web Site, Expansion/Revision|
Brief discussion of current events
Discussion: term project proposals
Read: Ward, "Journalism Online" Ch 5, Ch 7
Write: Term Project Proposal
Discussion: Current Events as seen via the Internet
Read: News and blogging coverage of a current event (breaking, ongoing news) of interest to a wide readership (thus -- your hometown spelling bee wouldn't count).
Choose an Event: Read the latest headlines on CNN or Yahoo or Google. Lots of news stories start spreading across the blogosphere after help from from Matt Drudge or Talking Points. (See also "Bloggers rate the most influential blogs.") Obviously you will get more interest from your NMJ classmates if you choose a topic of interest to students.
Example... the peace rally on the Mall this weekend.
Blog: focus intensely on this current event. (Post several blog entries -- pick a topic today, follow it tonight, several times tomorrow, and shortly before class today Wednesday. Find other bloggers who are writing on the same subject, and leave comments that engage with their posts. Collect links to bloggers who agree or disagree with each other. You might use the "Trackback" feature to draw people from those blogs to yours.)
For next Monday: Choose a website to critique (this can be a website you are using as an in spiration for your term project.)
|03 Nov||Peer Draft Workshop||Write: Critical Analysis of a Web site Draft|
|Work on critical analysis, think about term project|
Lecture: "Theorizing Metablogging"
Submit: Critical Analysis of a Web Site
Edit a Wikipedia article
|Read: Short article about "wikis" (TBA)|
|17 Nov||Term Project Workshop||Work on Term Project|
Evaluation of Instructor
Peer Critique Exercise
Publish: Term Project Draft
Discussion: Reflection & discussion on weblogging.
Write: Results of usability testing your project web site
Submit: Web Journal Portfolio II
|26 Nov||Thanksgiving Break|
|01 Dec||Term Project Workshop||
Work on Term Project
|03 Dec||Discussion of Course||Publish: Revised Term Project|
|Finals Week||Final Exam|