Writing for the Internet -- Syllabus

Syllabus Outline

  1. When & Where
  2. Instructor
  3. Course Description
  4. Course Objectives
  5. Course Format
  6. Course Requirements
    1. Attendance and Participation
    2. Texts
    3. Assignments
  7. Grading
    1. What Gets Graded
    2. What the Grades Mean
    3. Reduction Policies
  8. University Disability Statement
  9. Course Outline

1. When & Where

  • MW: 3:00 - 4:15PM
  • L110

2. Instructor

  • Dennis G. Jerz
  • St. Joseph Hall 403
  • jerz@setonhiII.edu
  • 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

3. Course Description

"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.

4. Course Objectives

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

5. Course Format

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").

6. Course Requirements

6.1 Attendance and Participation

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

6.2 Texts

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).

6.3 Assignments

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.

7. Grading

7.1 What Gets Graded

(homework and in-class; averaging one a week, mostly in 1st half of semester)
Personal Web Site
(first draft 5%; expansion/revision 10%)
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)
Critical Analysis of a Web Site*
(750-1000 words)
Term Project: Informative or Creative Web Site*
(proposal 5%; first draft 10%; revision 10%)
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)
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.

7.2 What the Grades Mean

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%

7.3 Deadline/Makeup Policies

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).

8. University Disability Statement

(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 bassi@setonhill.edu.  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. 

9. Course Outline


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Dennis G. Jerz
22 Aug 2003 -- first posted