Syllabus: 420

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This course is a synthesis of what I know about technical communication, document design, and rhetoric with what I am learning about on-line, hypermedia presentations — specifically, writing for the Web. What I hope we will all learn more about concerns the design and composition implications of interactive media. We will try to build this knowledge through practice; thus, this course will emphasize effective application of advanced communication concepts. Though we will discuss many things besides computers, this course is directly centered on writing for a particular technology.
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Hypertext or hypermedia can mean many things, from industrial training videos to interactive movies, from hypertext documentation systems to MUDs, MOOs, and virtual realities. In a survey or theory course it's possible to touch on all of these, but here we need to concentrate. In 2003, one branch of hypermedia still stands out quite clearly: the World Wide Web. Though surrounded by a dense nebulae of hype, the Web is certainly the first broadly popular hypermedia enterprise. It is also a very significant venue for composition and design work.
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During this semester, you will acquire or improve basic knowledge of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). You will also learn about advanced subjects like complex layout with Netscape and Internet Explorer enhancements, dynamic documents, tables, and frames. We will try to develop a rhetoric of hypermedia delivery to assist us in making effective choices in our web writing. You can also count on us dabbling in graphic design, using Adobe PhotoShop and other graphics software. In addition, we may experiment a little with JAVA, Common Gateway Interface, and other plug-in components. Most of all, we will discuss writing for the Web. I am more and more convinced that effective writing for the web requires a combination of technical skills, effective writing skills, and restrained yet creative design skills.
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I take the word "production" very seriously—very seriously. Our class is more a studio class than a lecture class. You will need to have Dreamweaver MX to complete your work for this class. This means that you can either purchase DW MX yourself, in which case you will do you "homework" online, or, if you don't have DW MX and a computer at home, plan to work at least five hours a week in the lab. You may use the Advanced Technical Writing Lab on the second floor of the Humanities Building or the General Access Lab in the Business Building. If you can't do this required lab work using Dreamweaver MX, then rethink the course.

You will create two hypermedia projects during the semester: a personal page whose shape and scope I will describe for you, and a project whose shape and scope are up to you, within reason. You will also give one 10—15 minute presentations to the class, an informative report on a specified topic (see signup sheet), and finally you will critique a Web site you find significant. All of these projects will  be published on our course web. These elements count toward your grade as follows: 

Personal Page (preliminary course pages)

Topic report

Course Project (primary course project) 50%
Participation/Daily Work 20%
Final Examination 10%

Attendance is mandatory. You will likely fail or end up dropping if you habitually miss class. I expect a professional attitude toward attendance, so it will be a factor in my overall evaluation of your work.
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Course Work & Attendance 


To be of practical use, your work in this course should have real goals and outcomes. Please keep this requirement in mind as you outline your Course Project. Ideally, your Course Project will involve the design and production of a website that could actually be used. Students have created sites for businesses, lawyers, non-profit organizations or worked in teams to create the sites listed below.

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We will meet all classes in Humanities 209, the Foreign Language Multi-Media Lab. In addition, once the semester gets started you will be able to reserve time on computers reserved for advanced technical writing students in Humanities 210 (from 8—5). Software available in this lab includes Dreamweaver MX, Adobe Photoshop 6.0, Adobe Illustrator 10.0, and other handy goodies. << Back


I will also assign readings on the World Wide Web. Printed texts will include:

  • Lynda Weinman, Garo Green, and Abigail Rudner's Dreamweaver MX: Hot Hands-on-Training (with CD-ROM).
    ISBN 0-321-11271-7

  • Charles Kostelnick and David D. Roberts' Designing Visual Language
    ISBN 0-305-20022-2
  • I realize the Kostelnick text overlaps with English 4123 reading assignments, but you will find it an excellent resources for completing both courses and later when you want to work on production on you own.
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My email address is (I would, however, prefer that you use our WebCT mail associated with our course Online site.)

My voice mail is (254) 968-9286. Drop-in office visits for this class will be better by appointment. Keep our email here inside our course. Try to read your WebCT email and discussion posts regularly. Email and discussions are often rewarding, but remember your netiquette.

Getting In Touch 

If you have special needs due to a learning disability or other disability, please contact Dr. Dwayne Snyder, ADA Compliance Officer. Students who have special instructional needs because of a physical or learning disability should discuss them as soon as possible with Dr. Dwayne Snider in the Compliance Office for Individuals with Disabilities. (Admin. Rm. 237; Phone # 254-968-9103). No instructional accommodations can be made unless requested by that office.