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Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 2311: Technical Writing

Course Policies

General Course Description

The fundamental purpose of this course will not change at all because of the Web-based delivery method. As I stated on the course Welcome page, this is a sophomore level technical writing course which stresses three fundamental skills very valuable in today's workplace: knowledge of basic design elements for all professional documents, knowledge of customary features of some common specific documents (e.g., memos, letters, process analyses, analytical reports, formal proposals), and mature collaborative skills with co-workers.

On a broader level, its goal is to teach critical thinking, a crucial key to problem-solving in every field. Both the more specific and the broader sets of skills are increasingly important in today's rapidly changing world. You will also get valuable experience in networked computer discourse and other skills essential to use of the World Wide Web and the Internet. The major part of your grade, however, will be taken from formal pieces of writing. You will do approximately four major documents, several of which will require research of various kinds, in addition to various shorter assignments and a great many email-type memos.

In my Syllabus you will find more detailed descriptions of this and other course requirements, while on the Assignments page you will find a table of specific assignments and their due dates.

Policies on "Attendance" &Late Work

Obviously, "attending class" will not be similar to a traditional course. If anything, however, the danger of "absenteeism" is even greater than in a traditional course. You should be carefully on your guard to avoid the "out of sight, out of mind" pitfall regarding your participation in this course, and you should understand that, as stated in the "Welcome" page, this is not a self-paced course. In essence, then, your level of participation counts as your level of attendance. Here are my policies regarding your participation.

The minimum I expect to hear from you is once a week. My gradebook requires me to list absences for all my students each week, and if I do not hear from you in a given week, you will be counted absent for that week. Note that in my list of Course Requirements, participation in itself counts 5% of your course grade, based both on the quantity and quality of your participation (see Syllabus).

  • Type of participation: In addition to submitting assignments on time, I value both personal email to me (see Email)and your participation in class conferences (see Nicenet).
  • Late work: I realize that occasionally, circumstances tend to arise unexpectedly so that you might need a few extra days on an assignment. If you will discuss this with me via email rather than remaining silent (thus absent) on the due date, you will usually find that I am willing to be flexible to a certain extent. However, habitual lateness is another matter. If I feel that you are habitually late with either minor or major assignments, I may decide to penalize that assignment by five points per calendar day. I am happy to discuss what you might feel are extenuating circumstances, but please understand that the final decision in such matters is at my sole discretion.
  • Personal crises or emergencies: It is also important that you clearly understand that no matter how unavoidable and valid a serious hindering circumstance may be--major illness, injury, family crisis--each student is still obligated to do the same amount of work in this course. Any other policy would be unfair to a student's classmates. Thus, if your unavoidable circumstance steals significantly from the time you can spend on this course, you might well have to drop the course and try again later when your life is less chaotic. I prefer to deal with such serious situations on a case-by-case basis and while consulting with the student, though any assignment deadline extensions remain at my sole discretion. In any such situation, my decisions place great emphasis on the student's demonstrated work habits and motivation up to that point.

Plagiarism is when a student turns in work not his or her own. This is a quick fix which teaches nothing except dishonesty; it is intellectual theft; it is cheating. Please realize that anytime you use whole phrases, sentences--or even IDEAS you yourself did not originate, even if you do not quote directly--you must give the author credit; otherwise you are guilty of plagiarism.

Here are four common forms of plagiarism to avoid:

  • Turning in work which is essentially the same work as another student's;
  • Turning in work which contains portions essentially identical to another student's;
  • Turning in a document which has been purchased or copied from the Internet;
  • Turning in work which contains portions of published works (from the Internet or elsewhere) without giving credit to the authors of those works.

The Internet is a particularly tempting source for plagiarism. Students should realize that sophisticated methods of detecting such plagiarism do exist. I consider plagiarism the most serious academic offense possible. Penalties are entirely at my own discretion, depending on the particular circumstances; normally, however, students caught cheating can expect a zero on that paper and an "F" for the course. The College also reserves the right to enforce other penalties.

One last note: Frequently, I find that two close family members enroll simultaneously in my course (husband and wife, usually). I have no problem with this arrangement, and I assume that the family members will be collaborating with each other on assignments. However, on the other hand any students in such a situation must realize that both students must take very special care to ensure that ultimately, each person can honestly claim to have produced the work to be turned in. And even when both students are of roughly similar ability, extra care must be taken to ensure--and to demonstrate to me--that each is fundamentally working and learning independently. Some suggestions: One good way to help establish this independence is for both students to communicate separately with me via email; I will not accept one member of a couple communicating for both. If both have the same question, you do not both have to ask the identical quesition; instead the students should alternate in asking such questions, so that I am hearing from both frequently. Another suggestion is for the students to choose clearly different topics on major assignments.

Unforeseen Circumstances

I use this term in two ways. First, unforeseen circumstances may arise in your personal situation which make it difficult for you to continue this course successfully, as I have already discussed under "Late Work." If this occurs, please discuss the situation with me before discontinuing the course. I can't promise solutions, but on the other hand there have been times in the past when I have been able to help a responsible student overcome such barriers. You should also remember that the worst possible outcome in this course is to simply stop participating without even formally dropping the course, in which case I have no choice but to give a grade of "F."

The second way in which I use the term "unforeseen circumstances" is in the sense that conceivably, circumstances may arise which are not specifically covered in my written policies. I reserve the right in such circumstances to take actions consistent with the overall well-being of this course and its students as a whole.

Some Helpful Suggestions
  • Check personal email at least three times per week, preferably daily; do the same for checking assignment due dates, announcements, etc., on Nicenet and/or my Assignments web page.
  • Be aware of your web browser's setting in regards to "caching" frequently-visited websites. This is important. When you visit a site frequently, many browsers are set to access a "cached" or saved version of that site, rather than the actual site. Most sites change seldom enough so that this is a time-saving step. However, it can be disastrous if your browser accesses an outdated version of my Assignments Calendar! For this course, I suggest you set your browser option for caching sites to zero, so that you are certain you are seeing my current Assignments Calendar.
  • Read all my web pages and all email carefully. Sloppy reading will lead to missed due dates, assignments which don't meet my requirements, and other preventable problems.
  • Save all email pertaining to the class; treat it as class notes.
  • Learn how to copy and paste text from your word processor to Nicenet and to email messages, and vice versa.
  • Learn how to copy and paste URLs instead of typing them. It is extremely easy to make a mistake when manually typing each character of a URL.
  • Use the bookmark capabilities of your browser to make this and other useful websites easily accessible.
  • Learn how to print out this and other websites, as well as email (but keep in mind that my pages may change even during the semester!).
  • Gain access to a fax machine; for this class, that is my preferred way for you to submit assignments. Remember that because of the importance of formatting features which may be lost when assignments are submitted as email file attachments, I do not accept assignments submitted in that way without my specific prior approval.
  • Don't hesitate to ask questions! My best students ask questions frequently; my weak students almost never do. Neither is a coincidence.

Welcome ~ Getting Started ~ Policies ~ Syllabus ~ Nicenet ~ Email ~

Assignments ~ Chapter Summaries ~ About Me ~ Links


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