Dr. Mark W. Jordan:

ENGL 2311

Technical Writing

"I have learned to have very modest goals for society and myself, things like clean air, green grass, children with bright eyes, not being pushed around, useful work that suits one's abilities, plain tasty food . . . "

--Paul Goodman

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A preview of what to expect in this web course:

As with my traditional version, 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 as much as is practical in this medium,
  • knowledge of how to collaborate effectively with co-workers.

So with that brief course description in mind, . . .


  . . . to an online, web-based course in technical writing offered by Odessa College: English 2311.web -- Technical Writing, a three credit-hour course. Prerequisite: Engl 1302 (second semester Freshman English) or its equivalent. The prerequisite provides knowledge of research methods, which you will use in this course.

This course uses the resources of the Internet and World Wide Web to present a sophomore-level college technical writing and communication course of study. Below you will find some of the characteristics of the course. Some of them are repeated from the general Web course qualities you should have read by now on my Index page (the "About Me" link), but some of the following are particular to 2311:

  • There is no classroom, no traditional attendance, and no campus visit required. However, it is imperative to note that the workload remains the same as the traditional on-campus offering of this course, and students have the same responsibility to keep up with assignments in both the web-based and on-campus versions. Additionally, the course is not self-paced.
  • Using the World Wide Web, electronic mail, fax, and file attachment skills will all be part of the course requirements. When you enroll in this course, it is assumed that you have both the technical capability and the knowledge to use these skills.
  • Students will at times work collaboratively on topics, research, and/or papers.
  • There is an asynchronous chatroom (Nicenet) where students will engage in relevant discussions and post such things as topic selections and research findings.
  • Because the format (the visual "look") of assignment documents is much more important in a Technical Writing course than in most English courses, major assignments in most cases must be handed in by surface mail or, in an emergency, by fax--though in the past, I have often had extreme difficulty getting and returning faxes from students. Or you may bring assignments to my office if you are a local student. They may not be handed in as file attachments without my specific approval, because many formatting features may be lost in this type of file transfer.

Note: Please realize that in order to complete this course with a passing grade, you will almost certainly need daily uninterrupted access to a computer with a word processor and Internet access of at least 14.4 baud speed. "Uninterrupted access" almost certainly means owning a computer at home. Past students who have attempted my web courses while having access only to a computer at work, at a relative's home, or in public labs have simply not been able to keep up. And, of course, you must be familiar with the use of your equipment. It is very difficult to learn to use a new, unfamiliar computer, learn to navigate the Internet, and complete this course at the same time unless you are extraordinarily motivated and also have an unusual amount of time available.

Further Notes, Advice, and Recommendations

Required Textbook

In this course, I follow the textbook very closely. Therefore it is essential that you buy the text immediately. The single required text is

  • Technical Communication. 9th ed. John M. Lannon. Addison Wesley Longman, 2003

This textbook may be found at the OC bookstore. Note that you need the 9th edition. It would be confusing, at least, to try to work from an earlier edition, and would likely hurt your grade. If you are enrolled in my course from a distance and do not live in Odessa or nearby, you may email or phone the OC bookstore directly to have the text shipped to you. The necessary email address and phone number may be found on my "Getting Started" page. You may also order the text online from the OC bookstore at this address: /dept/bookstore/ . Or, if you prefer, you may purchase the text elsewhere--for example, from the publisher or from such online sources as Amazon.com. The important thing is to acquire your textbook as soon as possible. Please do this today, or you will fall behind immediately!

The Internet also contains numerous sites relating to grammar and writing; some of these may be found in the "Links" section of this website. I encourage each of you to suggest additions to this section for all of us to use. My own web page for my 1301 class contains valuable links pertaining to the Writing Process, the Three-Part Format style of writing, and Proofing Strategies. If you wish to review these topics, just click on any of them in the previous sentence, as needed.

Not Self-Paced nor Less Work!

It is absolutely imperative for all my students to realize that taking this course via web is not a way to complete the course with less work or effort. You will simply be working in different ways, at times of your own choosing.

Furthermore, while you have unusual freedom in this course to the extent that you don't travel to campus and that you can work at times of your own convenience, this is not a self-paced course in the sense of moving faster or slower through the whole list of assignments. There will be weekly deadlines for work to be turned in. You will be involved with various types of assignments appropriate for the course. Because some parts of the course are based on student collaboration, it is essential that you keep up with all assignments and meet all deadlines. Keep in mind that habitual late work will be penalized (see Policies page on late work).

Student Communication

In my experience with Internet or web-based coursework, there are several strong tendencies among students. The most dangerous tendency is the "out of sight, out of mind" principle: students who are overly busy or simply undisciplined or not serious about college tend not to communicate regularly with me or to check for new assignment due dates. My requirement is that you email me at least once a week to let me know you are working the course. Submission of assignments also satisfies this requirement. Your "attendance" is based on this requirement. Additionally, I highly recommend that you check for new assignments and for email from me at least every other day during the week, if not every day.

Secondly, even among good students, there is a strong tendency for a pattern to develop wherein individual students communicate closely with me, but less well with each other. This pattern is good in that it encourages a strong rapport between myself as instructor and each student individually, but it is counterproductive in that it discourages cooperation among students. This is poor training for most professions, which more and more require close cooperation with fellow workers, many times through this very medium.

To help build a more participatory community in our course, you should feel free to send and accept email from members of the class. I encourage communication and collaboration (and sometimes require it). You may help each other with Web surfing, read each others' writing, or even give advice or technical help if you can. Our class really forms a cyber community, and I would like you to feel that you are a member of it. With that in mind, please realize that you have to take greater care with email than you would with oral communication because of the absence of paralinguistic clues (such as facial expressions or tone of voice) which, for example, can indicate whether a listener should interpret a comment as ironically humorous or as derogatory. Please read my comments on email etiquette on the Email page.

Web Site Changes

I may make occasional changes to the Web site. Some could be major, like altering a due date or adding an assignment; others might be minor, such as recommending a new Web site for a particular assignment or such as cosmetic changes (the look of linked pages, etc.). I will notify you via email of any major changes, but it is your responsibility to be aware of any other changes. You may choose to print the entire Web site, but keep in mind that it may evolve even as the course progresses. The most frequent changes to my website will be the posting of new assignments. These will be posted on my Assignments link. I may also from time to time send out classwide emails as reminders. However, I will not in every case notify each student individually of each new assignment. Checking regularly--at least three times per week--for new assignments and announcements is one of a student's expected course obligations. Ideally, you should check email and assignment postings daily during the five-day workweek, just as I do.

 Visit or Email Me Regularly

If you live close enough, I encourage you to visit me on campus during my office hours (which I do not post on my website but can easily supply upon request). I will be happy to provide face-to-face, personalized instruction. If you can't come in, please email me regularly; even if you don't have any problems, I like to hear from all my students at least weekly, preferably every day or so. As I mentioned above, this email link between us is how I judge your "attendance"; if I don't hear from you at all in a given week, then you have been absent that week.

Even if you have no questions, this email can take the form of brief progress reports ("Doing fine on this assignment; no questions"), of requests for feedback from me on partial drafts, or of suggestions of any kind. 


Now that you have read these notes, your next move is to click the live, underlined link below or in the navigation bar and

Go to the "Getting Started" page and begin working.

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 This site last modified 8/17/04