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English 3764 covers the principles and procedure of technical communication. This writing-intensive online course focuses attention on analyzing audience and purpose, organizing information, designing graphics, and writing such specialized forms as correspondence, instructions, and proposals. Junior standing is required.


By completing English 3764, you will

  • gain knowledge of technical communication’s rhetorical dimensions.
  • learn to distinguish between effective and ineffective technical documents.
  • write in several technical genres that use analysis, narrative, critique, persuasion, and argument.
  • practice using the conventions of written, spoken, and visual composition.
  • gain an understanding of the role of social media and visual rhetoric in technical communications.
  • write and create texts in digital environments.

Required Resources

Course Requirements

You must complete all major assignments and requirements in order to pass this course. All work must be submitted online, via Canvas. Your final grade is calculated on this distribution:

80% Five major projects, along with related drafts and other artifacts. These projects (listed below) will focus on different kinds of technical communication. For each major assignment unit, you will be asked to submit preliminary drafts to be discussed online by the class. You should plan to revise these assignments extensively before the due date. There are no rewrites or revisions after work is graded.

  • Project 1: Professional Biography Statement. Due 12/30. Worth 15%.
  • Project 2: Analysis of Writing in Your Field. Due 01/04. Worth 15%.
  • Project 3: Job Application Materials (with informal proposal). Due 01/08. Worth 15%.
  • Project 4: Genre Analysis Report (with progress report).  Due 01/14. Worth 30%.
  • Project 5 (Final Exam): Course Completion Report. Due 01/16. Worth 5%.
20% Participation (reading quizzes, daily course work, and discussion posts in Canvas). You will write each week, primarily in the Canvas Discussion forum. These forum activities include class discussion of readings and related issues, correspondence, peer feedback, and reflections. There is a quiz for each reading.


Equal Access and Opportunity: If you need special accommodations in this course, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in 310 Lavery Hall (above the Turner Place Dining Center) during the first week of the term to ensure that you have the resources you need. The procedures and forms you need are also available on the SSD website. I am happy to work with the SSD staff to make sure that you have the support you need. Documentation from the SSD office should be sent to me by the end of the first week of class.

Communication Guidelines: Email is the best way to contact me. You can email me at I do not respond to students at any other address. I try to answer student email within 24 hours on weekdays and within 48 hours on weekends and holidays. Since most students are not in the Blacksburg area, I do not offer on-campus office hours. In my experience, we can manage most issues by email.

Participation: Class participation in online discussions and in all assignments is required. If you miss a deadline because of an illness, death in the family, or family emergency, see the Student Advocacy page from the Dean of Students Office for details on how to document the situation. You must provide documentation within one week of any situation.

If you have an issue that affects your ability to complete the course, you may qualify for Academic Relief. For personal medical issues, contact the Schiffert Health Center, and for psychiatric or psychological issues, contact the Cook Counseling Center.

Work Guidelines: All work and participation in this course is governed by the Undergraduate Honor System and the Virginia Tech Principles of Community.

Late Policy: My late policy includes a grace period that should cover most problems that come up, whether academic conflicts, illness, or a personal issue. You do not need to ask in advance or explain why your work is late. Just take advantage of the grace period, as explained below:

Discussion forum activities and quizzes: Every day, you will complete writing activities and/or quizzes that you will submit online. This work counts as part of your participation grade and is relevant to the projects you are working on. This work is due by 11:59 PM in Canvas on the day indicated on the course website. You may submit any of this work up to 24 hours late, but realize that you will lose the benefit of getting replies from your peers if your work is not submitted on time. You will receive a zero for any work that is submitted more than 24 hours late.

Peer Review Drafts and Feedback: For each project, you will submit a rough draft and provide feedback to two of your classmates. Rough drafts are due by 6 PM. Canvas will automatically assign you two classmates to review after 6 PM. Feedback is due to your classmates by noon the next day. There is no grace period for peer review drafts or feedback. If you miss the deadline for submitting your draft, you will not get feedback on your draft and you will receive a zero for the activity (which counts in the Participation portion of your grade).

Projects 1, 2, 3, and 4: You will compose four projects, which you will submit online. Each major project will have a due date, a grace period, and a deadline:

  • The due date is the day that your major project is due. Projects are due by 11:59 PM in this course. Every student has a 48-hour grace period after the due date during which the project can still be submitted.
  • The grace period occurs between the due date and the deadline. Work submitted during the grace period will be marked as late in Canvas; however, there is no grade penalty for work submitted during the grace period. Note that we will not work on the projects after the due date.
  • The deadline comes 48 hours after the due date and is the final moment that Canvas will accept a project. You will receive a zero for any project that is not submitted by the deadline. There are no extensions on deadlines.

Project 5 (Final Exam): You will also complete a final exam. There is no grace period or make-up option for Project 5. Your final exam must be submitted by the due date (11:59 PM on Saturday, January 16) so that I can turn course grades in on time. You will receive a zero if Project 5 is not submitted on time.

Religious Holidays: Please take advantage of the grace period explained in the Late Policy section above if the due date for any work in this class coincides with a religious holiday that you celebrate. Please let me know before the event if the grace period will not be adequate.

Backups: Save backups of all your work for this class. Maintain these backups in multiple places (your laptop, a flash drive, Google Docs, Dropbox). Printed backups can also be useful. Do not discard any files, notes, or other work until the term is over and you have received your final grade. Be sure that you maintain backups so that you can continue your work when you encounter computer problems. If you need assistance with your computer, check with InnovationSpace or Customer Support Center (4Help).

Program Assessment: Please note that the Department of English may use your written work in its assessment of its teaching and learning goals.  In such cases, your name will be removed and your work assessed anonymously.  Your work will not be shared with any individual outside of the department.  It will be used strictly to help the department offer students the best possible academic experience.

Grading: I use the default Virginia Tech grade scale for Letter Grades with +/-. The Canvas gradebook manages all the mathematics. I do not round grades. I do not provide extra credit for people who have not met satisfactory performance goals.

A  93–100
A- 90–92.99
B+ 87–89.99
B  83–86.99
B- 80–82.99
C+ 77–79.99
C  73–76.99
C- 70–72.99
D+ 67–69.99
D  63–66.99
D- 60–62.99
F 59.99 & below

Specific grading expectations will be posted with each major project. Generally, project expectations fall into these descriptions:

Grade Scale Your manager might say… Project Description
This is exemplary work. It will have a solid impact and will be remembered as a model for future tasks. This project…

  • meets or exceeds all the requirements for a B.
  • uses unique strategies and details that are clever, original, creative, and/or imaginative.
  • includes well-chosen graphics or visual elements that increase the project’s effectiveness.
  • makes explicit connections between the graphics and the text of the assignment or task.
  • is free of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics, linking, and formatting.

Any work that is incomplete or that contains multiple errors will not earn an A or an A-.

This is very good. The details and approach are impressive, and the document stands out visually. I’m happy to send this out/use this. This project…

  • meets or exceeds all the requirements for a C.
  • includes thorough details that make the information clear and convincing.
  • uses headings, layout, design, and visual arrangement to highlight key points and make the document easy to read and navigate.
  • has no more than two or three minor errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics, linking, and/or formatting.
This is acceptable. It accomplishes the task completely. We can send it out, but some aspects of it are average. We can do better next time. This project…

  • is in the right format and genre for the assignment or task.
  • addresses all the audiences (e.g., primary, secondary, and tertiary) for the assignment or task.
  • fulfills the purpose(s) of the assignment or task.
  • includes the basic details, possibly using generic or predictable strategies and/or information.
  • uses a clear, friendly sentence style that matches the audience and purpose.
  • provides documentation for outside sources, including graphics, photographs, and other visual resources.
  • has no more than four minor errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics, linking, and/or formatting.
This is flawed. It will have to be revised before we can send it to a client or coworkers. This project…

  • is sloppy.
  • is in the wrong format and/or genre.
  • has missing information or is otherwise incomplete.
  • has more than 5 errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and/or mechanics.
F   This is unacceptable and unusable. Someone else will have to do this work, starting over from the beginning. This project…

  • doesn’t exist or was never submitted.
  • does not relate to the assignment or task at all.
  • fails to address the audience(s) and purpose(s) of the assignment or task.

Tentative Schedule
This schedule is subject to change. It is your responsibility to check your Canvas notifications and the course website for updates and changes to the course schedule. Check the daily posts for specific quiz and Discussion forum activities.

Time Commitment: Virginia Tech classes require 36.25 hours of class time, so plan to spend about 2.5 hours on class work each weekday, plus time to complete your readings and compose your projects.

Day Date Activities
1 Su, 12/27 Course Overview
Syllabus, Course Policies, Assignments Overview and Quiz
2 Mo, 12/28 Assignment for Project 1: Professional Biography Statement, with related online readings Markel, Ch. 1: Introduction to Technical Writing and Quiz
Markel, Ch. 3: Writing Collaboratively and Using Social Media and Quiz
3 Tu, 12/29 Markel, Ch. 2: Understanding Ethical & Legal Considerations and Quiz
Markel, Ch. 4: Analyzing Your Audience & Purpose and Quiz
Markel, Ch. 6: Writing for Your Readers and Quiz
Project 1 Rough Drafts for Peer Feedback due by 6 PM
4 We, 12/30 Peer Review of Project 1 due by noon
Markel, Appendix, Part B: Editing and Proofreading Your Documents
Project 1: Professional Biography Statement, due by 11:59 PM
5 Th, 12/31 Assignment for Project 2: Analysis of Writing in Your Field
Markel, Ch. 7: Designing Documents & Web Sites and Quiz
Markel, Ch. 9: Writing Correspondence and Quiz
Markel, Ch. 5: Researching Your Subject and Quiz
Markel, Appendix A: Documenting Your Sources
Discussion of Project 2 example documents
  Fr, 01/01 New Year’s Day, No work due
  Sa, 01/09 Independent Work Day
  Su, 01/10 Project 2 Rough Drafts for Peer Feedback, due by 6 PM
6 Mo, 01/04 Peer Review of Project 2 due by noon
Project 2: Analysis of Writing in Your Field, due by 11:59 PM
7 Tu, 01/05 Assignment for Project 3: Job Application Needs
Markel, Ch. 10: Writing Job-Application Materials and Quiz
VT Career Planning Guide: Writing Resumes, pp. 43 to 61
Project 3 Informal Proposal, due by 6 PM
8 We, 01/06 Discussion of Project 3 example documents
9 Th, 01/07 Discussion of LinkedIn, GitHub, and Online Portfolios (Web-based readings)
Project 3 Rough Draft for Peer Feedback, due by 6 PM
10 Fr, 01/08 Peer Review of Project 3 due by noon
Project 3: Job Application Needs, due by 11:59 PM
  Sa, 01/09 Independent Work Day
  Su, 01/10 Independent Work Day
11 Mo, 01/11 Assignment for Project 4: Genre Analysis Report
Markel, Ch. 8: Creating Graphics and Quiz
As appropriate for your report:
Markel, Ch. 11: Writing Proposals, Ch. 12: Writing Information Reports, Ch. 13: Writing Recommendation Reports, and Ch. 14: Writing Definitions, Descriptions, and Instructions; and/or Ch. 15: Making Oral Presentations
12 Tu, 01/12 Discussion of Project 4 example documents
Review Markel, Ch. 5: Researching Your Subject, and App A: Documenting Your Sources
13 We, 01/13 Discussion of Progress Reports
Markel, “Writing Progress and Status Reports,” pp. 302–311
Project 4 Progress Report and Rough Draft for Peer Feedback, due by 6 PM
14 Th, 01/14 Peer Review of Project 5 due by noon
Project 4: Genre Analysis Report, due by 11:59 PM
15 Fr, 01/15 Assignment for Project 6: Course Completion Report
Markel, Ch. 12: Writing Information Reports
Discussion of Project 6 example documents
SPOT course evaluations due by midnight (tentative)
16 Sa, 01/16 Project 5: (Final Exam): Course Completion Report,  due by 11:59 PM


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