Continuing the Abbreviated Class

Problems with Zoom

Please accept my apologies for the problems we experienced last Tuesday using Zoom. I chatted with the person who was to have set up the pro account to enable the longer class time, and we discovered that a confirmation email I send was not received (or was missed). The result was our video time was limited to 40 minutes. I have confirmed that the account has been updated through the end of April, so I can ensure Meg that she’ll be able to log in for the full duration of class while convalescing.

Despite the issues, I’d like to hear your feedback on using Zoom for class. Please provide feedback in response to this post, either in the comments or directly be email to me.

  1. Did the interface enable you to participate at a level and quality equivalent to in-class participation?
  2. Did the interface enhance any aspect(s) of the class session?
  3. Did the interface detract from any aspect(s) of the class session?
  4. Would you be willing to participate in additional Zoom-mediated online class sessions this semester or in the future?

As you know, the way we experienced class on Tuesday (minus the abbreviated session) is the way I completed all of my dissertation coursework. I have a soft-spot for synchronous online coursework enabled by Zoom and other platforms like it.

Business & Professional Communication

You may have noticed that I’m not focusing a great deal of attention on specific principles of business and professional communication. Instead, I’m presenting information about and theories from the field. I’m expecting you to use the online textbooks to learn most of the skills and techniques of business/professional/technical writing, but I am definitely open to addressing questions as you encounter them. Come to class with questions about specific aspects of these readings prepared, and be sure you let me know you have questions. I’ll be sure we cover them in class.

Meg’s Reading Presentation

I enjoyed Meg’s guided discussion, and I wish we’d not been interrupted in its midst. Thank you for jumping in and being engaged, because it was a joy to behold you all grappling with issues raised by the Frost reading. I took a few notes from the discussion in our Week 7 class notes, and I encourage you to add any additional details that you found compelling. Be sure to read Meg’s post about how preparing for this discussion informed her classroom practice, and how her classroom practice helped her better understand Frost’s ideas.

I chatted this afternoon with Amber about the question raised during our discussion concerning how testing mandates, guidelines and versions are discussed and passed in the Virginia legislature, and she plans to do a little research to provide insight. By tracking bills, Amber has seen how legislation travels through the halls of the capitol, and I look forward to her response.

Meanwhile, Meghan and I are working on her reading assignment for our next class session, which is March 17. Normally. we’d meet on March 10, but that’s during Spring Break.

Characteristics of Technical Writing

I find this summary of characteristics from Open TC a compelling short list of what differentiates technical or workplace writing from other kinds of writing, especially academic writing.

  • Focused on audience: Technical and workplace documents address a specific audience.
  • Rhetorical, persuasive, purposeful, and problem-oriented: Technical communication is all about helping the reader or user of a document solve a problem or compel others to act or do. Identification of a specific purpose and a particular audience are the first two steps of technical writing.
  • Professional: Technical communication reflects the values, goals, and culture of the organization and as such, creates and maintains the public image of the organization.
  • Design Centered: Technical communication uses elements of document design such as visuals, graphics, typography, color, and spacing to make a document interesting, attractive, usable, and comprehensible.
  • Research and Technology Oriented: Because of workplace demands, technical and workplace writing is often created in collaboration with others through a network of experts and designers and depends on sound research practices to ensure that information provided is correct, accurate, and complete.
  • Ethical: Lastly, technical communication is ethical. All workplace writers have ethical obligations, many of which are closely linked to legal obligations that include liability laws, copyright laws, contract laws, and trademark laws.

We’ll use this list as a framework for covering what we mean by technical writing, but keep in mind that these are characteristics, not a definition. We’ll seek to define the field as the semester progresses. My preferred way to describe technical writing is as “communication that seeks to solve a problem.” I enjoy using communication tools toward solving problems facing a specific public that organically emerge from the problem.

Rise of Technical Writing in America

I assigned Connor’s “The Rise of Technical Writing in America” because the article provides a clear and somewhat concise history of the field. I found it fascinating that the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1877 (which I’d never heard of before reading this article), which established land grant institutions and widened access to technical education, directly influenced the rise of technical communication through training scientists and engineers to write for non-scientific and non-engineering audiences. I also found it useful to see how the continued widening of access to higher education enabled by the G.I. Bill also influenced the field’s development. Even though the account ends in the 1980s, there’s much to learn from this history. I hope you found it interesting, too. Let me know if the article raises any questions.

Daniel Hocutt

Web Manager and Adjunct Professor of English for the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies.

2 thoughts on “Continuing the Abbreviated Class

  • February 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm
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    I really enjoyed the Zoom class. I felt like we were experiencing a modern, high tech educational environment. I also enjoyed the nuances of being in our own spaces. There was even a bit of humor seeing everyone in this setting. We could even bring our own coffee. *Cough. I thought the quality was just fine; I could hear everyone and felt that we could participate efficiently. I would love to do this again.

  • February 29, 2020 at 11:10 am
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    I agree with Jocelyn. I enjoyed the Zoom experience; however, I think (long term) I am a better student in person.

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