Getting Started

Technical Writing


Welcome to Technical Writing (English 3764, CRN 61696) for summer I, 2014. Thank you for participating in this online section of the course. I appreciate you being here, especially during summer, and I look forward to the opportunity of working with you.


My name is Jim Collier. I have had the pleasure of teaching Technical Writing on several occasions. I taught an online version of this course last summer.

Before the age of content management systems a few well-intentioned, though foolhardy and often bewildered, educators made course websites. I was among them. As my bewilderment gave way to fascination, I continued to make course websites. Now the practice helps me plan the course, think through ideas and develop and organize materials. And as I find the romantic idea of an open democratic society on the Web hard to shake, I passively encourage the use of my materials, and meaningful participation on our wiki, by an interested pubic.

My background contributes to the idiosyncratic approach found before you. While the digital execution of my pedagogical motives seems quite clear (to me at least), the practical execution of my intentions in the site layout may not be as "crystalline" to the user. What follows, then, is a peak into my thinking (a bit scary, that) regarding how you might best access and use this site.

What's Important Now

(with all due credit and apologies to Coach Foster)

To get oriented, and to help make your learning experience as successful as possible, let's focus immediately on three important aspects of the course:

    1. Course Structure: As you can see, our course looks and feels a little bit different from the online offerings that begin and end with Scholar. Many of you have taken online courses. And all of you, I gather, have taken courses with a Scholar component. We will use Scholar in the class, but in a limited way.

    The main platform for this class is our Technical Writing website. To get oriented, and to help make your learning experience as rewarding as possible, I encourage you to take the time to navigate the website completely. In accessing our materials as the course unfolds, allow me to suggest that you enter our website through the homepage, or the course calendar, rather than through Scholar. As you surf the website, you will see links to our Technical Writing wiki. As with our website, please become familiar with the layout of the wiki. I will invite you to join the wiki and post a brief profile. Finally, we will use Scholar as a means of communication and storage.

    2. Course Calendar: Everything in the class runs through the course calendar. On the calendar you will find a detailed schedule of, and links to, all reading assignments, supplemental resources, assignment due dates and the like. Please become familiar with the calender. You will note that on each class day I ask you to 'read' and 'review' selected resources. 'Read' suggests more emphasis than 'review'. However, while all of the resources on the calendar will aid in your learning (often beyond the traditional boundaries of the class), I trust you to use your judgment in determining which resources (e.g., online sources, videos, textbooks) will best help you achieve your learning goals for the class and successfully complete the assignments.

    3. Course Assignments: Were we face-to-face in the classroom, I would look each of you in the eye and say slowly for emphasis ... "Read and follow the assignments carefully." And knowing my flair for the dramatic I would repeat — perhaps even more slowly — "Read and follow the assignments carefully." In an asynchronous online class, you must be clear about your learning goals and the place of the course assignments in achieving those goals. Summer courses are short. In an online course, particularly, you cannot perform well if you fall behind and miss deadlines. I want, and expect, you to succeed in this class — that's what's important now. To do so you must — repeat after me one last time — "Read and follow the assignments carefully." If you have any questions about the assignments, do not hesitate to contact me.

Just stay with it and you will do well in the course!

Course Structure Elaborated

I view the course website as our home. The home page is the front door through which one can, and perhaps should, should enter the course. I encourage you to bookmark the home page and to access our course materials directly and not through Scholar (it being an entrance found through the garage, perhaps) — unless you so choose.

The course calendar is the central room of our house. All activities run through the course calendar. Each time you come to our website, I suggest consulting the calendar first.

I view Scholar much like a finished garage — a space for storage and to hang out, play and talk. Many neat tools inhabit the garage but, depending on the task, I prefer a more DIY approach.

The wiki I see as an outdoor space — a front porch, perhaps, or patio — which hosts thoughtful conversations and lively debates and where friends may visit as they will.

Our online home has many other rooms designated by the main menu categories (see above) — Assignments, the E-Text, Links and the Syllabus — that I encourage you to explore. Still, if you will forgive the repetition, the course calendar provides a guided approach to our online resources.

Absent my more or less colorful description, please fully acquaint your self with all the elements of the course website, the wiki, and Scholar and determine how you might best take advantage of the course resources and your learning goals through our online presence.


I have designed this course to be asynchronous. We will not meet at a common time.

The vast majority of our communication will occur through email. My email address is

I will send announcements to the class at the beginning and ending of each week of the term. These announcements will be archived on the Scholar site.

I will check my email at least twice a day — in the morning and in the evening. Please give me about 12 hours to respond to your e-mail. Likely my response will come much sooner.

Please feel free to use the Messages function in Scholar to contact classmates. Also, group email lists have been established.

I am happy to meet with you either face-to-face, if you are in Blacksburg, or virtually, real-time. We can use Skype (and my cell number is available by request). Please consider what mode of communication works best for you. I am ready to explore any possibilities you suggest for either asynchronous or synchronous communication.

Finally, I will use email to communicate with you regarding your formal writing assignments (please refer to the Assignments section of the syllabus). I will not use the Scholar gradebook. If you have any questions or concerns about your grades, please contact me at any time.

What Now?

Three immediate items are on the horizon.

    First, please surf the course website paying particular attention to the calendar.

    Second, I will invite you to join the class wiki. Please answer the invitation as soon as possible.

    Third, once you join the wiki, please post a Profile. Since we will be working together, let's get to know one another.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

Welcome to the course. Here's to a thought-provoking, productive and successful summer.