Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL236)

30 August 2004

Course Overview

Welcome to Writing for the Internet.

Today we will walk through the syllabus, look at the major projects, and briefly preview upcoming homework assignments.

We will also spend some time getting to know each other.

The paper syllabus that I handed out on the first day of classes is a convenience for students. The official syllabus is located on the course website, at I have set it up so that you can post comments to each individual item on the syllabus.

Syllabus Outline

1. When and Where
2. Instructor and Mentor
3. Course Description
4. Course Objectives
5. Course Requirements
5.1. Attendance
5.2. Participation
5.3. Late Penalties
5.4. Texts
6. Assignments
7. Course Outline

Syllabus Details

1. When and Where

Mon, Wed, Fri 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM A405 (Fall 2004)

2. Instructor and Mentor

Instructor: Dennis G. Jerz (
403 St. Joseph, Box 461
first_contact2003 @
Phone: 724-830-1909 (but I prefer to be contacted by e-mail)
Office Hours: Wed, 1-2; Thu, 10-11; and by appointment.

Mentor: Amanda Cochran

3. Course Description

From the catalog:

Surveys the forms of online writing, including text messgaing, e-mail, message boards, weblogs, web pages, and wikis. Students will create or contribute to such texts, examine the conventions that have developed for each form (in social and professional contexts), and reflect upon their cultural significance.

4 Course Objectives

The course is intended to help you achieve the following outcomes:

  • demonstrate a thorough familiarity with the conventions of online text (as encountered both in formal/professional and informal /personal contexts), and with the historical and cultural pressures that inform those conventions (for example, why do "smilies" exist and when is it appropriate or inappropriate to use them)
  • speak and write knowledgeably about important issues in cyberspace and how they interact with the culture at large
  • accurately assess the credibility of a potential source (such as a web page, a press release, or an anonymous tip)
  • exhibit communications skills and research methods consistent with the academic standards promoted by Seton Hill University

You will develop your ability to communicate effectively in several different varieties of electronic text, and cultivate the ability to think critically about communication in cyberspace.

5. Course Requirements

We will cover the basics of page design and programming, but "Writing for the Internet" examines electronic words. You will have ample opportunity to seek help in workshops and in peer groups, but EL 236 is not a course for the technophobic.

5.1. Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, “Class Attendance” and “Excused Absences”.)

A student’s final grade is lowered by the proportion of unexcused absences. Thus, a student with a final grade of B+ (3.3 out of 4) with a record of 10% unexcused absences would get a B- (90% of 3.3 = 2.97).

I am happy to excuse students who have legitimate reasons, but students who miss a class period for any reason are still responsible for the material covered that day. An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension for any work collected or assigned that day.

Because a large percentage of your course grade depends on your achievement in long-term projects and group work, falling behind or procrastinating can lead to big trouble.

If you are absent from class without an excuse approved by the dean of students, on a day when a major assignment is due, the assignment will be counted an extra day late.

5.1.1. Emergency Absences
Those who miss class due to an unplanned emergency should submit an “Absence Form,” with proper documentation, as soon as possible.
For each class that you miss, print out and complete an “Absence Form” (available at . After you initiate this contact, we will start working out what kind of alternative assignments would be appropriate. (I ask that you please do not ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed. Find out before you contact me, by consulting the syllabus and a classmate.)

5.1.2. Scheduled Absences
Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. This means that you must submit an acceptable “Absence Form” (see above) at least 3 class periods before the missed class. If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.

5.2. Participation

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online.

Opportunities for participation are chiefly classroom activities such as discussions and peer review exercises. Those who participate in online activities above and beyond the call of duty will also receive a bonus.

5.3. Late Penalties

Any work that is submitted on time and in the proper format recieves a 1/3 letter grade bonus.

Submitting late work is a two-step process.

  1. E-mail the work to me, with your last name, the assignment name, and the word "Late" in the subject line. Example:

    "Smith Ex 1-2 Late"
    I'd prefer that you copy and paste the text into the body of your e-mail, rather than send an attachment.
  2. Write the word "Late" on a printout of your assignment, and hand it to me at the next class period (there's no need to make an extra trip to slip it under my office door).

If the e-mail submission of late work arrives in my box by 11:59:59 pm on the due date, it forfeits the bonus but receives no other penalty.

All other assignments are penalized 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late.

Exercises earn only half credit when they are submitted later than midnight on the day they were due.

5.4. Texts

  • Burg, Thomas, ed. BlogTalks.
  • Kilian, Crawford. Writing for the Web.
  • Price and Price. Hot Text: Web Writing That Works.
I will also assign online texts. When such a text is introduced as "Required," please bring a printout of the text with you to class. If the text is not identified as "Required," it is a suggestion, for you to consult as needed.

6. Assignments

Portfolios (30%)
Researched Presentations (15%)
Personal Project (15%)
Group Project (25%)
* Proposal (3%)
* Monthly Newsletter (3 issues @ 6% each)
* Final Reflection (4%)
Final Exam (15%)
Attendance & Participation

See also the projects page.

7. Detailed Course Outline

Portfolios (30%)

A carefully-prepared collection of selected coursework (TBA). Prepare a cover letter that reflects on your accomplishments.

Researched Presentations (15%)

An oral presentation, based on a hypertext document, that carefully cites online sources (by linking to them). The hypertext document should follow the conventions of good online writing, and make sense on its own to anyone who finds it on the Internet. This assignment does not ask you to read, word-for-word, from a traditional college essay (a genre that was developed for the printed page). Your presentation grade includes a follow-up report, in which you react to specific feedback offered during the discussion of your work (both in-class and online).

Personal Project (15%)

A term project that involves the production, testing, and revision of a significant amount of electronic text, over and above that which was required for other assignments.

Examples might be a fan website devoted to a local musical group, an informational website for a client outside Seton Hill University, or a creative work (hyperfiction, hyperpoetry, or interactive fiction) that demonstrates your ability to use electronic text.

Components of this assignment are a proposal (2%), a progress report (3%), and a final presentation (10%).

Group Project (25%)

A team of about 4 students produces a three issues of a monthly newsletter.

Components of this assignment are the proposal (3%), October, November, and December issues (at 6% each), and a final reflection (4%).

Participation and Attendance

See sections 5.1. and 5.2. of the online syllabus.