Jerz: Writing for the Internet (EL 236)

1. Where and When

Mon, Wed, Fri 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM A405

See daily course outline.

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2. Instructor

Dennis G. Jerz (
403 St. Joseph, Box 461
jerz @ you-know-where . edu
Phone: 724-830-1909 (but I'd prefer that you e-mail)

Office Visits: I usually leave my door open. If you should happen to drop by when my door is closed, please come back later or send me an e-mail.

Office Hours: 1pm Tue, 1pm Wed, 10am Th, and by appointment. St. Joseph 403.

Occasionally I step out of my office briefly to run errands during my scheduled office hours. When I do, I usually leave a note on my door. If my light is still on, then I'm probably not far away.

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3. Course Description

From the Catalog:

Surveys the forms of online writing, including text messaging, 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.
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4. Course Objectives

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.

At the end of this course, you should be able to

  • recognize and intelligently discuss the historical origins of the internet and machine-assisted writing
  • analyze trends in online culture as they relate to writing
  • write professional, effective e-mails
  • properly evaluate and contribute to collaborative e-texts such as Wikipedia
  • recognize and apply the conventions of effective hypertext
  • recognize and analyze the conventions of interactive electronic narrative
  • create, develop, and revise an electronic work of interactive fiction
  • use HTML and CSS to create, develop, revise and publish a series of increasingly elaborate and polished web sites
  • exhibit communications skills and research methods consistent with the academic standards promoted by Seton Hill University

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5. Course Requirements

In the beginning of the term, the class format will be discussion with some lecture, and will gradually become more workshop-oriented as the semester progresses. The course is designed so that you will first complete simple assignments in a group setting, then progress to more elaborate individual assignments. The course requires regular attendance, participation via in-class and online discussions, timely completion of group and individual project work, and attention to basic composition skills such as proofreading and syntax. (Students are welcome to use the writing center.)

I will often send out bulk e-mails to the address on file for you in the J-Web system. If you check a different address more regularly, please use SHU's e-mail forwarding service so that you don't miss important updates.

Unless the homework assignment specifically mentions a printout, you should assume that I don't want a hard copy.

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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 (75) with a record of 10% unexcused absences would get a C+ (90% of 70 = 67.5).

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 during the absence. 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 keeping up with the weekly assignments, falling behind 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 -- perhaps because you stayed up all night working on a project and are too tired to attend class -- the assignment will be counted an extra day late. (You might as well go to bed without finishing the project, come to class so you don't fall farther behind, and then turn in the paper the next morning.)

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, download the word processor version of my “Absence Form” (available at After you initiate this contact, we will start working out whether or what kind of assignments would be appropriate. (I ask that you resist the impulse to ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed. I welcome the chance to help you get caught up, but please consult the syllabus and a classmate's notes first, and then bring any specific questions to me.) For some classroom activities, such as listening to peer oral presentations, there may be no appropriate make-up assignment. (See 5.2 Participation.)

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.

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5.2 Participation

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online. Students who dislike public speaking may wish to invest more effort in their online writing, and vice-versa.

Common sense and common courtesy dictates that absences, late arrivals and early departures, use of telephones or headphones, lack of preparation, inattentiveness or disruptive behavior will impact your participation grade.

Those who participate above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

If a student's final grade falls near a borderline, I consider classroom participation in order to decide whether to bump a grade up, leave it where it is, or bump it down.

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5.3 Late Penalties

Just as students in generations past learned to carry spare quills, a pen knife, an extra inkhorn, and spare lamp wicks, being a 21st-century college student requires certain common-sense strategies that are an inseparable part of the course material.

Remember to save often and leave backups on more than one machine (use a USB drive or your student network space); plan your time so you can get your online work done when you are near an internet connection.

Note: If you ever feel you want more rapid or more detailed feedback on an assignment, make an appointment with me during my office hours, and I will go over the work with you in detail, regardless of whether it was late or on time.

Getting Credit for Late Work
Most assignments will be submitted electronically -- by e-mail, on your blog, or via If your assignment is not in the proper place by the deadline (usually a half hour before class starts), I will record a zero for that assignment.

In order to remove that zero, and get partial credit for your late work, follow this two-step process.

  1. Most assignments will be due in the appropriate slot in Upload it there (if the slot is still open). I the assignment asked you to post it online, please do so.
  2. Send me an e-mail that tells me I should look for your work in the late box. That e-mail should include a subject line with your last name, the course name, the assignment name, and the word "Late". Example:
    "Smith EL150 Ex 1-2 Late"
(There's no need to make an extra trip to slip a printout under my office door.)

All Late Work

For all late work, contact me to tell me I should look for it online -- otherwise I may never see it, and won't know that I should change the recorded zero. If you are asking that I waive the late penalty, e-mail your completed Absence Form with a subject line that follows this pattern: "Smith EL150 Ex 1-2 Absence Form".

Unless I grant you an extension in advance, all other assignments are penalized one letter grade for each day they are late (including Saturdays, but not counting Sundays or holidays when the university does not offer classes).

Special Cases

If your work is completed before midnight on the day it was due, it will only lose a third of a letter grade.

RRRR Items: These time-sensitive assignments (see the RRRR section of the FAQ page) earn no credit if they are late. (You should still complete any items you missed in order to get full credit for your class portfolio.)

Class Participation: The way to get credit for a missed in-class activity is to contribute substantially to the online discussion. Towards the end of the semester, when there will be fewer readings and more workshops, it will be harder for me to come up with alternate assignments. Still, you may demonstrate your desire to re-engage by posting thoughtful comments on the course website, your peers' websites, and/or your own blog. (To make sure that I see and record credit for this alternative work, please call it to my attention by collecting all the relevant URLs and pasting them into a word processor file, and upload the file into the J-Web late paper box.)

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5.4 Texts

In addition to the required texts listed below, readings also include online articles.


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5.5. Important Statements

Disability Statement
If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295. It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.

If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments. It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

Academic Honesty and Ethical Conduct

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct.

The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty. Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog, page 30, Code of Academic Conduct.

Many of your college assignments will involve quoting from or responding to other people's words and ideas. However, using those words or ideas without properly citing them, or resubmitting your own work for a different class, constitutes plagiarism.

Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference -- even with permission from the source -- is also plagiarism.

Helpful information is available at What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It.

Any plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty will result in a zero for that assignment. Any plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty on a draft will result in a zero for the final grade on that assignment. All academic dishonesty will be reported to the dean's office.

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6. Assignments

The whole course is based on 1000 points.

If a particular exercise is worth 40 points, and you get 30 on it, you got 75%, or a B.

  • Exercises (300 pts) -- Homework assignments, due about every other week.
  • Portfolios (200 pts) -- Collections of your best online work, carefully selected and classified.
    • Portfolio 1 (100 pts)
    • Portfolio 2 (100 pts)
  • Projects (500 pts) -- Your active contributions to a positive learning environment.
    • Group Work (100 pts) -- Practice exercises, mostly completed during class.
    • Project 1 (100 pts) -- A basic web site.
    • Project 2 (100 pts) -- A simple work of interactive fiction, with a promotional website.
    • Project 3 (200 pts) -- A website, interactive fiction, wiki, or some other kind of text

There is no final exam; however, the final version of Project 3 is to be presented via an informal oral report, during the final exam time slot.

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