Written Professional Communication
The point of the blog assignment is to have you practice maintaining a professional, personalized identity online. It is a public way to demonstrate knowledge in your field, not to mention to demonstrate your communication skills. (If you aren’t sure of your field yet, that’s okay—pick one you’re interested in or aspire to.)
In addition, many companies and organizations expect a basic level of proficiency in platforms like WordPress, Linkedin, Twitter, and the like, so this is a relatively low-pressure place to practice those skills as well.
Treat your blog as the public, professional document it is. I am not your primary audience for your writing (though I am a part of it). It is not limited to the purview of this class. You are writing for an educated, interested audience. Anyone doing a google search of your topic should be able to read your posts and understand the subject you’re discussing.
Your blog is to be an ongoing, semester-long project. It will be formally evaluated at midterms and graded as a major component of your final. As you develop your site, you will think about both content and design, and how the two serve each other.
By week 3 (Jan. 25) you must have your blog live, your first post up, and your focus determined. Send me the link to your blog so I can post it on our main site. We will look at examples of focused and unfocused blogs, which will help you narrow down your site’s scope. Your scope might be as simple as “An Engineer’s Take on the News” or “Busy Student’s Book Blog.” You should be able to summarize it in a phrase or sentence—that will help you keep focus.
A note: I do not expect you to have complicated design elements on your site. A clean and simple blog can be just as pleasing and functional as one loaded with sophisticated graphics and flash elements. What matters most to your grade is that the structure and layout of your site suit the content’s needs. If you make it super sleek and branded, all the better, but don’t feel too pressured if you’re a digital novice.
However, I do expect that you cultivate a do-it-yourself attitude with respect to the blog. I will give a basic overview of how to register and customize a site during the first weeks of class and we will briefly discuss visual design, but beyond that, you are expected to help each other, make use of online tutorials (easily findable through an internet search), and experiment on your own outside of class. This kind of self-motivated tinkering is an essential life and professional skill.
Ultimately you will be graded on:
- Your informed engagement with the ideas you feature on your site
- Your site’s “readability”—its ease in navigation, its logical layout, its consistent and pleasing design
- Whether you posted and commented every week, and the quality of those posts
Remember that this is a writing course, therefore the content and its rhetorical presentation is most important.
Each week, by Friday at 9 AM, you are required to post on your site. Your posts should be 500-1,000 words long. They must contain links to other sites and articles, images (where appropriate), and your opinion. These are not essays. They are not formal reports to me or your classmates. They are your take on a particular subject that engages in the larger, public conversations already happening about that topic.
Your posts should be critical and engaging. If you want to reference something we discussed in class, keep in mind the public nature of your blog.
You are allowed to miss ONE week of posting without penalty. If you post late, you will only get half credit for that week. Missing more than one post will result in a drop in your final grade.
Additional posting beyond requirements will affect your grade in so far as frequent, quality updating indicates engagement (i.e. you won’t get “extra credit” for posting more than once a week, but it could help your grade if it’s part of a broader strategy for making your site great).
In addition to your weekly posts, you will be commenting—both on your classmates’ blogs and on the comments on your own site. These comments are due Fridays by 9 PM. Comments should be substantive, and indicate that you’ve read and considered the writer’s post carefully. Ask questions. Further the discussion. Politely disagree with the writer. The goal with the comments is to engage in conversation . Only nitpick the person’s writing if it is unclear, typo-ridden, or in some way distracting to the writer’s message. Ditto the design, or unless otherwise instructed.
You are also required to respond to comments on your site. These response comments are due Mondays by 9 PM, and should likewise be considerate and inquisitive.
If you are engaged by a particular comment discussion, you may continue commenting beyond the initial deadline. In other words, if you and a classmate get into a rousing debate, it’s okay to continue it the following week and those comments will count for the new week’s commenting credit.
You will be assigned commenting groups throughout the term. These will rotate so you get a variety of readers and responses. It is encouraged, though not required, that you read and comment beyond just your group’s sites. Also feel free (if you’re comfortable doing so) to connect to blogs and professionals beyond our class.
You may miss THREE comments and ONE response comment without penalty. Beyond that, your final grade will suffer.
I will be reading and keeping track of your posts and comments each week, but I will only sporadically comment on them.