Listed below are descriptions of the graded assignments for this course.
Quizzes, exercises, and participation also make up a percentage of the course grade.
|assignment #1||Write a set of instructions explaining how to create screen captures and callouts.|
|assignment #2||Write a documentation plan for your Microsoft Word manual (see #6 below).
See the doc plan format handout for tips on content and organization.
|assignment #3||Submit the first third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.|
|assignment #4||With a partner/group, solve your assigned Word challenge and prepare a live demo for the class.|
|assignment #5||Submit the second third of your Word manual + transmittal memo.|
|assignment #6||Submit completed Microsoft Word manual and supporting documents.|
|date||agenda, prep, work due today|
|(wk1) W Sept 5|| intro to the course: policies, index cards, introductions, course materials, UDrive
Discuss cookie recipe exercise (due Monday)
concepts (in class): tacit knowledge, SMEs
note: You should have received an email from me with a link to our course UDrive folder; if you did not get the email, let me know. Apply the built-in UDrive bookmark to this folder so that you can access course readings and materials easily.
|Unit 1: Introduction to Software Documentation—Instructions and Screenshots|
|(wk2) M Sept 10||definitions, audience, rhetorical situation
- read "Definitions" (pp. 180-189, on UDrive)
- complete cookie recipe exercise
reading questions: Why/when are definitions used? What are the 3 types of definitions described in the reading? When writing a definition, what are some of the things you want to avoid doing?
concepts (in class): tacit knowledge, SMEs, definitions
**The tasks listed for each class meeting under "today's prep" should be completed in time for that day's class; this applies to all class meetings on the schedule.
|(wk2) W Sept 12||screenshots, introduce assignment #1
- read the first 10 pages of Instructions, Procedures ... (UDrive, 221-331)
- read Screenshots (UDrive)
- create a practice screenshot on a PC; insert and crop it in Word
- create a callout and a caption for your screenshot
What will you want to know about your readers in order to make your documentation more usable? What are the 8 guidelines for instruction-writing recommended in the reading? How does the format or organization of your instructions affect readers' ability to interpret and use them?
concepts (in class): stem sentences, imperative/active voice, parallel structure
|(wk3) M Sept 17||screenshots, workshop assignment #1
- bring a complete draft of instructions assignment #1 to workshop (2-3 copies)
- recommended: read Jerz, How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People
concepts: actions/results, present tense, elaboration, writing w/ users in mind
What are some of the benefits and limitations of using screenshots? How can you create stronger visual connections between a screenshot and the text to which it corresponds?
links to resources:
Jing: a free screen capture software, allows you to easily create custom screenshots
Webopedia: a free dictionary of words, phrases and abbreviations that are related to computer and Internet technology. Use this resource to look up terms you're unsure of.
|(wk3) W Sept 19
ASSIGN #1 DUE
|user analysis, introduce Word manual
- read Barker Ch 5, "Analyzing Your Users" (118-129, 140-141)
- due: submit hard copy of assignment #1
Why conduct a user analysis? What are some strategies for conducting a user analysis?
in class: discuss Word manual assignment, begin user analysis
|(wk4) M Sept 24
||user analysis, task orientation, drafting your TOC
- read Barker Preface and Ch 1, "Understanding Task Orientation" (1-22)
What is software documentation? What is task-oriented documentation? What are some features of docs that are *not* task oriented? Try to think of examples of tasks that could be relevant for your Word manual. How can thinking about tasks help you plan the organization of your manual?
|Unit 2: Planning the Documentation Project—User Analysis, Doc Plans, and Modular Design|
|(wk4) W Sept 26||modularity
- read selections on modular documentation (UDrive) and Barker (361-363)
- read through the doc plan handout (assignment #2)
- recommended: begin drafting your TOC (see Barker 185-186 for examples)
user research memo:
Your user research memo is due on Monday, along with a draft of your TOC (table of contents). Your user research memo should summarize the process (who you interviewed, how you prepared and conducted the interview), and most importantly the key findings from the interview process (what did you learn about tasks, motivations, software use, and so on).
What is modular documentation? What are its features?
What are its benefits and limitations?
|(wk5) M Oct 1||doc plans
- read An Overview and What's a doc plan? (UDrive: pp. 31-39)*
- draft of TOC due for workshop; look over doc plan handout (see assign #2)
- bring print copy of your user analysis (word-processed)
*note: I've divided the readings on doc plans between today and Tues, Oct 5, but you are welcome to read or skim ahead as you draft your TOC -- in particular, Barker's discussion of TOCs on pp. 184-186 should prove helpful.
|(wk5) W Oct 3||Visio
- Barker Ch 6, "Planning ..." (174-178, 184-186, 191-192, 196-197, 207-213)
- draft of doc plan* due (short workshop), must include project schedule
in class activity: you will use Visio to create a chart to submit with your doc plan. You will need access to a copy of your doc plan's project schedule for this exercise.
recommended: read “Ten Things Every Microsoft Word User Should Know”
|(wk6) M Oct 8
|(wk6) Tu Oct 9
ASSIGN #2 DUE
|writing to teach; the good, the bad, and the ugly
- read Barker Ch 2, "Writing to Teach—Tutorials" (30-54)
- due: submit your completed doc plan (with Visio chart)
Which ideas in this chapter seem relevant or helpful for thinking about your Word manual, and why? Of the types of tutorials described in the chapter, which have you encountered? Where? What are the features of the "Quick Start" and how does this type differ from the others? What are some "typical-use scenarios" for users of your Word manual, and how might these influence the organization and structure of the manual? How do elaborative and minimalist approaches differ, and what is the rationale for each approach?
in class: if there's time, you'll get your assignments for the Word challenge (assign #4)
Word Challenge dates, teams (TBA):
Demo #1 - (W Oct 17)
Demo #2 - (W Oct 24)
Demo #3 - (W Oct 24)
Demo #4 - (M Oct 29)
Demo #5 - (W Oct 31)
Demo #6 - (M Nov 5)
links of possible interest:
Microsoft free 60-day trial of Office 2010
How to set up your Mac to run Windows (dual boot)
|(wk6) W Oct 10
||writing prodedures, begin drafting the first third
- read Barker Ch 3, "Writing to Guide—Procedures" (63-87, esp. 63-73 and 80-87)
- draft 1 module for your first third (this can be a rough draft)
- in class: discuss Word Challenge assignment, as necessary
What is a rhythm (or pattern) of exposition, and why is it important? What does Barker present as the Standard Format, and what features does it commonly include? What are its advantages and disadvantages? What's a hanging indent?
|(wk7) M Oct 15||drafting the first third, Word Challenge
- continue drafting modules for your first third; bring 2-3 modules to workshop
- read Barker Ch 12, "Getting the Language Right" and Microsoft Manual of Style, “Punctuation” (171-182, esp. quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and ellipses)
What are en dashes and em dashes? When are they used? How are they different from hypens?
|(wk7) W Oct 17
|drafting the first third, Word Challenge (assignment #4) begin
- review the Writing Transmittal Letters/memos handout; any questions?
- continue drafting modules for your first third
- begin thinking ahead to user testing in week 10 (who can you ask to test?)
Word Challenge, group demo #1: Cassie, Mike, Marina, Isabella
|(wk8) M Oct 22
ASSIGN #3 DUE
|first third due
- first third of Word manual + transmittal memo due
arrange to see me if you have questions/concerns about your performance in the course
|Unit 3: Creating Visual Signposts: Page Design, Typography, Visual Hierarchy|
|(wk8) W Oct 24
||drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge
Demo #2: Joey, Emily M., Krista, Patrick
Demo #3: Melissa, Monika, Jake
. . . . .
- read Edward Tufte, "Smallest Effective Difference" from Visual Explanations
- begin drafting modules for your second third
reading questions: What does Tufte mean by "smallest effective difference"? How can this concept be applied to the work we're doing in 380?
|(wk9) M Oct 29|| drafting the 2nd third, Word demos, page layout
Demo #4 - Emily F., Sarah G., Jen
. . . . .
- read about page layout (UDrive)
reading questions + concepts:
What is visual hierarchy, and what are some of the ways you can communicate information hierachy through your design choices?
Be prepared to explain the concept of "negative space" and its application to the page design of your Word manual. Consider, as well, the following concepts as they apply to your current page design: alignment, contrast, enclosure, proximity, power zones.
. . . . .
Read Edward Tufte, "Layering and Separation" in Envisioning Information. Look at the illustrations. Pay attention to how Tufte's redesigns bring more important visual information to the top of the visual hierarchy by quieting down the visual elements that surround it. What does Tufte mean by "1+1 = 3"?
|(wk9) W Oct 31
||typography, drafting the 2nd third
Demo #5 - Caity, Storie, Amanda
. . . . .
- read about typography (UDrive)
- reassess the page design of your modules -- what needs to change?
- revise one module and bring it to class (digital is ok)
Be able to explain the following concepts and how they might relate to your page design: serif vs. sans serif, leading, justification, rivers (in text), crystal goblet.
|(wk10) M Nov 5||workshop, drafting the 2nd third
Demo #6 - Stephanie, Julia, Selic
. . . . .
- bring drafted content for your second third to class*; print at least one module in color
- bring any files you need to work on your draft in the lab
*note: You don't need to have the entire second third entirely polished for today's workshop. Instead, try to get as much content created as possible (steps drafted, screenshots inserted), and then focus on polishing the layout and editing for a couple of modules that you can bring to workshop for feedback.
|(wk10) W Nov 7
ASSIGN #5 DUE
|second third due
- due: second third of Word manual (must be printed in color)+ transmittal memo
in class: we will either do user testing activity or discuss introductions
|Unit 4: User Testing Your Documents|
|(wk11) M Nov 12
|(wk11) W Nov 14
||user testing, the last third
- read Document Usability (UDrive)
- bring draft of your
- continue drafting modules for your last third
concepts (in class): user testing, group activity
|(wk12) M Nov 19
||user testing, drafting the last third|
- complete user testing of your manual with 2-3 users
- continue drafting modules for the last third of your manual
additional resources: Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think!), How to do your own testing, sample testing script (for testing websites)
|(wk12) W Nov 21||user testing, drafting the last third
*NOTE: due to the library closing early, you will upload your memo in lieu of meeting f2f.
- due: a memo* reporting the results of your testing (upload to UDrive by 4:30pm)
. . . . .
Write up your test findings in a memo addressed to me (1-2 pp). The memo should:
1) explain your test objectives and test design
2) describe your test participants
3) report your findings
4) reflect on the testing process itself
Thanksgiving recess begins after last class today
|(wk12) Th Nov 22||Thanksgiving holiday|
|(wk13) M Nov 26||drafting the last third; printing & binding; writing the introduction
- read about print production (UDrive)
- finalize your printing plan (see note below)
- bring the files for your manual draft (note that the last third is due on Wed.)
In preparation for printing your manual:
Do some research to decide how and where you will print and bind your manual. Contact local print shops for information on turnaround time, file formats, bindings, prices, hours of operation, and so on. If you plan to use your own color printer, make sure you have enough paper and ink to print your entire manual at high quality, and make sure the paper you plan to use will take the ink without smudging.
|(wk13) W Nov 28
||writing the introduction
- bring drafts of your introduction
- make sure you have drafted all required elements of the manual (see handout)
- bring your Word manual files
Your manual should now be completely drafted, and you should be polishing, fine-tuning, and proofreading at this point -- as well as pulling together your final supporting documents. By now, you should also have determined how you will print and bind your manual, as well as contacted print shops for information on hours of operation, turnaround time, file formats, prices, bindings, and so on. Allow ample time for printing and binding. Assume that printing will take longer than you expect, and that something will probably go wrong. You might find this handout helpful, though some of the info may have changed since last year.
|(wk13) Th Nov 29
FINAL THIRD DUE
|final third due today
Submit electronic draft of final third, via email, by 8:00pm (email@example.com). This third will not receive feedback, but completion is required and will be recorded in the gradebook. Your email message will serve as your cover memo.
|(wk14) M Dec 3||A last chance for feedback, finishing touches.
|(wk14) W Dec 5
ASSIGN #6 DUE
(COMPLETE WORD GUIDE + SUPPORTING DOCS)
|submit completed Word manual
submit hard copy (color, bound) *and* PDF version,
with supporting documentation, as discussed in class
|(wk14) F Dec 7 -- last day of UMass classes|
|(wk15) Dec 8-9 -- reading period|
|(wk15) Dec 10-15 -- final exams|