assignments

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.
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 Work with your team to solve the 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.

schedule

This schedule may change to accommodate the needs and pace of the class. Changes will be announced in class.


date agenda, prep, work due today
(wk1) W Sept 4 intro to the course: policies, index cards, introductions, course materials, UDrive


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. When prompted, apply the built-in UDrive bookmark to this folder so that you can access course readings and materials easily (note that this bookmark is internal to UDrive and not part of your browser).

Unit 1: Introduction to Software Documentation—Instructions and Screenshots
(wk1) F Sept 6 what is the role of the technical writer?

today's prep (to be completed before today's class meeting):
- read 14 Widespread Myths about Technical Writing (skip the 1st 3 paragraphs)
- read The Curse of Knowledge

in class:
- discuss cookie recipe exercise (due Monday)
- concepts: tacit knowledge, knowledge problem, SMEs
(wk2) M Sept 9 instructions, audience

today's prep**:
- read Ch 10: Instructions, Procedures ... (UDrive, 221-331)
- bring completed cookie recipe exercise

reading questions:
What will you want/need to know about your readers in order to make your instructions 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? How would you update this reading to better reflect digital/Web environments?

concepts: instructions, readers/users/audience


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**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 11 screenshots, introduce assignment #1

today's prep:
- read Screenshots (UDrive)
- create a practice screenshot on a PC; insert and crop it in Word

in class:
- creating a callout and a caption for your screenshot
- introduce assignment #1
- concepts: stem sentences, imperative/active voice, parallel structure, etc.


reading questions:
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?

(wk2) F Sept 13 definitions

today's prep:
- read "Definitions" (pp. 180-189, on UDrive)
- bring drafts of definitions for Assignment #1


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?

(wk3) M Sept 16

Last day to drop with no record
screenshots, workshop assignment #1

today's prep:
- bring a complete printed draft of instructions assignment #1 to workshop (2-3 copies)
- recommended reading: Jerz, How to Write Guides for Busy, Grouchy People


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Webopedia: a free dictionary of words, phrases and abbreviations that are related to computer and Internet technologies.
(wk3) W Sept 18

ASSIGN #1 DUE
(SCREENSHOTS)
user analysis, introduce Word manual

today's prep:
- due: submit hard copy of assignment #1
- begin reading Barker Ch 5 for Friday (see below)

in class:
- discuss Word manual assignment
- begin user analysis
Unit 2: Planning the Documentation Project—User Analysis, Doc Plans, and Modular Design
(wk3) F Sept 20 user analysis

today's prep:
- read Barker Ch 5, "Analyzing Your Users" (118-129, 140-141)

reading questions:
Why conduct a user analysis? What are some strategies for conducting a user analysis?
(wk4) M Sept 23


user analysis, task orientation, drafting your TOC

today's prep:
- read Barker Preface and Ch 1, "Understanding Task Orientation" (1-22)

reading questions:
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?

user research memo:
Your user research memo is due this Friday. It 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 day-to-day activities, motivations, culture, software use/experience, and so on?
(wk4) W Sept 25 modularity

today's prep:
- read selections on modular documentation (UDrive) and Barker (361-363)
- read through the doc plan handout (assignment #2)
- be prepared to report out on your user research (memo due Friday)
- recommended: begin drafting your TOC (see Barker 185-186 for examples)

reading questions:
What is modular documentation? What are its features?
What are its benefits and limitations?
(wk4) F Sept 27 user analysis, modularity, task orientation, cont.

today's prep:
- bring your completed user analysis memo; be prepared to talk about it
- bring anything you need (notes, files, etc.) to work on your TOC

due Monday: a draft of your TOC (table of contents)
(wk5) M Sept 30 doc plans

today's prep:
- 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)

*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 2 doc plans

today's prep:
- Barker Ch 6, "Planning ..." (174-178, 184-186, 191-192, 196-197, 207-213)
- draft of doc plan* due for workshop

recommended: read “Ten Things Every Microsoft Word User Should Know
(wk 5) F Oct 4 Visio

today's prep:
- bring your doc plan (including 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.

(wk6) M Oct 7

ASSIGN #2 DUE
(DOC PLAN)
submit doc plan, introduce Word Challenge

today's prep:
- due: submit your completed doc plan (with Visio chart)

in class: team assignments for the Word challenge (assign #4)

Word Challenge dates, teams TBA:
Demo team #1 - (W Oct 16)
Demo team #2 - (F Oct 18)
Demo team #3 - (W Oct 23)
Demo team #4 - (F Oct 25)
Demo team #5 - (W Oct 30)
Demo team #6 - (F Nov 1)

(wk6) W Oct 9

writing prodedures; the good, the bad, and the ugly

today's prep:
- 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

reading questions:
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?


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links of possible interest:
Microsoft free trial or try the link from here (do your research before you sign up)
How to set up your Mac to run Windows (dual boot)
(wk6) F Oct 11 writing to teach, begin drafting the first third

today's prep:
- read Barker Ch 2, "Writing to Teach—Tutorials" (30-54)

in class: discuss module introductions

reading questions:
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?
(wk7) M Oct 14
COLUMBUS DAY - no classes
(wk7) Tu Oct 15

Follow Monday schedule
drafting the first third, mini-workshop

today's prep:
- bring 2-3 print modules to workshop; cont. drafting modules for your first third
- read Barker Ch 12, "Getting the Language Right" and Microsoft Manual of Style, “Punctuation” (171-182, esp. quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and ellipses)

reading questions:
What are en dashes and em dashes? When are they used? How are they different from hypens?
(wk7) W Oct 16

Mid-semester





Oct 17: last day to drop with 'W'

drafting the first third, Word Challenge demos begin (assign #4)

today's prep:
- 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 team demo #1

mid-semester check-in
arrange to see me if you have questions/concerns about your performance in the course
(wk7) F Oct 18 drafting the first third, Word Challenge demos

today's prep:
- bring a full draft of your first third (digital files are ok)

Word Challenge team demo #2
(wk8) M Oct 21

ASSIGN #3 DUE
(1ST THIRD)
first third due

today's prep:
- first third of Word manual + transmittal memo due

in class: visual hiearchy and page design
Unit 3: Creating Visual Signposts: Page Design, Typography, Visual Hierarchy
(wk8) W Oct 23

drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

Word Challenge team demo #3

today's prep:
- 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?
(wk8) F Oct 25 drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

Word Challenge team demo #4

today's prep:
- continue drafting modules for your second third


(wk9) M Oct 28 drafting the 2nd third, page layout

today's prep:
- 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 30


typography, drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

Word Challenge team demo #5

today's prep:
- 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.
(wk9) F Nov 1 drafting the 2nd third, Word Challenge

Word Challenge team demo #6

today's prep:
- bring a more refined version of your page design (should be finalized)
- bring any files you need to work on your draft in the lab
(wk10) M Nov 4 workshop, drafting the 2nd third

today's prep:
- 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
(wk10) W Nov 6

ASSIGN #5 DUE
(2ND THIRD)
second third due

today's prep:
- 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
(wk10) F Nov 8

user testing

today's prep:
- read Document Usability (UDrive)

in class: user testing plans
(wk11) M Nov 11
VETERANS' DAY -- no class
(wk11) W Nov 13

Follow Mon class schedule
user testing, the last third

today's prep:
- bring a fully-developed draft of the plan for your user test
- continue drafting modules for your last third

concepts (in class): user testing
(wk11) F Nov 15 user testing, the last third, cont.

today's prep:
- complete user testing of your manual with 2-3 users for Monday
(wk12) M Nov 18

user testing, drafting the last third

today's prep:
- due: memo* reporting results of completed user testing (in-class upload to UDrive)
- 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)


*memo details
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
(wk12) W Nov 20 user testing, drafting the last third

today's prep:
- bring your Word manual files

(wk12) F Nov 22 drafting the last third; printing and binding

today's prep:
- read about print production (UDrive); see traditional offset printing (video clip)
- 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) M Nov 25 writing the introduction (part I)
(wk13) W Nov 27

FINAL THIRD DUE
final third due today

Submit electronic draft of final third, via email, by 8:00pm (jlsolber@english.umass.edu). This third will not receive formal feedback, but completion is required and will be recorded in the gradebook. Your email message will serve in place of the usual cover memo.

(wk13) F Nov 29
THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY - no classes
(wk14) M Dec 2 writing the introduction (part II)

today's prep:
- 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.
(wk14) W Dec 4 finishing touches

today's prep: TBA

In class: a last chance for feedback and finishing touches. Have your files available to access in the lab. Discuss details for final submission.
(wk14) F Dec 6

ASSIGN #6 DUE
(COMPLETE WORD GUIDE + SUPPORTING DOCS)
last day of UMass classes

submit completed Word manual

submit hard copy (color, bound) *and* PDF version,
with supporting documentation, as discussed in class




(wk15) Dec 7-8 -- reading period
(wk15) Dec 9-14 -- final exams


resources

UMass student discount on Microsoft software
Microsoft free trial or try the link from here (research before you sign up)
Online storage/backup tools: SugarSync, Dropbox