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C HANGING M INDS :

T ECHNICAL C OMMUNICATION
LMC 3403 Section L
Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Fall term 2015, 3 credits, prerequisite: ENGL 1102 (or equiv.)
Course web site: http://rhetoricked.com/teaching/lmc3403lf2015/
Instructor: Brian N. Larson, 316 Skiles, BLarson@GATech.edu
Office hours: Mondays, 3:00-4:00; Wednesdays, 1:00-2:00; Fridays, 1:00-2:00

Syllabus at August 12, 2015

Contents
Course overview .................................................................................................................................. 1
Equal opportunity and accessibility and mental health services ........................................................ 2
Succeeding in this class; student writing support ................................................................................ 3
Required texts and materials ............................................................................................................... 3
Assignments, grades, and absences ..................................................................................................... 4
Student conduct and related matters .................................................................................................. 7
Instructor information ......................................................................................................................... 8

C OURSE

OVERVIEW

Learning objectives
Disciplinary, technical, and professional communication (DP&TC) involves an effort to
change the minds of audiences. The goal of the
communicator is to affect the beliefs, goals, or
actions (which themselves are controlled by the
audiences mind) of the audience. Effective
DP&TC thus requires the communicator to
know the mind of the audience and then to
change the mind of the audience ethically to
achieve the communicators goal.
LMC 3403 expands the competencies students
developed in English 1101 and 1102, with an
emphasis on communicating in scientific, business, and technological fields. Practically every
employer in every survey in any professional
field (including engineering) emphasizes the
need for employees and team members to be

able to communicate effectively. That means


analyzing rhetorical situations (including trying
to read the audiences mind) to create documents, presentations, and visuals that are accessible, comprehensible, and usable.
This course adheres to the Writing and Communication Programs goal of training students
in W.O.V.E.N. communication: Written
OralVisualElectronicNon-verbal. Students
thus learn to create workplace communications
ranging from traditional print documents, such
as reports, proposals, and memos, to electronic
forms, such as email and web sites. When students complete the course, they will have
learned how to evaluate and respond to a variety of complex communication situations in
professional settings.

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Students who complete


the course successfully
should be able to:
1.
Discover (or
invent) and adapt to the
needs of the audiences
of DP&TC.
2.
Articulate rhetorical
analyses
of
situaImag e cour tesy flickr.com/ phot os/ nick webb communication
( Creativ e Comm ons licens e) tions, multiple purposes, and potential audiences for communication (including global
audiences).
3.

Conduct empirical research to ascertain


the states of mind of audiences, including
user testing, and to inform and support
your analyses of rhetorical situation.

4.

Revise and edit your work and that of your


classmates so that your communications
are energetic, stylistically appropriate, and
grammatically correct.

E QUAL

5.

Account for ethical implications of technical and professional communication.

6.

Visually design communications using


principles of page design, including
graphics.

W orkload and calendar


Pursuant to Georgia Tech policy and your instructors expectations, if you are a typical
student, you should expect to spend an average of six hours per week on this course outside of class to perform satisfactorily. If you
expect a higher grade, you should invest more
time.
See the course web page for the course calendar, which is always subject to change. Your
instructor will usually discuss any schedule
changes in class and will often send an email
alerting students if there are changes.

OPPORTUNITY AND ACCESSIBILITY

AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Equity, diversity, equal


opportunity, and affirmative action
The Institute and your instructor will provide
equal access to, and opportunity in, programs
and facilities without regard to differences
among people that include race, color, creed,
religion, national origin, gender, age, marital
status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identities and expressions. For more information,
please consult Institute Diversity.

Disability accommodations
The Institute is committed to providing quality
education to all students regardless of ability.
Determining appropriate accommodations is a
collaborative process. You must register with
the Office of Disability Services and provide
documentation of your accessibility needs in

order to receive accommodation. Disability


Services will use this information to determine
appropriate accommodations for you in a particular course. For more information, please
refer to the Office of Disability Services.

M ental health services


As a student you may experience a range of
issues that can cause barriers to learning, such
as strained relationships, increased anxiety,
alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty
concentrating, and lack of motivation. These
mental health concerns or stressful events may
lead to diminished academic performance and
may reduce your ability to participate in daily
activities. Georgia Tech offers a broad range of
confidential mental health services through the
Counseling Center.

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S UCCEEDING

IN THIS CLASS ; STUDENT W RITING SUPPORT

The following tips may help you succeed in


this class.

Do the assignments as instructed! Well always


discuss them in class, and usually there will be
a detailed description of the assignment on the
course web page.
Get it down, then get it right! Many students
struggle with writers block and other maladies of the pen. Writing based on outlines and
according to a carefully constructed plan is
great. But if you are having trouble deciding
where to start, just start by writing something.
Dont worry about the details or organization.
After you have written a while, look back at
what you have done and try to impose some
structure on it, keeping in mind the end, which
is to do the assignment as instructed. If you are
still struggling, share what you have written with
your instructor and one of your teammates,
and they will respond with ideas.
Keep up! Do not allow yourself to fall behind
on readings and assignments. Several of the
assignments are part of large projects, so if you
get behind, you will not enjoy the benefits of

your peer review sessions, and your grades will


be reduced if you turn assignments in late.
Your group will be relying on you to contribute
fully to its efforts, and you cant do that if you
allow yourself to fall behind. You will also be
graded on class participation, so do not fall
behind on readings.

Help each other! You may always talk to


classmates and peer reviewers about the assignments to get ideas and insights. If you run
into problems, ask them for help or clarification. Be sure to make yourself available to
them, too: respond to classmates requests and
peer-review their drafts promptly.
Call on your instructor! Your instructor is your
guide for this course. You should always expect
your instructor to give you candid and respectful advice about any problem you face in this
class.
Students can get one-on-one-consultations on
any course paper or communication project at
the Communication Center. See its web site for
details about locations, appointments, and
online consultations.

Image courtesy flickr.com/photos/ellf (Creative Commons license)

R EQUIRED

TEXTS AND MATERIALS

You will need access to required texts, computer software, and other resources to complete your work in this class successfully.

Bring to every class . . .


You should bring the following to every class:
1.

The required textbook.

2.

Your notes on required readings the instructor provides in PDF form. (You need
not print the PDF, though you may find it

helpful to bring a printout or electronic


copy of the PDF file.)
3.

Something to write with and on for in-class


activities. (This could be paper and a writing utensil or an electronic device.)

Texts
The text for this course is Alred, G. J., Brusaw,
C. T., & Oliu, W. E. (2015). Handbook of
Technical Writing (11th edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. (You may be able to use the

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10th edition, but the instructor cannot be sure


that the content is not different.)
Your instructor will assign articles and other
materials available in PDF form or on the web.

Computer software and hardware


To permit students to exchange assignments
and mark up each others work, you should
submit all documents as Microsoft Word or,
for presentations, Microsoft PowerPoint, files.
If you do not use these software packages, you
may submit documents in PDF form. Note
that your instructor does not necessarily sanction or endorse Microsoft or its productsthey
are merely the most widely used. You must
have the most recent version of Adobe Reader
(or an equivalent application). Adobe Reader is
available for free download.

and to keep you informed about all course


matters. We will also use T-Square and other
sites as necessary.

O ther m aterials
You should budget a small amount of money
(less than $50) for purchase of other materials
that you may need for performance of class
assignments. These might include copying,
presentation materials, etc. If you choose to
print readings provided in electronic form, you
should consider the cost of printing (both to
yourself and to the environment).

You must have access to a personal computer


capable of running the required software applications. Students can use their own computers
or the Institutes public computer labs.

Course web site and T-Square


Your instructor will the course web site to
manage scheduling, readings, and assignments

Tabl e 1 : A ssi gn men t weig hts i n fi nal g rade

A SSIGNMENTS ,

0% Assignment 1: Literacy narrative.

This section provides basic information regarding


assignment submission, peer review,
and
working
groups.

10% Assignment 2: Genre analysis memo.


15% Assignment 3: Usability assessment report.
30% Assignment 4: Final project portfolio.
10% Assignment 5: Classroom presentation.
15% Reading quizzes.
20% Group work and participation.
100% TOTAL

Here are brief descriptions of the


components.

Course grade
components
The
following
components will determine students final
grades, and the weight that each has in the final
grade is set out in Table 1:
Assignment 1: Literacy narrative. In this
assignment, students describe their histories as
communicators, including their communica-

Image courtesy
flickr.com/photos/NCDOTCommunications
(Creative Commons license)

GRADES , AND ABSENCES

tions education and experiences. This is assignment is not graded, but it must be submitted to pass the course.
Assignment 2: Genre analysis memo.
Students identify two genres of communication
from their own disciplines of study (engineering, business, etc.) or from their jobs. Students
explain how the rhetorical situations to which
those genres respond motivate similarities and
differences between them. The instructor will
provide extensive feedback and a tentative
grade on this assignment to acquaint students
with grading standards for the course. Students
who wish to do so will be allowed to revise and
resubmit the assignment for a higher grade.
Assignment 3: Usability assessment
report. Each group of students writes a report
including a usability assessment of the assembly
instructions for a consumer product distributed
worldwide. The assessment is based on empirPage 4

ical data gathered in class sessions. Students


will identify strengths, weaknesses, or both of
the existing instructions, suggest improvements,
if necessary, and identify areas where further
research might be necessary. Each member of
the group also writes an email to the instructor
assessing the performance of each member of
the group, including a self-evaluation. The assignment receives a group grade, with the
grades of individuals potentially varying up or
down depending on the evaluations of peers.
Assignment 4: Final project portfolio.
The final project requires each student to submit a portfolio consisting of the following components based on a project the instructor assigns to the whole class:

Audience analysis of a technical communication artifact the instructor identifies.


This requires students to research extensively.

Usability assessment of the artifact.

Redesign or reconception of the artifact.

Letter to the organization that sponsors the


artifact attaching the previous three components, explaining the rationale for the
redesign or reconception of the artifact,
and proposing that the sponsoring organization adopt the redesigned version of the
communication.

This is NOT a group project; each student will


prepare her own communications; there will be
a great deal of sharing of information and peer
review, however, during the process. Drafts of
these components will be due at intervals over
the last several weeks of the course. The final
portfolio of them will be due two weeks before
finals week. The instructor will return students
portfolios to them by the beginning of Dead
Week with extensive feedback and a tentative
grade; students who wish to improve the tentative grade may revise and resubmit by the
Wednesday of finals week.
Assignment 5: Classroom presentation.
Up to five students will give presentations on
each of five different days in the second half of
the semester. Each student will register for the
date on which she wishes to present on a firstcome, first-served basis. It may be tempting to

sign up for the last slot, but the grading will be


toughest for those who come last.
Reading quizzes: The instructor will give a
reading quiz at the beginning of class between
six and ten times during the semester. Your
grade for this assignment is the mean score for
all the quizzes after the lowest grade is
dropped. Reference to the instructors reading
questions when you are doing readings will
likely ensure that you do well on the quizzes.
Group work and participation: In this
course, as in many environments in business
and the professions, you will be held accountable for the efforts you make to ensure not just
your own individual success, but also the success of your team as a whole and of the other
individuals in the team. Assignment 3 is the
only project where students will be graded on
work product created as a group. However,
throughout the semester, students will work in
their groups to support each others research
and communication efforts. Participation in
class discussions is also a way that students contribute to the learning of their peers. Those
efforts, including the quantity and quality of
peer review feedback, sharing of research discoveries, contributions during class, etc., will
make up a group work and participation grade.

Assignm ent subm ission


All assignments must be professionally presented, spell-checked, grammar-checked, and
proofed. In order to receive credit for this
course, you must turn in all required assignments, whether they are graded or not.
You must turn assignments in on time. See the
course web site for the assignment schedule. If
you turn assignments in late without making
arrangements in advance with your instructor,
you will forfeit the following points:

For assignments less than 7 days late, 10


points (all assignments are graded on a
100-point scale).

For assignments at least 7 days but less


than 14 days late, 20 points.

For assignments 14 days or more lateno


credit. You will fail the course.

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If there is a potential that you will face a personal challenge during the term that may affect
your participation, talk to your instructor as
soon as you realize it. Do not wait for matters
to get out of control. Your instructor may grant
extensions to due dates for good reasons if you
speak to him in advance!

D An employer would not send or distribute this document because it has more than
one major problem or fails on numerous
grounds to address the audience or a solution
to the problem.

Grading and transcripts

F An employer would realize the writer


missed the point of the assignment and the
companys standards of excellence.

The grading policy in this course conforms to


Institute guidelines. Therefore a C is equivalent to basic fulfillment of requirements; to
achieve a grade higher than a C a student
must perform beyond the basic requirements.
Please keep the following scale and criteria in
mind:

Incompletes: A grade of incomplete (I) is


given only in a genuine emergency, and generally only for work that is due during the last two
weeks of the course. The student must make
written arrangements with the instructor for an
incomplete according to procedures provided
by the Institute.

90-100 - Represents achievement that is


outstanding relative to the level necessary to
meet course requirements

80-89 - Represents achievement that is


significantly above the level necessary to
meet course requirements

70-79 - Represents achievement that meets


the course requirements in every respect

60-69 - Represents achievement that is


worthy of credit even though it fails to meet
fully the course requirements

Grading Disputes: If you believe your instructor has given you an unfair or inappropriate grade on an assignment, you may dispute
the grade by writing a memo to your instructor
explaining why you believe you deserve a higher grade. Write the memo and send it to your
instructor at least 48 hours, but no more than
14 days, after receiving the grade to which you
object. If you object to your final course grade,
you may appeal it any time during the following
term pursuant to the policies of the School of
Literature, Media, and Communication.

For additional information, please refer to


Georgia Tech rules and regulations.
Your instructor has more than 25 years of experience as a professional and technical communicator. Because this course emphasizes
workplace communications, he will apply that
experience, using the following guidelines in
assessing grades for communication projects:
A An employer would be delighted to send
or distribute this document because the writer
has exceeded expectations by producing a particularly well written, complete, creative, and
audience-specific solution to a problem.
B An employer would be comfortable sending or distributing this document. It meets the
needs of the audience and does not contain
any serious problems.
C An employer would be reluctant to send
or distribute this document because of one
major problem or several minor ones.

Absence policy
This course is a small, discussion-oriented
class. For this reason, your attendance in class
and participation in discussions factor significantly into your grade.
Missing the equivalent of one week or more of
class with unexcused absences will result in a
lower grade. Missing the equivalent of three
weeks or more with unexcused absences will
result in failing the course.
Students will not be penalized for absence during the semester due to unavoidable or legitimate circumstances. Such circumstances include verified illness, participation in authorized intercollegiate athletic events, subpoenas,
jury duty, military service, bereavement, and
religious observances. If you are in doubt, consult the instructor.
A student who is absent for any reason is responsible for all material and activities missed
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in class. Students must check with the instructor to make arrangements.


Students are responsible for coming to class on
time. Tardiness will be considered equivalent
to unexcused absence. In addition, a student

S TUDENT

who is unable to function adequately in class


(e.g., falling asleep or attending without appropriate materials or assignments) may be considered to have an unexcused absence.

CONDUCT AND RELATED MATTERS

Instructors are responsible for maintaining


order and a positive learning environment in
the classroom.

Student conduct code and behavior


As a student at the Institute, you are expected
to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct.
Note that the conduct code specifically addresses disruptive classroom conduct. It provides that [s]tudents who engage in any acts
that result in disruption of a class may be directed by the instructor to leave the class for
the remainder of the class period.
Students whose behavior suggests the need for
counseling or other assistance may be referred
to their college office or the Counseling Center. Students whose behavior may violate the
Student Code of Conduct may be referred to
the Office of Student Integrity.
Use of personal electronic devices in
the classroom
You are free to use electronic devices of all
kinds so long as they do not make sounds, or
cause you to exhibit behaviors or make noise,
that will disrupt the work of the instructor or
other students.

make when you can and cannot collaborate


on a project.)
written for another course, unless submitted
with permission of both instructors.
purchased, downloaded, or cut and pasted
from the internet.
that fails to properly acknowledge its sources
through standard citations.
If you have any questions about plagiarism, ask
your instructor.

Academ ic freedom and


responsibility
Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the Institute. Within the scope and content of the
course as defined by the instructor, it includes
the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the
classroom. Along with this freedom comes
responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to
engage in a sustained and independent search
for truth. Students are free to take reasoned
exception to the views offered in this course
and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the
content of any course of study for which they
are enrolled.
1

Prohibited academic conduct


The Institutes Code of Conduct defines prohibited academic conduct, which includes,
among other things, plagiarism. Plagiarism,
representing someone else's intellectual work
as your own, can result in a grade of F for the
assignment, and may result in a grade of F for
the course. Plagiarism can include submitting a
paper:
written by means of inappropriate collaboration. (Note: Some of the work in this class
requires collaboration; your instructor will

The instructor takes concerns about academic


freedom seriously, and there are individuals
and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, the Chair of the School of Literature,
Media, and Communication, your adviser, or
the Institutes Ombuds Program.

Language adapted from the American Association


of University Professors "Joint Statement on Rights
and Freedoms of Students."

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I NSTRUCTOR

INFORMATION

Images: 46 years of dorky (courtesy of various photographers, alive and dead)

Contact information
Brian N. Larson, J.D., Ph.D.
You may call me Brian or by any other respectful name, and I prefer masculine pronouns. Please let me know what name and
pronouns you prefer me to use for you.
The best ways to contact me:
Email:

BLarson@GATech.edu
Expect my response within 24 hours,
though I may respond quickly saying
it will take me longer to give you a full
response.

Office location
316 Skiles
686 Cherry St.
Atlanta, GA 30332

Personal background
I'm a researcher, teacher, and until very recently a practicing lawyer. As a scholar, I'm interested in rhetoric and the law and in the creation, reception, and interpretation of legal texts;
as a teacher, in helping students develop the
skills to communicate with impact; as a lawyer,
in digital media, copyright, trademark, internet,
and antitrust matters.

My career as a communicator has spanned


three decades, including stints as presentation/graphic designer for an international consulting firm, communications director for a
trade association, president of an information
technology company, and lawyer.
I live in Atlanta with my spouse; we relocated
here in summer 2015.

Social media and letters of


reference
I have a Twitter account (@Rhetoricked), and
students are welcome to follow me there,
though I usually do not tweet about class matters. I willingly connect with current students
on LinkedIn (and if you ask, Ill give you feedback on your profile). I usually do not friend
former students on Facebook or elsewhere
unless they have actually become personal
friends.
I am happy to provide letters of reference for
students. If you think you may want me to do
so after the end of the term, please let me
know during the term; I will ask your permission to retain copies of your work and my grading notes about you in my personal files to use
when responding to reference requests.

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