TW Courses

Subject: TW Courses
From: Dan Lupo <dlupo -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 14:04:55 CST

Dan Azlin suggests:----------------------------------------
If I were teaching a Technical Writing course for serious students, I
would give them the assignment to go find an engineering student
developing a project for his/her class and document it as though it was
the real world and the company was betting the farm on the results. Of,
course this means that the two students would be forced to work
together... perhaps to their mutual benefit if the engineering
student'sinstructor would give some credit to having the project well
documented.
-------------------END EXCERPT------------------------------

This is excellent advice. This approach fosters the view of technical
writing as a problem-solving activity. Having to wrestle with
defining the communications problem (i.e., what infomation package
does this situation call for--quick ref card, user guide, tutorial;
what do I know about my users; what do my users know about my product;
how much time do I have; what are my resources) will help students to
understand that workplace writers often aren't presented with a
nice neat package that includes type of document, audience profile,
seemlessly connected software tools, and cheery, articulate developers.

The problem that's been identified in this thread is the need to help
students learn about some of the workplace constraints that we face;
and projects that are more open-ended such as the one Dan suggested
will help students face/learn from the constraints. Teachers, for
their part, must help students by offering strategies for project
management, interviewing, problem determination (needs/task analyses)
group management, as well as the usual principles taught in TechCom
courses.

Another project option I try to pursue is offering the services of
my tech writing students to various units on campus who have needs
for new or revised documentation. One more possibility for this
type of assignment is to solicit projects from the community: not-
for-profit orgs especially welcome free help with their docs.

I'd be interested to hear from others who have used similar projects
that attempt to incorporate workplace constraints.

Dan Lupo
Instructor, Austin Community College
Information Developer, IBM Austin
dlupo -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com


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