Re: Query: Should students be assigned writing Web pages?

Subject: Re: Query: Should students be assigned writing Web pages?
From: Nancy Hayes <nancyh -at- PMAFIRE -dot- INEL -dot- GOV>
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 1996 18:57:45 GMT

Patricia, I lost the original article. My network access is chancy today.

Patricia,

I don't think it's a good idea to require students in introductory technical
writing to design a Web page. I work as a technical writer-editor and
have done training on basic technical writing skills. I've also done some
work on designing HTML documents.

Although the writing on a Web page needs to be "good" technical
writing, there are other design considerations that are not the same
between screen and paper. I think that's where the problems could
occur.

1. If someone is not a skilled technical writer, designing the prettiest
Web page won't mean that he or she is capable of writing for the
Internet.

2. If the students are truly begininng writers, it isn't fair to expect them
to learn Web design at the same time they're learning how to write a
process paper, a decent resume, a technical report, or whatever. From
my own experience (teaching a couple sessions of Freshman English
and teaching basic technical writing for my company), I'm much more
interested in how well the person writes than how nicely that writing is
designed.

3. The logical organization of a Web document is different than it is
for a paper document. The information in a hard-copy paper is more or
less sequential. If a T of C exists, the student can skip to different
sections, but the general flow is still sequential. An online document
isn't necessarilly sequential; it's more like being in the center of a flow
diagram and able to branch out several ways.

4. The appearance of the two types of documents are different. Fonts,
whitespace, and indents all matter in a paper document. They don't
matter as much in an online document. AND they are outside the
author's control.

I think it would be nice to have a class on Web design in college, but I
don't think it should be combined with other classes. It isn't writing so
much as it's design.

I don't really have any objection to teachers having their students access
the Net with the following conditions.

1. The students read the group they want to post to for a couple of
weeks.

2. The students post specific questions.

3. It costs a letter grade if the student smarts off and annoys the whole
group. (Were you reading techwhirl when a student asked if cute chicks
or ugly women made better tech writers? It got nasty.)

Hope this helps.

Nancy Hayes (nancyh -at- pmafire -dot- inel -dot- gov)

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