Monday, January 18, 2016

Spring 2016: Syllabus Videos for My Courses

I'm still experimenting with different ways of constructing and editing these videos, and I know that I'm definitely not patient enough on the audio side, so I suppose hiring someone with some skills is going to definitely be a requirement.

The process is one that took longer than I anticipated (I had hoped to have quite a few more done at this time), but, at the same time, also took less time than it certainly could have. Once I get a better feel for storyboarding and for a more efficient process, developing these assets could be a whole lot of fun.

As soon as I get going on building these assets, especially for the grammar course, I want to articulate my process more explicitly and share it here in the (hopefully) not too distant future. I actually completed five videos for the two courses. For now, here are the syllabus videos:

ENG 411B: Principles of Modern Grammar

video


ENG 407C: Advanced Professional Communication


video

Both of these videos are probably too long, but they are much shorter than if I did them in the classroom, much to my students' delight, probably; and, since 407C is a hybrid section, this video saves us valuable time in the classroom to talk about our work.

Monday, January 11, 2016

ENG 411B/407C: More Practice with Video Editing

I'm still working on the videos that I want to use for my courses, but, in the meantime, I got distracted creating an intro video. My skills still leave a lot to be desired, especially my voice overs, but I'm enjoying playing with all of the pieces. I wish that I would have taken this plunge years ago, but, there you go. It sure is fun! And, since he died today, I decided to insert the opening riff from one of my favorite Bowie songs of all time (recognize it?). I'll also be interested to see how seriously students take the Mighty Mouse reference.  :)

In any case, here it is, warts and all. Enjoy?

video

Sunday, January 10, 2016

ENG 407C: Individual Projects

Along with the major project, I also want students to work on three individual projects: a podcast review, a variation on a usability cognitive walkthrough, and an infographic project. Since so many of our students are novices in so many professional writing areas, and since we only offer limited opportunities, the goal here is to give them a chance to explore a range of areas, ask questions, try out software, determine the kinds of questions that they need to ask, and what this kind of work entails. Below are the three project sheets for these projects (which probably makes this post too long):

***
Podcast Review

Description
For this project, you will perform a critical review of a specific podcast.

A successful review must do the following:
  • Show a clear understanding (or expertise) of the topic and/or podcasts in general
  • Articulate relevant criteria for evaluating the specific podcast and podcasts in general
  • Connections, including examples, between the criteria and the podcast
  • Overall assessment statement
Begin by defining the rhetorical situation, including the purpose and audience for your review. Perform background research on podcasts and the topic of a particular podcast that you wish to review. (Be sure to share any resources that you find with the rest of the class.) Develop general criteria for evaluating podcasts, as well as specific criteria for evaluating a particular podcast. Select specific examples relevant to your criteria. Draft your review. Share your review with peers. Revise your review. Share your review again. Edit your review. Submit your review for evaluation.

At this point, I am going to leave the rest of the project open for discussion and questions when we introduce the project on February 1.

Goals
Understand range of podcasts available
Create both general and specific criteria for evaluating podcasts
Develop analytical skills 
Construct effective review materials

Readings and Software
Some starting points for reading. Each student should do their own background research for this project and contribute resources to the class repository.

Understanding Podcasts and Reviews

Possible Podcasts to Review

Deliverable
Podcast Review - can be a written text (Word or Word-readable) or audio file (MP3)

Evaluation Criteria
  • Final Draft for Evaluation + Reflection = 8 Points
  • First Draft = 1 point
  • Peer Review Response = 2 points
The final deliverable will be evaluated based on criteria negotiated as a class starting with the following:
  • Shows a clear understanding of the topic
  • Articulates criteria for evaluation
  • Connects podcast to criteria clearly and effectively
  • Presents overall assessment clearly and effectively
  • Shows effective revision and editing
Reflection
Create a separate text that answers the following questions:

What was your understanding of the project?
      • An overall statement about your approach to the project
      • Assumptions you made about the background, audience, or purpose of the document
      • Problems, conflicts, or contradictions you faced with missing information
How did your understanding of podcasts improve through your work on this project?
How did your understanding of review writing improve through your work on this project?
What other considerations should be understood to accurately evaluate this project?

The Reflection must be submitted as an attachment ONLY (Word or Word-readable document). Please submit the reflection at the Assignment link at the same time that you submit the final draft for evaluation.

Project Timeline
This project will last approximately five weeks, and there are a number of deadlines that you have to keep in mind.
Feb 1: Introduce Podcast Review Project
Feb 29: Podcast Review Peer Review (in class)

Mar 11Podcast Revew and Reflection Due for Evaluation

***
Usability Cognitive Walkthrough Screencast

Description
For this project, you will create a short (3-5 minute) screencast that analyzes the usability of a specific task on a specific web site. Typically, the cognitive walkthrough is a method for evaluating the usability of a site, or a specific task within that site that asks various researchers to perform the task under observations. The goal of this method is understanding the difficulty of a task for projected users of a particular site. This project, however, is a variation on the traditional cognitive walkthrough, since you will be asked to point out difficulties for users performing a particular task as the key component of your screencast.

Ideally, you should plan your project completely, including the following:
  1. Define the typical user 
  2. Determine the task and any variants to include in the walkthrough
  3. Perform a practice walkthrough, taking notes and determining potential difficulties
  4. Create a script for the screencast that attempts to answer the following questions:
    • What, exactly, is the task?
    • Will the user notice that the correct action is available?
    • Is the outcome of the task clear?
    • Can the user see their progress toward the correct outcome?
  5. Conduct the actual walkthrough as a screencast
    • Walk through the action sequences for a particular task from the perspective of the typical user
    • Describe potential pitfalls or difficulties for the typical user
    • Offer recommendations based on your understanding of typical users and the task
While learning about usability is a key component of this project, developing your skills for creating a screencast is even more important.

At this point, I am going to leave the rest of the project open for discussion and questions when we introduce the project on March 7.

Goals
Develop specific usability criteria for a website
Find and evaluate software for creating screencasts
Develop skills using specific software for creating screencasts
Create screencast usability walkthrough of a specific website

Readings and Software
Some starting points for reading. Each student should do their own background research for this project and contribute resources to the class repository.

Cognitive Walkthrough

Screencast Tools/Software - There is plenty of free software, as well as software that you can download on a trial basis.

As a student at UNLV, you have access to Lynda.com, a software tutorial site that has a wide range of tutorials on creating effective screencasts:

Deliverable
Screencast of a Usability Walkthrough of a Specific Task for a Specific Web Site

Evaluation Criteria
  • Final Draft for Evaluation + Reflection = 8 Points
  • First Draft = 1 point
  • Peer Review Response = 2 points
The final deliverable will be evaluated based on criteria negotiated as a class starting with the following:
  • Presents information clearly and effectively
  • Limited to a specific task
  • Shows a complete understanding of the task
  • Articulates potential difficulties for users
  • Makes recommendations based on walkthrough
  • Shows effective revision and editing
Reflection
Create a separate text that answers the following questions:

What was your understanding of the project?
    • An overall statement about your approach to the project
    • Assumptions you made about the background, audience, or purpose of the document
    • Problems, conflicts, or contradictions you faced with missing information
How did your understanding of usability improve through your work on this project?
How did your understanding of screencasts improve through your work on this project?
How did your understanding of the software improve through your work on this project?
What other considerations should be understood to accurately evaluate this project?

The Reflection must be submitted as an attachment ONLY (Word or Word-readable document). Please submit the reflection at the Assignment link at the same time that you submit the final draft for evaluation.

Project Timeline
This project will last one month, and there are a number of deadlines that you have to keep in mind.
Mar 7: Introduce Usability Cognitive Walkthrough Screencast
Mar 28: Usability Cognitive Walkthrough Screencast Peer Review (in class)
Apr 8Usability Screencast and Reflection Due for Evaluation


We will be spending some time in class on this project, but it is important that you do background research and find software as soon as possible that will allow you to complete the project.

***
Infographic Project

Description
For this project, you will create a simple infographic for a particular rhetorical situation and based on a specific set of data.

Infographics are visual representations of information, data, processes, or some clearly articulated piece of knowledge. They are used to visually present complex information quickly and clearly to a particular group of readers in a particular rhetorical situation. Ideally, an infographic should focus on the following questions:
  • What is the particular message the infographic is communicating?
  • How is the data (information, process, piece of knowledge) presented so that it can be understood quickly and easily?
For this project, will begin with the three questions outlined by Anders Ross (http://www.instantshift.com/2009/06/07/infographic-designs-overview-examples-and-best-practices/):

Question 1: Why?
It’s the most important question out of three that why you want to create InfoGraphics? What is it for? What is the goal? Is it for research, for discovery, Or for monitoring the data?

If you can able of answer these queries then only you can able to collect the relevant data. This determines the type of relative data to gather and about which we have to ask what type it has to be (quantitative, sequential, categorical, analytical etc.) and more importantly: are they relevant for what we want?

Question 2: How?
If you done with “why?” part then you need to think about How you going to refine your data and in what way we will represent the data. A fundamental aspect of this section is that information graphics are interesting because they reveal differences. For this reason refining them and representing the data derived from their statistical treatment often reveals aspects that otherwise would result confusing which often leads to wrong conclusions.

Once data is refined now you have to choose the most effective visual metaphor. Mostly, for a little data, a table or even a sentence can be clearer that a chart. In certain occasions changing the color palette or the type of chart can clarify the situation enormously.

Question 3: Does it work?
Now this is a critical section where you have to identify if the outcome is fit the goal or not. if it doesn’t fit the goal that we have defined in the first step, we will have failed and again start with first step. There is no documented rule which says how to verify your results but after thoroughly answering all three questions you must able to judge if the result is favorable or not. The key resides in revising and experimenting with what we have done until we find an improvement.

At this point, I am going to leave the rest of the project open for discussion and questions when we introduce the project on April 4.

Goals
Analyze specific data for visual presentation
Present data effectively in visual format
Find and evaluate software for creating infographics
Develop skills using specific software for creating infographics
Create infographic for a specific rhetorical situation

Readings and Software
Some starting points for reading. Each student should do their own background research for this project and contribute resources to the class repository.

Getting Started

Infographic Software/Tools

Possible Data Sites

Infographic Samples (please use these as inspiration only)

As a student at UNLV, you have access to Lynda.com, a software tutorial site that has a wide range of tutorials on creating effective infographics:

Deliverable
Infographic for a particular rhetorical situation

Evaluation Criteria
  • Final Draft for Evaluation + Reflection = 8 Points
  • First Draft = 1 point
  • Peer Review Response = 2 points
The final deliverable will be evaluated based on criteria negotiated as a class starting with the following:
  • Presents information clearly and effectively
  • Visual is primary
  • Message is explicit
  • Both scannable and readable
  • Meets the needs of a particular rhetorical situation
  • Shows effective revision and editing
Reflection
Create a separate text that answers the following questions:

What was your understanding of the project?
    • An overall statement about your approach to the project
    • Assumptions you made about the background, audience, or purpose of the document
    • Problems, conflicts, or contradictions you faced with missing information
How did your understanding of data analysis improve through your work on this project?
How did your understanding of infographics improve through your work on this project?
How did your understanding of the software improve through your work on this project?
What other considerations should be understood to accurately evaluate this project?

The Reflection must be submitted as an attachment ONLY (Word or Word-readable document). Please submit the reflection at the Assignment link at the same time that you submit the final draft for evaluation.

Project Timeline
This project will last approximately five weeks, and there are a number of deadlines that you have to keep in mind.
Apr 4: Introduce Infographic Project
Apr 25: Infographic Peer Review (in class)
May 9Infographic and Reflection Due for Evaluation

We will be spending some time in class on this project, but it is important that you do background research and find software as soon as possible that will allow you to complete the project.

Friday, January 8, 2016

ENG 407C: Major Project

For the major project in the Advanced Professional Communication course, I wanted students to get a better understanding of different communication platforms, as well as a more complex understanding of audience and purpose. Since the majority of our students are English (literature) majors, I decided to try a transmedia project. Here is the current project page that I plan to use:

***
Transmedia Project

Description
Our major project will ask groups of students to contribute content/materials, based on a novel chosen by the class, on at least two different platforms. In short, the project is based primarily on this Nerdist article by Amy Ratcliffe (READ IT NOW!). 

Once you've read through the article, and to better understand what you will be expected to do, we can also use this flow chart designed by Steve Peters:

Transmedia storytelling flow chart

In short, as a class, we will select a novel and then create content using this novel as a starting point. Some possible novels we might consider include
  • The Outsiders
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • The Shining
Ideally, I would like us to consider a novel that everyone in class has read and that everyone is familiar with. Also, we can discuss if a novel that has already been presented in different mediums would be effective for our purposes.

Each group will select a platform (each group will have a different platform) and then determine how and why they want to deliver the information and the best ways to do it. Each individual must contribute to the final deliverable, and, ideally, all contributions will align to present a complete element to the larger class "story." To help create a complete "story," each group will first present their plans, and then present a preview of the work that they will be submitting (see description of PPT presentations below). Each group will be responsible for delivering information on two different platforms over the course of the semester.

At this point, I am going to leave the rest of the project open for interpretation because I want you all to be as creative as possible. We will have plenty to discuss in our first class meeting (January 25).

Goals
  • Understand how different platforms deliver information in different rhetorical contexts
  • Find and evaluate different software and platforms for delivering content
  • Develop skills using specific software and platforms for delivering content
Readings and Platforms/Software
Some starting points for reading. Each student should do their own background research for this project and contribute resources to the class repository.

Fan Fiction


Collaborative Novel Writing - Generative Literature

Possible Platforms
Blogs
Vlogs
Instagram
Storify
Podcast/Newscast
Historical Timeline
Text Messages
Tumblr
Pinterest
Twitter

Deliverables
Planning Presentation PPT (2)
Final Preview PPT (2)
Final Content on Specific Platform (2)

Evaluation Criteria
Each group will be responsible for TWO (2) sets of deliverables, spaced out over the entire semester. The point distribution (below) is for each project:
  • Final Draft for Evaluation + Reflection = 5 Group Points; 15 Individual Points (20 total)
  • Group Planning Presentation = 4 Points
  • First Draft = 1 point (Individual)
  • Peer Review Response = 2 points (Individual)
  • Group Final Preview Presentation = 4 Points

The final deliverables will be evaluated based on criteria negotiated as a class starting with the following:
  • Presents content effectively based on the specific platform
  • Clear connection to other contributions on the specific platform
  • Offers new perspective on and enhances the novel
  • Provides insight to a specific aspect of the novel
  • Captures the style of the novel effectively
  • Shows effective revision and editing
Reflection
Create a separate text that answers the following questions:

What was your understanding of the project?
    • An overall statement about your approach to the project
    • Assumptions you made about the background, audience, or purpose of the document
    • Connections that your document makes to other documents in the group
    • Problems, conflicts, or contradictions you faced with missing information
    • Contributions that you made to the larger group effort
How did your understanding of the platform improve through your work on this project?
What other considerations should be understood to accurately evaluate this project?

The Reflection must be submitted as an attachment ONLY (Word or Word-readable document). Please submit the reflection at the Assignment link at the same time that you submit the final draft for evaluation.

Project Timeline
This project will last the entire semester, and there are a number of deadlines that you have to keep in mind.
Feb 22: Transmedia Project #1 Group Planning Presentations (5 min. PPT)
Feb 29: Transmedia Project #1 Peer Review (in class)
Mar 7: Transmedia Project #1 Teacher Review
Mar 14: Transmedia Project #1 Group Preview Presentations (5 min. PPT)
Mar 18Transmedia Project #1 Due for Evaluation

Apr 11: Transmedia Project #2 Group Planning Presentations (5 min. PPT)
Apr 18: Transmedia Project #2 Peer Review (in class)
Apr 25: Transmedia Project #2 Teacher Review
May 2: Transmedia Project #2 Group Preview Presentations (5 min. PPT)
May 6Transmedia Project #2 and Reflection Due for Evaluation

***
Planning and Preview PPTs
For each deliverable, you will prepare two five-minute Ignite presentations for the class. The first one will describe your planning and the goals for each individual contribution. The second one will be a preview of your final deliverables. Each PPT slideshow should consist of twenty-two slides (Title Slide, 20 body slides, Contact Slide), each set to rotate automatically after 15 seconds. Each group will present their slides in class, and, remember, each presentation is only 5 MINUTES!. If you go over 5 minutes, you will be downgraded severely, so make sure you have a script to go along with your slides. Slides should include carefully selected, carefully sized images (i.e., these are visually intensive presentations, not text-heavy slide-documents). Individual slides should not include more than ten words.

We will also discuss this part of the project and look at some examples in class.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

ENG 411B: Preparing for the Semester

In order to prepare for creating all of the videos for my grammar course, I watched a lot of tutorials on audio and video editing. I also gave myself a little project to upgrade my skills. I have seen others create course trailers, so thought that I would do the same. Since the Principles of Modern Grammar course has become one that many students fear, I decided to create a trailer as if it was a horror film.

I used the original trailer for Night of the Living Dead (1968) as my model and mashed up from there:

video


Overall, I was happy with the final clip, seeing it, obviously, as an exercise. But I'll share it with the students (and with all of you). I could do a lot more, and I'm not happy with my voice over (I plan to hire my youngest son, who has done some acting, to do voice overs in future videos), but it did help me get a sense of mix and mash.

My goal for the semester is to create quality videos. I realize the learning curve that comes from this new medium, and I plan to upgrade from semester to semester, but I hope to incorporate a full range of audio, video, image, and text so that they can be as helpful as possible to the students.

If you're interested, here's the original trailer from Night of the Living Dead:




Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Working Out Loud: Courses for Spring 2016

In an effort to Work Out Loud more effectively, I plan to post many of my course materials for the upcoming semester. To begin, I offer the course descriptions, course outcomes, and project distribution from each course's syllabus.

ENG 407C: Advanced Professional Communication
This is a new course (or at least a revision of a course that I last taught in 2009). Based on our student population, my hope is to introduce them to a wide variety of digital and online publishing platforms. 

Syllabus Material

ENG 407C explores the work of professional writers in digital and multimedia environments. As a required course in the Professional Writing Minor at UNLV, this course offers a rhetorical approach to the social and collaborative nature of digital writing by examining, analyzing, and producing digital genres in professional academic and workplace contexts. Students will be equipped with tools and strategies for a more complex understanding of writing as textual production by studying and creating "texts" for different audiences, purposes, and contexts in a variety of styles and genres.

As a teacher, I am committed to creating the most conducive learning environment possible. Part of this means that you will be expected to collaborate throughout the course, discussing ideas and articulating concepts. In other words, your active participation is crucial to effective learning for everyone in this course. Active and meaningful participation is required, which means that you are invested in the course, in your classmates, your course work, and your education.

Through a variety of activities, the successful student will achieve the following course outcomes by the end of the semester:
  1. Analyze and understand rhetorically different digital and professional communication contexts
  2. Recognize, learn, and employ appropriate digital and software applications for professional communication
  3. Design, draft, revise, edit, and present professional materials based on genre, purpose, and audience
  4. Perform effective research and incorporate source materials into professional materials
  5. Work collaboratively and productively at all stages of textual production
As a class, we will meet the course outcomes by discussing principles of professional communication (defined broadly, not just as corporatocracy) in a sophisticated manner and build critical frameworks for examining the rhetorical nature of digital and multimedia professional communication. These critical frameworks will serve both analytical and generative purposes, helping us become better consumers and better producers of professional written materials in different rhetorical situations.

As a class, we will use the following guiding questions to frame our discussions:
  • Has the relationship between text and visual shifted?
  • How do visuals and written text work together to influence readers/viewers?
  • How do different disciplines and professions read, make meaning from, and compose "texts"?
  • What influences do screens, hypertexts, and multi-modality have on “professional texts"?
  • How do cultural and social contexts influence viewers' responses to "professional texts"?
Workload
Each module will include a variety of in-class collaborative, online, and out-of-class activities, a process for understanding the material, and the submission of formal deliverables for evaluation. You will receive detailed explanations of the requirements, formats, and strategies for completing each module. Specifically, each of you will be responsible for the following work:
  • Transmedia Project (Individual/Group) = 62% (31 points x 2)
    • Group Planning Presentation (4 points x 2)
    • Peer Review (Draft Submission) (1 point x 2)
    • Peer Review (Response) (2 points x 2)
    • Teacher Review (Optional)
    • Group Preview Presentation (4 points x 2)
    • Final Deliverables (5 points – group; 15 points – individual x 2)
  • Podcast Review (Individual) = 11% (8 + 1 + 2)
  • Usability Screencast (Individual) = 11% (8 + 1 + 2)
  • Infographic Project (Individual) = 11% (8 + 1 + 2)
  • Final Reflection = 5%

***
ENG 411B: Principles of Modern Grammar
This is a course that I've taught numerous times over the past few years, but this is the first time in a long time that I've taught it as online only delivery. My goal is to create a variety of videos (mini-lectures and walkthroughs) to supplement the course materials and free online textbook that we've developed.

Syllabus Material

English 411B will introduce you to the patterns of English grammar and their influence on sentence structure, punctuation, and style. You will be equipped with analytical methods to understand its structure and explore the relationship between grammar and writing, reading, and thinking.

By the end of the semester, students in English 411B will be able to:
  1. Describe fully English words, phrases, and clauses
  2. Distinguish between the form and function of words, phrases, and clauses
  3. Analyze a sentence for grammatical elements
  4. Recognize how phrases and clauses function in a variety of sentences
  5. Understand rhetorical choices for sentence structure and punctuation
Through a variety of activities, students of English 411B will achieve the five course outcomes by exploring the complexity of the English language, discussing the grammatical structure of English in a sophisticated manner, and learning to reach consensus on grammar-related problems in different rhetorical situations.

Textbook
Analyzing Grammar in Context (Free Online Textbook): https://faculty.unlv.edu/nagelhout/AnalyzingGrammarInContext/index.html

Workload
Each module will include a variety of individual and collaborative activities, a process for understanding the material, and the submission of formal documents for evaluation. You will receive detailed explanations of the requirements, formats, and strategies for completing each module. Specifically, each of you will be responsible for the following work:
  • Quizzes = 10% (10 x 1 pt. each - two quizzes each in Modules 1-5)
  • Online Exercises (OLEs) = 8% (8 x 1 pt. each - 2 OLEs each in Modules 2-5)
  • Discussion Posts = 10% (10 x 1 pt. each - two posts in each Module )
  • Group Analysis = 8% (4 x 2 pts. each - one group analysis each for Modules 2-5)
  • Proficiency Worksheets = 32% (4 x 2 x 4 pts. each - four proficiencies each in Modules 2-5)
  • Module Exams = 18% (3 x 6 pts. each - one exam each in Modules 2-4)
  • Final Reflection = 3% (1 x 3 pts. each - one final reflection in Module 6)
  • Final Exam = 11% (1 x 11 pts. each - one final exam in Module 6)

***
As I prepare for the beginning of the semester, I plan, over the next two weeks, to post all of the project descriptions for ENG 407C, as well as samples of the videos that I plan to use in ENG 411B. 

I have discussed in some detail our approach to project design in our Professional Writing Minor at UNLV here. Based on this approach, I will also offer other thoughts on the design and implementation of the projects and supplemental materials in future posts.


Stay tuned!