Introduction to the Course

Greetings!

Welcome to ENGL 7766: Web Design and Content Strategy! I’m very excited to be offering this course. I have been researching and practicing web design for about five years now, so I’m stoked to share some of the insights I’ve gleaned with all of you.

In the interests of helping you acclimate to my style of online teaching, here are some highlights of this course site, and thus the course itself, that you’ll want to keep an eye on:

  • Deadlines – I’m a big fan of deadlines, small and large, and so I tend to scaffold assignments pretty tightly. The best place to check for deadlines is always the schedule page, from which you can view the schedule for each course module, or learning unit, as it’s posted. All deadlines for each module can also be found within the module itself. So, for example, if you read through Module 1: HMTL 5 and the Design of Web Content,  you’ll see see a section called To Complete This Project (Workflow), that walks you through all the small steps of the module, including when they’re due. FYI: your first major deadline is Wednesday, 5/21/14 at Midnight ET. For the ease of all of us, your deadlines will always be at midnight, and will always fall on either a Wednesday or a Monday.
  • Technologies – As this is an online course, and an online design course no less, it is obviously going to be technology-driven. In this regard, there are several technologies to concern yourself with: WordPressBlackboard, HTML, and CSS, and a File-Transfer-Protocol (FTP) client. WordPress is the Content Management System that runs our course site. If you ever have problems with it, I invite you to first be good technological problem-solvers and take a look at WordPress’s excellent documentation, both within the CMS itself and on their website. I’ll assume you’re all familiar with Blackboard and so won’t go into that one, except to say that all you’ll be using it for is turning in assignments and downloading readings. You’re probably varying degrees of unfamiliar with HTML and CSS, however, which is why you’re in this class. HTML and CSS are machine-readable languages, meaning technologies like web browsers, web applications, and mobile phone applications use them to display information in forms humans can understand. That’s a lot. Basically I’m saying: yes, we will be using code in this class. If you don’t want to use code, this is not the class for you ;-). An FTP is simply how you load HMTL and CSS files onto a server so that others can see them.
  • Interactions – I like to think of teaching as a series of interactions during which knowledge is made. The main interactions of this course are: homework assignments, modules, coding, and discussion on the course site. Homework assignments and their due dates can be found via the schedule page, under the schedule specific to each module. So, for instance, if you go to the schedule for module #1, you will see that homework #1 is due to Blackboard by Wednesday, 5/21/14 at Midnight ET. Homework assignments will always be the first thing due when we start a new module. Modules are larger assignments that are due every week. You can see them as they’re posted on the modules page, but like everything else, they’re included in the main schedule. Coding will happen largely at your own pace,  but the Workflow for the modules will always walk you through what I’m asking you to code. Finally, you are encouraged to post stuff (questions, comments, interesting news articles, whatever) to the course website that you think your peers would like to hear about, and every homework assignment after the first one will require you to do so. That way we have a nice active online community with interesting content constantly being posted.
  • Reaching me – All my contact info is available on the syllabus page, which of course you should read through thoroughly in case you have any questions or concerns about any course policies (you’ll be prompted to do this for homework #1). I’m pretty much always available via the contact channels I mention (email, phone, skype, Google hangout), but I have obviously worked hard to build a robust course site with a lot of information and interactivity, so please do read through it before asking me simple questions like “when is such-and-such due” or “how do I access X?” If you can’t figure out how to do something or are struggling in any way, the best way to reach me is to post a comment on the course site itself. I will receive an email every time you post something to the site, so it will be the equivalent of emailing me, and often another student will beat me to the punch with an answer to your question. Most importantly: other people who have that same question will see it and the answer that gets posted, saving us all a lot of lead time.
  • Working hard – If you aren’t intimidated by the massive course site or omnibus introductory post, I should just mention that I teach a tough class. I also provide a lot of support, however, so if you’re willing to work hard, ask questions, and engage with the material, you should be fine. If you are NOT fine, reaching out to myself and your peers early and often is always the best response. If you are feeling lost in the course, which can often happen when working in online learning environments, touching base with another human being can help ground you and get you back on track. I have high expectations for students, particularly graduate students, but I don’t want anyone struggling needlessly. That’s what the assignments are for ;-).