Writing and Rhetoric II
English 3080J Online

Expository writing for students located anywhere

Instructor: David G Sharpe

Ohio University, Athens OH




If you are viewing this on a smartphone or small screen,
please see the CAUTION note to the right.


CAUTION: This course needs a screen larger than a smartphone or some tablets.  Don't expect to be able to do the coursework with a handheld device.  You will have difficulty reading the content, your responses will be suppressed by an inadequate keyboard, and you can easily miss important points.

A further risk happens with email.  If you scan a course-related email with a small screen, you may move on to other messages before you read it all.  That message will then be marked as "Read" when it isn't, and you may overlook it later.  I've had good students miss instructions and helpful pointers by not seeing the complete message.

Plan your work flow to include the use of a laptop or desktop.

If you have any questions about what is being asked of you and how to do it, don't hesitate to email me via .



If the links above don't work for you, right click on one and
choose "Open link in new tab", OR use a different browser,
OR scroll down the page



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Course Description

Welcome! This is an internet version of Ohio University's Writing and Rhetoric II, English 3080J. Here you and your fellow students connect in a classroom unbounded by walls, earning credit and proficiency at your own keyboard and at your own pace.

As in the classes taught on campus, this course "develops skills in writing expository prose, with regular practice and evaluation supplemented by attention to professional prose and concepts of rhetoric and style." That's the official course catalog speaking. In plain talk ... to help you write exactly what you mean and affect what your reader knows and believes, this course asks you to write often and to comment on writings by your classmates, to study published writing, and to discuss how weak writing fails and strong writing works.

We use interactive feedback as our main tool for improving writing. This course is a 'workshop' that depends on your participation, your constructive comments, and your willingness to accept comments and to try alternatives. The text readings are used as departure points for discussion and creation of your own work, and are not designed to be step-by-step guides for grammar and style. Whatever strengths your writing already shows are encouraged, and whatever weaknesses are identified and worked upon. In this manner, you receive a program of practice, feedback, and instruction that is tailored to your individual needs.

The content of the compositions is wide-ranging (not limited to computer topics), and covers a number of traditional forms of writing. Research using the internet is strongly encouraged. Please note that, although the computer is our means of communication, this is a writing course, not a course of instruction in computer skills and internet usage. We will help you with the minimum that is needed to get the writing and messages done, sent, and received, but you may have to solve some computer-related problems on your own using the documentation supplied with the programs (both printed and in help menus), local sources of help, and internet forums.


You will have deadlines determined by the semester you are in.  As with any other semester-based course, the lessons will last fifteen weeks.  Other courses and activities are often competing for time and attention, so be careful to meet the deadlines (see details below).

This course is not intended for English-language acquisition and assumes that you have native-level proficiency in English.  You may be asked to withdraw if your English language abilities prevent a concentration on advanced writing skills.

The course uses its own website and services selected for the quality of the features provided.  It does not use Blackboard (except for an opening exercise).  With this approach, you will gain wider experience and versatility with internet resources and methods.

Each week routinely has two deadlines for coursework -- Tuesdays at 5 p.m. for exercises and readings, and Fridays at 5 p.m. for papers or feedback.  The coursework for each upcoming week is made available by Fridays at 5 p.m., giving you time for planning and completing your assignments.  If a 5 p.m. deadline is a problem with your schedule, plan ahead to submit on the previous day.



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List of Lessons

The following lessons are derived from chapters in the textbook, The Practice of Writing. The types of writing listed as lesson titles create a framework for the course, but are not meant to limit the activities, sub-topics, and discussions within each lesson. In the same way, assignments are not necessarily confined to the main type of writing identified for each lesson.

  • Lesson One: Expression
  • Lesson Two: Reflection
  • Lesson Three: Feedback1
  • Lesson Four: Description
  • Lesson Five: Classification
  • Lesson Six: Feedback2
  • Lesson Seven: Analysis
  • Lesson Eight: Persuasion
  • Lesson Nine: Feedback3
  • Lesson Ten: Argumentation
  • Lesson Eleven:  Synthesis
  • Lesson Twelve: Feedback4
  • Lesson Thirteen:  Narration
  • Lesson Fourteen:  Completion


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How We Do It

To conduct this class entirely 'at a distance,' we use the resources of the internet extensively. In addition to this webpage site, we rely on abundant email, email attachments, a shared directory on our website, and a web-based conference.


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You will produce twenty pages of strong, clear, polished writing in four formal projects and several exercise activities.  Rewriting of each project is expected, though formal grading of those rewrites won't take place until the end of the course. In addition, you'll be adding suggestions to papers by other students in the class.  A final rewrite of each paper takes the place of a final exam.  No proctored final is given, and physical attendance on any campus is not needed at any time.

Because your documents will be electronic and formatting can distort the number of pages, 'pages' is not as useful a measure as a word count.  For our purposes, a page equals 300 words, and the total amount written for the course will reach 6,000 words.  Graphics and large fonts are disregarded in the word count.  You'll find that a paper meant to be read on the screen is best presented single-spaced (which increases the number of lines visible without scrolling).

Lessons will also involve online text readings, an online discussion of those readings, and exercises designed to highlight particular methods of rhetorical control, or to encourage flexibility. In some cases, those exercises will involve collaborating with your fellow students.  A required writing reference text -- an eBook -- will be used to address problems in grammar and usage as they occur.  Continued grammatical errors will affect your grade.

During the course, you will prepare detailed feedback for eight student papers. You will insert specific constructive suggestions within each paper as a modified file, write a paragraph addressed to the writer that summarizes your reactions, and send the feedback to the student author and to myself.

Your own writing will be available for feedback by the other students. These shared papers are previously submitted assignments, and involve no extra preparation on your part.

Feedback is designed to give you a range of responses to work with -- two papers will have student feedback only, while two will have both student feedback and extensive feedback from the instructor.  The exercises in each lesson will be read and noted, but not critiqued.  When the type of exercise warrants it, I will send a suggested solution that you can compare to your own.

To participate in an online course, you must have basic computer and internet skills (additional skills will be developed during the course).  You must also acknowledge the importance of details that may be much less important in an on-campus setting.  For example, all coursework uses specific filenames and subject lines, and the identification of coursework must be accurate.  If it is not, the errors cause much confusion and wasted time, for yourself, for other students, and for the instructor.  Following instructions is part of a larger goal of the course -- to strengthen your ability to read with care and precision.


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Target Times

Because of the interactive nature of the course, target times are essential to keep everyone working together, and to have coursework available for other students when it is needed.  The deadlines must be strict, and work that is submitted after a deadline will not be given instructor feedback and will not be graded.  (Note that three missed deadlines are allowed, as explained in "Participation" below).  Your final course results will be affected if you don't keep up with the schedule.  Computer problems will not be a valid excuse for lateness -- leave enough time to respond to possible hardware/software glitches, and always make backups of both your document file and your disk.

The course builds on previous coursework, so missed activity affects the remainder of the lessons.  If you miss a target time, you are still responsible for any work that was due.  In particular, you will need to do any late exercises, readings, student feedback, and/or writing assignments by the time of the next posted deadline.  Failure to do so will lead to further grade reduction in the participation part of the grading period (see "Grading" below for details about the grading periods and "Participation / Late Policy" about missed deadlines)

The schedule is posted online where you can see it easily once the course begins.  Each week has two target times --

  • Tuesday 5 p.m. for the first part of the lesson
  • Friday 5 p.m. for the second part (at this time, the next lesson becomes available)

If those times or days are difficult for you, you can plan ahead and submit the assignments the day before.  Note that you will be able to do much of the lesson on the weekend before deadlines are due (including writing assignments), but some of the coursework is interactive and can be done only during the week when other students are contributing.

Please do the coursework in the sequence presented within each lesson (methodically scroll down the lesson page to see it all), and don't move on to the next lesson until you have completed each part.

You can manage your time best if you begin the next lesson as soon as you finish the current week's coursework.  Watch for assignments that need special preparation time (e.g. longer papers).  Looking -- and working -- ahead will be particularly relevant for students who have the most available time on the weekend.  However, when you work ahead, please don't submit the completed work until the current deadline is passed.

START OF TERM:  please note what is called the Two-Hour Rule, as explained in the OU Undergraduate Catalog under Academic Policies and Procedures: Class Attendance Policy.

If you miss the first two contact hours of a class, the instructor has the option of not admitting you to the class whether or not you are registered for it. (This policy applies to the first two hours of a class, not to the first two class meetings.) If you miss the first two contact hours, check with your instructor to verify your status in the class. If you have not been admitted, you will need to drop the class through Web Registration.

Note: If the instructor does not admit you to the class, you still must drop the class from your schedule by using Web Registration. Otherwise, you will receive an F, an FN (failure never attended), or an FS (failure stopped attending) for the class at the end of the semester.

For our course, "the first two contact hours" will be defined as the time until the first deadline in the first week.  I will not admit you to the class if I have received no communication from you at all.



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Required Texts


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Recommended Hardware

You may use any kind of computer, but the screen size must be large enough to see clearly the complete content of webpages, emails, and documents.  Your computer will probably be protected by a firewall, which is software or a device that stands between you and the outside world like a border patrol, checking the traffic going in and out and preventing unwanted outsiders from reaching the network.  Your browser may also be protected by a 'pop-up blocker' or other protection methods.

If you are not able to reach any part of the course, or if any course-related elements aren't working properly for you, the reason may be a setting or two on your own computer.  In many cases, I will not be able to help you with the problem (the variations are too many to sort out, and my responsibility is writing rather than technical issues).  Instead, check with anyone you know who has experience solving those kinds of challenges, or contact the OU Service Desk at 740-593-1222.


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Software / System Requirements

Since each of your systems will be different, you may have to find local support for answering your specific questions in getting the software and hardware set up. I will help as much as I can (email me at ).

Word Processing

Microsoft Word is the standard for this course -- this is not optional.  You may use any program you wish to create your documents, but you will need to convert the documents when you submit.  You will also need Word to open and review documents received from other students and the instructor.

Word is necessary because we use one of its features, called Track Changes, extensively (this feature is explained during the lessons). To give and receive feedback, you'll need access to Microsoft Word 2003 or later (later is preferred).  Some versions of Microsoft Works have inadequate features, and also not adequate is the "Starter" version of Word included with some new computers.  You will need the complete version.

If you don't already use Word, please arrange to have access to Word on another computer, or add Microsoft Office to your own computer.  As a student, you qualify for a free copy from the Bobcat Depot for both PCs and Macs.

Word 03 users

Note that Word uses different formats. If you are using Word 2003, you will not be able to open and read later versions.  For writing and submitting coursework, this is not a problem (the later versions will open your work easily).  To receive and read coursework, you will need to:

1. arrange access to Word 07 or later on another computer; or

2. install a free Compatibility Pack from Microsoft (if you need help or advice, contact the Tech Support link in the left margin); or

3. upgrade to the current version of Word (see the purchase info given above).

How do you tell which version you are using?  The Help or ? icon will tell you, or you can see if your documents have ".doc" at the end (Word 03 format), or ".docx" (later versions).


Please use only your OU-assigned email address (yourOUid@ohio.edu) for receiving course messages.  The OU email address will be listed in the classlist, and mailings from myself and from other students will be sent to that address.

If you have some other regular email account that you prefer to use, you should set up automatic forwarding from OU.  You will miss important University-related messages in addition to this course if you don't regularly check your OU address, or if you don't have reliable forwarding in place.

Detailed emails are an essential part of this course.  If you normally check your email on a smart phone, make sure you are reading the whole message and not just the beginning.  If you briefly check your email, it will be listed as "read" and you can easily miss important content if you don't return to it later and read it all.

Web Browser

The course webpages are designed for Chrome, but any other browser (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer) should show them well enough.  The course website is deliberately non-graphical, to put emphasis on the words themselves.

The text readings require the use of Adobe Reader, which is standard on many systems.  If yours doesn't already it, the program is free and can be downloaded from Get Adobe Reader.

Your browser will need to open separate windows with course content.  The settings on your computer may need adjusting to allow pop-ups, cookies, and access through a firewall.  If those terms mean little to you, find a friend to help -- but wait until a problem shows up.  In most cases, your computer will let the course open without any difficulties.

Please be aware that the webpages for the course need more than the small screen of a smart phone.  You are adding unnecessary difficulty if you use less than a full screen.

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Papers, feedback, and exercises are not graded individually. This is meant to encourage experimentation, and to shift the ‘worth’ of a piece of writing away from an associated grade to its perceived effect on readers, namely (for now), on myself and your fellow students. When given, a grade combines a sense of how your work compares with your peers and how it compares with your own previous work. Substantial improvement as measured against yourself counts for more than any pre-existing, static excellence at writing.

Grades are based on the first attempt you make for each course activity.  Some assignments are important for establishing methods for the course and you may be asked to re-submit if your submission is inadequate.  The majority of students absorb the lessons without difficulty, and that level of attention and accuracy is rewarded in the grading.  Any re-submissions are required but will not change the initial grading.

You will be graded on three lessons at a time, with one grade letter applying to all three lessons.  Grading is based on the quality of writing and evidence of improvement (70%), the completion of all assignments, readings, and exercises (15%), and the quality of participation in discussion and feedback (15%).  Continued failures to follow instructions (including the identification of coursework by filename and subject line) will affect the grading.  Inadequate computer and/or internet skills that hamper your participation could also have an effect.  The final result reported to the university at the end of the course will combine the weighted results for each grading.

Grading   Weight
First Lessons One, Two, Three 20%
Second Lessons Four, Five, Six 15%
Third Lessons Seven, Eight, Nine 25%
Fourth Lessons Ten, Eleven, Twelve 15%
Fifth Lessons Thirteen and Fourteen
(including the final rewrites)

You are entitled to a B+ for your final grade if you do all the work, do it with care, and if you are helpful to others in the group.  B+ is the average grade for this course.  Grades lower than B+ result from carelessness, lack of participation, casual/superficial thinking, and disregard for the value of rewriting. Note that attitude affects a grade of C or below more than writing ability.

An A or A- can't be earned by effort alone. They are given to reward superior ability and/or superior improvement, and must always be supported by active participation. Superior writing shows clarity, organization, polish, language skills, confidence, imagination, energy, and insight. An A student isn't afraid to experiment, and occasional disappointing results will not seriously damage the grade.


Your ability to write is influenced by your ability to read.  Instructions are given throughout this course that are detailed and complete, and must be followed carefully.  Unlike on-campus courses, the exchanges of coursework depend entirely on abstract, but critical, elements like filenames and subject lines.  Errors complicate the running of the course and introduce delays and confusion that often affect other students.

Inaccurate reading and failures to check your work against the instructions will result in lower grades, especially if the problems persist.  On the positive side, practicing care with the instructions will

  • help make all your reading more perceptive

  • improve accuracy in your own writing

  • allow us all to concentrate on the development of our writing, rather than the apparatus that delivers it

If you don't understand any instruction, or feel an instruction is missing, it is your responsibility to ask about it by direct email to the instructor.


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Participation / Late Policy

This course is a mixture of private work and public workshop, and depends on active members who co-operate to improve the writing skills of everyone. Participation in discussion and class exercises, and generous feedback for other students, are surefire routes to better writing and a better grade.

Traditionally, distance courses have been conducted by mail and have been, by necessity, private. However, online access takes this course closer to the conditions of a classroom -- which is public and social. If you are reluctant to have your writings and your comments aired within a group, if entering the give-and-take of a seminar is not suited to your temperament, you may want to consider a mail-based composition course. See Courses by Correspondence for details.

Coursework must be submitted on time (see additional explanation in "Target Times" above).  To match an attendance policy that applies to an on-campus course, you are allowed to miss three deadlines for submissions during the course.  Submissions for those three deadlines must be completed by the time of the next deadline and will be graded, but may not receive instructor feedback.  The three missed deadlines could result from any reason, including illness or family emergencies, and you do not need to explain them.  Extensions cannot be made, since I have no means to confirm the relative merits of each case.  If the reason for the missed deadline is significant enough, its effect on your results is less important than the reason.  The late policy leads to a neutral measurement of participation applied equally to all.

You may not use two allowed lates for the same assignment.  If the same assignment is late for the subsequent deadline as well (e.g. late for a Friday deadline, and then late for the following Tuesday deadline), it will be treated as missing.

Any missed deadlines beyond the three will reduce your grading in two ways: 1. the submission will not count in the grading and 2. if it is not submitted by the next deadline, your participation result will also be lowered.

Please note that late writing assignments and late feedback have a greater effect on your performance in the class than the shorter exercises and activities.  If you are late with papers and feedback, you will miss out on valuable interaction with your classmates, interaction that needs to be timely if it is to be useful, and that can’t be done at all if coursework is not available for the other students.

I'd recommend that you submit coursework always on time in order to keep the allowance for three missed deadlines available in case of illness or unexpected circumstances.  Please note that, since the finals involve grading that is submitted directly to the Registrar, you may not use one of your three allowed missed deadlines at the end of the course.  Submissions later than the scheduled time for the final will not be accepted. 


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Policy on Disabilities

Ohio University is committed to ensuring equal opportunity for students with a disability. This is a collaborative effort by the Student Accessibility Services office, the student, and the instructor. Students with disabilities should provide the instructor with written notification of their disability via Student Accessibility Services and make a direct request for accommodations to establish the means of providing accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids within one week of the beginning of the course. If you have a condition (physical/learning disability) which will make it difficult for you to perform class work as outlined in this syllabus or if you require special accommodations, it is YOUR responsibility to notify your instructor the first week of class.


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Academic Honesty

We are interested in your writing. The ease with which text can be imported electronically brings its own temptations and dangers; use other writers only as support or points of departure for your own ideas and expression. Work which is copied directly from someone else's writing (or which has been altered in minor ways) must be identified, and must not overwhelm your own approach and your own voice. Sources used without acknowledgement ("plagiarism") will cause your work to be rejected, will affect your grade, and could result in failure. In addition, writing which has been (or is intended to be) used for credit in another course is not permitted.


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Requirements / How to Enroll 

Scroll down to How to Contact Us: for Administrative Questions to find information that applies to your own situation.  In general, the requirements are as follows:

Ohio University degree students: junior status and completion of a first year composition course.

Students not in Ohio University degree programs: native-level proficiency in English and previous completion of a college-level English composition course. The junior level prerequisite can sometimes be waived.

PLEASE NOTE: This course is not intended for English-language acquisition. You may be asked to withdraw if your English language abilities prevent a concentration on advanced writing skills.

Any student who suspects s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the class instructor privately to discuss the student’s specific needs and provide documentation from the Office of Student Accessibility Services. If the student is not yet registered as a student with a disability, s/he should contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services.


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How to Contact Us

To reach the instructor

Go to the Faculty Directory listing for David G Sharpe for full contact information.  The best method is by email via

For technical / computer assistance

If any of the course is not functioning properly for you (and especially if a procedure that was working suddenly STOPS working), please contact both the instructor (by email) and OHIO Information Technology (OIT).   An exception is the eBook, which has its own technical support (see information given in the lesson when the eBook is ordered).

OIT Service Desk

by phone
740-593-1222  (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm)
by web
24/7 Customer Service Portal

For administrative questions

Contact your advisor or try the following --

eLearning OHIO

by web
by online form
request info
by email

Office of the University Registrar

by phone
by fax
by web
by email

English Department

by phone
by fax
by web
by email


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Your Instructor: David G Sharpe

helloEver since owning my first computer (in 1981), I have mixed together almost equal parts of writing and computing-for-the-sake-of-writing. That mix becomes more relevant and volatile every year.  I first became an English instructor at O.U. in 1988, and in the years since, I have taught Junior Composition, Freshman Composition, and Fiction Writing. Then in 1994, I began teaching additional classes as a senior lab instructor for Computer Science (Computer Literacy, CS120). The two teaching interests came together in 1995 when I developed a composition course called Writing and Computers. Half of the class time relied on traditional classroom techniques, while the other half used a computer lab as a workshop for real-time composing and critiquing, both individual and collaborative. The direct result was this online course, which went into operation in 1996.  Currently I teach a Junior-level version of this course on campus (now called Writing and Rhetoric II), and Writing and Film for freshmen.

I have a Masters in Fiction Writing from Brown University and a Masters in Literature from the University of Alberta, and I am the author of thirty published stories and poems, plus a non-fiction book titled Rochdale: The Runaway College (now available as an eBook).

If you want to see more, please visit my listing in the Faculty Directory.


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The English Department has issued the following statement of intended outcomes.  This course attempts to meet as many of these as possible.  If a student absorbs the content and methods of the course successfully, at the end the student should be able to --

Rhetorical Knowledge

  • Understand argument as a significant contribution to an ongoing conversation

  • Write for specific purposes, audiences and rhetorical situations

  • Analyze and employ appropriate argumentative strategies and persuasive appeals in writing

  • Demonstrate an awareness of appropriate media and their different rhetorical affordances (beyond alphabetic, print texts)

  • Analyze and/or evaluate texts according to their genre, audience, purposes, and writing situations

  • Understand and practice various genres for different rhetorical purposes

  • Practice writing in a variety of genres (e.g. researched arguments, rhetorical and literary analyses, memoir, proposals, literacy narrative and oral history, (auto)ethnography, etc.)

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

  • Use writing to enter, and contribute to, an ongoing conversation within specific communities (such as Majors and/or professions, popular culture, etc.)

  • Read and analyze a variety of texts, genres, and media, such as articles from academic journals, popular magazines, visual texts, film, creative writing (e.g. poetry, memoir, literary journalism) and student texts

  • Understand how to integrate source material effectively and responsibly into their own texts, distinguishing clearly between their ideas and those of sources

  • Integrate and juxtapose ideas and arguments from multiple sources to come to a new understanding

  • Use various critical thinking strategies to analyze and critique texts and sources in their writing

Researching Processes

  • Demonstrate ability to develop a good question for research (i.e. inquiry-based, open-ended, exploratory, current or relevant, focused, etc.)

  • Locate, evaluate, organize, and use research material collected from various sources, including scholarly library databases, other official databases (i.e. federal government databases), and informal electronic networks and internet sources

  • Evaluate the quality and validity of sources using clear criteria (i.e. online sources, journal articles, etc.)

  • Differentiate between primary and secondary sources

Composing Processes

  • Approach writing as a flexible and recursive process (including multiple stages: generating ideas and texts, drafting, peer reviewing, revising, and editing)

  • Approach revision as a substantial process, separate from final editing and proofreading

  • Read own texts reflectively to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas needing improvement

  • Use various activities to generate ideas for writing, including class discussion, group work, debate, focused learning logs, freewriting, etc.

  • Use informal writing as a tool for developing critical thinking (e.g. doubting game, dialogue journals, double-sided research logs, etc.)

  • Respond to peers' texts constructively at both global and local levels, working with others to improve their own and others’ texts

Knowledge of Conventions

  • Understand how communities employ specific genres and corresponding rhetorical conventions

  • Use appropriate formatting, grammar, spelling, and punctuation

  • Understand, negotiate, and employ writing community practices

  • Document sources using to an appropriate documentation style (i.e. MLA, APA, Chicago)

Composing in Electronic (and Other/Multimodal/New Media) Environments

Developments in digital technology are expanding our understanding of “writing.” To the extent that technology is available and appropriate, by the end of the course students should be able to

  • Understand the possibilities of electronic media/technologies for composing and publishing texts

  • Use electronic environments to support writing tasks such as drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and sharing texts

  • Use digital media for presentations and to add visual and design dimensions to their projects


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