Course Policies

Professor: Quinn Warnick, Ph.D.
Course Location: 1120 Torgersen Hall
Class Hours: M/W 4:00–5:15
Dr. Warnick’s Office: 427 Shanks Hall
Office Hours: T 1:00–4:00 p.m., W 9:00 a.m.–noon, or by appointment
Office Phone: 540.231.8321 (Leave a detailed message if I don’t pick up.)
Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required (This is the best way to reach me.)

ENGL 3844 Overview

Writers increasingly rely on digital media to conduct their work, and the definition of “professional writing” is evolving to include image manipulation, audio and video editing, content management, and social media. Writing and Digital Media is designed to familiarize you with all of these topics through theoretical exploration of digital media and practical training with a variety of software tools.

Broadly stated, the key goal of this course is to increase your “digital literacies.” Learning how to use new software programs is certainly important, but genuine literacy requires more than facility with tools; it involves the ability to understand and critique digital media, then create original, rhetorically effective digital compositions. To accomplish this goal, we will read and discuss some of the most influential writers on digital literacy and social media, then we will apply the concepts we’ve read to our own digital media projects. Our class sessions will be a mix of reading discussion, artifact analysis, and software workshop.

You should expect to experiment with unfamiliar technologies every day you come to class, and you should be prepared for some of these experiments to go terribly wrong. Failure and frustration are standard experiences when working with digital media, but they are not valid justifications for giving up. If (OK, when) you encounter technical problems in this class, you can get help from a variety of sources, including your classmates, campus resources like InnovationSpace, and online resources like And, of course, I will do whatever I can to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of digital media.

Required Textbooks and Materials

  • Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. University of Pittsburg Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0822961505.
  • A VT Google Apps account, for collaborating with classmates, submitting assignments, and backing up your work.
  • A Twitter account, connected to an email address you check regularly.
  • A Blogs@VT site (or a self-hosted blog) for completing regular blogging assignments.
  • An iPad (either your own or one checked out for the semester from the Innovation Space) and an iTunes account for adding apps to your iPad.

Course Objectives

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • write with, and for, digital media, working both independently and in teams.
  • conceive of, produce, and use digital images, video, and audio.
  • identify, analyze, and respond to the theoretical assumptions underpinning the development and use of digital media.
  • navigate, set up, and optimize social media sites for developing and distributing digital content.
  • recognize and use basic HTML and CSS syntax.
  • understand the organization and distribution of information by search engines.

Class Attendance and Participation

This is a highly collaborative course, and I expect you to fulfill your fair share of group work and to interact courteously with your peers at all times. Most of our class sessions will be conducted in discussion/workshop format, and many of these workshops cannot be recreated outside of class, so regular attendance and active participation are important. My attendance policy is simple: you may miss three classes (for any reason) without penalty. Each additional absence (for any reason) will lower your course grade 1/3 of a letter grade (e.g., B to B-), and six or more absences may result in a failing grade for the course. Because our time in class is limited, promptness is important. Each tardy (arriving more than 5 minutes late) and each instance of leaving early will count as 1/2 of an absence. If you are late for class, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have not been marked absent.

Software and Technology

Because this course focuses on digital media, you will submit almost all of your work in electronic format and much of your interaction with your peers and your instructor will occur online. Hence, you will need to check your email, the class website, and Twitter regularly to receive important announcements and to participate in an ongoing dialogue with your classmates.

Some of software programs we will use in class are quite expensive, so I don’t expect you to purchase them at the beginning of the course. We will use trial licenses for some of these programs; if you find them useful after that point, you may want to invest in personal copies of the programs. However, you will not need to purchase any specialized software to fulfill the basic requirements of this course.

As you complete assignments for this class, be sure to save all your work, both print and electronic. Do not discard any drafts, notes, papers or research materials until you receive a final grade for the course. In addition, be sure to save your work regularly in multiple formats (print and electronic) and multiple locations (e.g., computer, Google Drive, flash drive). Computer problems are a part of modern life, and a crashed computer or a lost flash drive is not a valid excuse for a late assignment.

To fulfill the requirements of the course, you will need to create several accounts at a variety of websites. I am sensitive to the fact that some of you carefully guard your online identity and have chosen to minimize your personal exposure on the web, and I don’t want to force you to leave an electronic trail that may be difficult to erase at the end of the semester. As a result, you may choose to use a pseudonym and/or a “throwaway” email address to create these accounts. That’s fine with me; just be consistent (don’t choose a new pseudonym for each site) and make sure that you let me know what your pseudonym is.

Grading and Evaluation

Your grade in this course will be determined primarily by your performance on four major assignments. In addition, participating in class discussions and maintaining a personal blog throughout the semester will influence your final grade. Major assignments will be penalized 10% for every class period they are late. You must complete all major assignments to receive a passing grade at the end of the semester. Shorter assignments normally will be worth 10 points, and all short assignments will be averaged together. Because these short assignments relate directly to the topic of discussion each day, they will receive no credit if they are turned in late.

Weighted Assignments

Major units and shorter assignments will be weighted as follows:

  • Unit #1 (Video Narrative): 15%
  • Unit #2 (Tap Essay): 15%
  • Unit #3 (Interrogating the Interface): 20%
  • Unit #4 (Scholarly Webtext): 20%
  • Personal Blog: 15%
  • Class Participation and Short Exercises: 15%
  • TOTAL: 100%

You can read more details about the major assignments on the assignments page.

Grading Scale

All major assignments will be evaluated on a 100-point scale, and final grades will be calculated using the following scale:

  • A : 94-100
  • A- : 90–93.99
  • B+ : 87–89.99
  • B : 84–86.99
  • B- : 80–83.99
  • C+ : 77–79.99
  • C : 74–76.99
  • C- : 70–73.99
  • D+ : 67– 69.99
  • D : 64–66.99
  • D- : 60-63.99
  • F : 0–59.99

Please note that I do not round up when calculating final grades.

Grading Criteria

All major assignments will be evaluated using the following criteria:

A — Superior Accomplishment. Shows excellent analysis of the assignment and provides an imaginative and original response. Successfully adapts to the audience, context, and purpose of the assignment. Contains no mechanical errors and requires no revisions. The assignment is ready to be presented to the intended audience.

B — Commendable. Shows judgment and tact in the presentation of material and responds appropriately to the requirements of the assignment. Has an interesting, precise, and clear style. Contains minor mechanical errors and requires revision before the assignment could be sent to the intended audience.

C — Competent. Meets all the basic criteria of the assignment, and provides a satisfactory response to the rhetorical situation. There is nothing remarkably good or bad about the work, and equivalent work could be sent to the intended audience following revisions to the organization, style, or delivery of the assignment.

D — Needs Improvement. Responds to the assignment, but contains significant defects in one of the major areas (communicability and organization; content and development; style; grammatical conventions and mechanics). The assignment could not be presented to the intended audience without significant revision.

F — Unacceptable. Provides an inadequate response to the assignment or shows a misunderstanding of the rhetorical situation. Contains glaring defects in one or more of the major areas (communicability and organization; content and development; style; grammatical conventions and mechanics). The assignment could not be presented to the intended audience.

Eliminating Distractions

Part of living in the digital age is dealing with a never-ending steam of electronic distractions. Eliminating these distractions in a traditional classroom might be as easy as banning the use of cell phones or laptops, but in a class called “Writing and Digital Media,” that approach is not only too simplistic, it’s counterproductive. We will be spending a lot of time staring at screens—lab computers, personal laptops, iPads, and cell phones—so you will need to develop the discipline to stare productively. Practically speaking, that means no texting friends, checking sports scores, or mindlessly surfing the web. When class is in session, everything you do online should be related to this class. If I notice that you are struggling to stay focused, I will gently remind you about this policy. If you violate this policy repeatedly, I will ask you to leave the classroom and mark you absent for that day.

Disability Accommodations

If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. You will first need to provide documentation of your disability to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, located in 310 Lavery Hall.

Academic Integrity

The Virginia Tech Honor Code expressly forbids the following:

  1. Cheating — Cheating includes the actual giving or receiving of any unauthorized aid or assistance or the actual giving or receiving of any unfair advantage on any form of academic work, or attempts thereof.
  2. Plagiarism — Plagiarism includes the copying of the language, structure, programming, computer code, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and passing off the same as one’s own original work, or attempts thereof.
  3. Falsification — Falsification includes the statement of any untruth, either verbally or in writing, with respect to any circumstances relevant to one’s academic work, or attempts thereof. Such acts include, but are not limited to, the forgery of official signatures; tampering with official records; fraudulently adding, deleting, or manipulating information on academic work, or fraudulently changing an examination or other academic work after the testing period or due date of the assignment.

In a writing course, violations of the Honor Code typically take the form of plagiarism. I do not tolerate plagiarism in any form, and I am exceptionally skilled at identifying plagiarized work. If you submit plagiarized work in this course, I will report it to the Honor System and withhold your grade until the Honor System has concluded its investigation. In most plagiarism cases, you will receive a 0 on the assignment, and you may also fail the entire course, depending on the severity of the plagiarism.

Plagiarism occurs when a writer, speaker, or designer uses someone else’s language, ideas, images, or other material without fully acknowledging its source by quotations marks, in footnotes or endnotes, and in lists of works cited. In this course, we will draw heavily upon text, images, videos, and other electronic materials found online; the fact that such material is online does not lessen our obligation to give credit where credit is due. Occasionally, students will unintentionally plagiarize material because they have failed to keep track of their sources as they acquire them. You can avoid this problem by keeping detailed records of your research activities in this class.

As a professor, my academic integrity obligates me to report all cases of plagiarism (regardless of the circumstances) to the Honor System. If you have any questions about plagiarism and how it relates to your work, please talk to me before you turn in an assignment. Once plagiarized work has been submitted for a grade, I have no choice but to enforce this policy.