instructorInstructor, Dr. Jennifer Sheppard, Japan, Summer 2010

My dogs, Jasper and Sadie, in the Snow, Michigan, Winter 2003

organ mountains
Mayan Temple, Guatemala, NM, Summer 2007

orchard blossoms
with my son, mom, and twin nephews, Summer 2011

snowshoe trail
Snowshoe Trail in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, 2002

Kenrukuen Garden, Japan, Smmer 2010

Beach at Sunset, Southern CA, Summer 2006

Boardwalk, Big Bear, CA, Summer 2008

Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Sheppard
Office: Clara Belle Williams Hall, 226
Phone: 575-646-2341
Email: (best way to reach me)

Office Hours

  • Tuesdays 2:00-4:00 in Milton Hall Design Center (this room is accessible only through the courtyard entrance on the north side of the building off of the International Mall. Phone number is 646-1096 if you can't find it.)
  • by appointment via Skype text or video chat (Skype name: jasheppa)

Meeting Time and Place

This course meets online asynchronously and does not have a face-to-face component.

Required Materials
(available from the NMSU bookstore or through and other online sellers)

  • Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach, 7th edition, (Paperback)
    by Paul V. Anderson
    Publisher: Wadsworth
    ISBN 10: 1428263934

Important Announcement

This online course is NOT easier than the face-to-face version. Although this course gives you the flexibility to complete much of each week's work on your own time, it is not self-paced. Successful completion of this English 318 will require consistent and sustained interaction with the course materials, assignments, and your classmates each week. Online courses can be a great experience and way of fitting coursework into a busy life, but they do require a commitment to being a proactive student. Please read the description below carefully and email me if you have questions regarding your fit for this course.

Additionally, the major project for this course requires contact and interaction with a workplace or other organization. Please read the directions for the multi-part Professional Advocacy Proposal assignment to ensure that you have an organization about which to write and email me if you have questions.

Course Description
This advanced course is designed to help you examine and gain experience with a variety of professional communication genres. The core of the course is based on a sequence of assignments, each building on the work of the previous one. This sequence will provide you with an opportunity to investigate your own professional communication practices, to conduct primary and secondary source research on an issue of professional interest, and to construct persuasive documents that seek action by convincing others of the value of your ideas and experience. In each of these assignments, you will focus on understanding and negotiating the rhetorical situation which includes the following three core components:

  1. purpose- the reason for which you are writing
  2. audience- the people or groups to whom the communication is directed
  3. context- the situational conditions in which the text will be read and used

By focusing on the rhetorical demands of communication, you will learn practical approaches for developing content for multiple audiences. By analyzing the purpose, audience, and context of various communicative situations, you will be able to create documents that successfully achieve their intended goals. Importantly, this course will also focus on the design and arrangement of documents, as well as on the development of their textual content. As several of your readings will argue and demonstrate, using basic principles of design will help readers to:

  • locate needed information quickly and easily
  • notice and understand important ideas
  • comprehend how individual parts of a document are related
  • respond more positively to a document's content

Throughout the course, I'd like you to concentrate on how you can best shape your documents to most persuasively and effectively communicate your message to your intended audience.

Course Goals
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the rhetorical nature of professional writing and that each communication situation requires negotiating the unique context in which it is located

  • Improve your processes for project planning, research, and development

  • Understand how to investigate and address the rhetorical situation (audience, purpose, context) to shape the development of professional communication

  • Understand how to integrate written content, graphics, and basic design principles in order to create usable, persuasive, and reader-friendly documents

How this Course Works
Although you can view the schedule anytime to see what is due when, I will send you an email through Blackboard every Monday morning. This message will outline the week's activities and alert you to any changes made to the schedule. It will review assignment directions, as well as give you advice for completing work based on what students in previous semesters have experienced. If you have questions about anything, please ask. I'm happy to help.

Participation and Interaction with your Classmates
Although this is an online course and we will not meet face-to-face, a significant part of this class still requires you to interact with your classmates. Afterall, this is a course about communication and that always involves more than one person. At several points in the semester, you will be asked to engage in discussion with others about readings from our textbook and the research and writing that we do. Your active participation is required to do well in this course.

Turning in Work- Course Sequence and Assignment Deadlines
The course schedule is arranged so that assignments build upon one another. This means it is important for you to turn in work when it is due. However, as an online course, this medium of communication should also give you some flexibility to fit the work into an already busy life. On the schedule, I've given due dates for every reading, activity, and assignment as it would appear for a traditional twice weekly course in a 15 week semester. Approaching the schedule on this day-by-day basis will help to spread a full schedule into manageable chunks. However, most of your week's work will not be due until midnight on Sunday nights. There are a few exceptions to this, noted in the schedule, so that you can receive feedback in time to revise. Anything received after midnight on Sunday will be considered late. Please see below for an explanation on what being late means for your grade.

Reading Assignments and Posted Responses
The reading assignments and corresponding posted responses play a dual role and are a central part of this course. First, doing a written response to a reading helps you to understand and reflect on the ideas in ways reading alone does not. The prompts I have developed are designed to help you make connections between the chapter and your professional interests and work practices.

Second, because this is a course without a face-to-face component, your posted responses to readings and other assignments take the place of in-class discussions and provide a way to create a bit of community with your fellow classmates. At several points in the schedule I ask you not only to post a response to the discussion board on Blackboard, but also to read and comment on postings by other students. Even when I don't specifically ask you to do this, though, looking at how others react to a reading may help you to understand it in new ways.

Late Work
We all know that disruptive situations sometimes arise and I am willing to negotiate those situations with you. I will accept late work only if prior arrangements have been made. To get an extension, you must email me to ask for one. Failure to get an extension in advance will result in a lowering of your grade. Additionally, getting too far behind can have a detrimental result on your progress and grade in the course.

I see the creation of any type of communication as a process in which the overall message improves through gathering research in multiple ways, through thoughtful attention to critique and suggestions, and through attentive work on multiple drafts. I encourage revision on components of the major course project, even after a grade has been given. You may re-submit a course project one time for consideration of a higher grade as long as it represents a serious effort on your part to re-see or re-envision your approach to an assignment’s rhetorical development. Just tinkering with spelling, grammar, or minor issues will not earn you a higher grade. In addition to your revision, you must also submit a short memo outlining the major issues you have addressed.

Course Policies and Grading
Below is the rubric I use to assess all writing in the course:


Writing is engaging and makes you want to keep reading. Text fully addresses the guidelines of the assignment.

Writing is easy to understand, but doesn't contribute anything new to what has already been said. Text mostly addresses the guidelines of the assignment.

Writing allows you to understand what the writer is trying to do, but only with effort and through making assumptions. Text addresses some but not all of the assignment guidelines

Writing gives you the sense that the writer is trying to say something, but you just can’t understand what that point is.  Addresses only one or two major goals of the assignment

Writing simply does not address the goals of the assignment or the course


Paper offers a clear, coherent thesis.
Paper offers a logical though not completely coherent position.
Paper contains some elements of a position though it is not clearly stated and/or it is not completely logical and/or coherent.
Paper contains argumentative positions that are not coherent and/or logical.
Paper has no identifiable positions.

Evidence & Support

Writing supports argument with several specific examples and explains how they back up the main argument.
Paper supports argument with both specific examples  and generalizations from other materials or information.
Paper supports argument with evidence that is not always specific or directly relevant.
Paper supports argument with evidence that is rarely specific or directly relevant.
Paper offers little or no support for argument.

Analysis & Complexity

Writing focuses on analysis and interpretation of materials as they relate to overall argument rather than on description of materials.
Writing does some analysis and interpretation, but also relies somewhat more heavily on description to help make the overall argument.
Writing performs analysis and interpretation of  meaning in a superficial manner and/or does not connect this directly to the overall argument.
Writing does little analysis and simplifies meanings in a superficial manner and does not connect this directly to the overall argument.
Writing makes statements with no attempt at analysis and does not connect this directly to the overall argument.

Readability & Clarity

Demonstrates clarity in writing and control over mechanics. Shows that thought and care have been taken with completion of document.
Demonstrates overall clarity in writing with few lapses or mechanical errors.
Demonstrates some lack of clarity and/or contains several mechanical errors.
Demonstrates some serious lack of clarity and contains serious errors in mechanics.
Demonstrates major lack of clarity & contains serious errors in mechanics.

Course Policies and How to Get Help

    • If you email me, I will do my best to get back to you within 24 hours.

    • I generally (though not always) check my email by 10:00 am during the week. I also usually check my email at least once during the afternoon or early evening on most days, including weekends.

    • There may be times when it is easier to receive help or feedback by talking to me by phone, via Skype, or in person. If this is the case, please email me and we can set up a phone appointment. We can meet in Skype using either video conferencing or text chat.

    • I have face-to-face office hours during the following time:
      • Tuesdays 2:00-4:00 and can be reached at 646-1096 (Milton Hall Design Center M014)- This room is in the basement of Milton Hall and can only be reached through the courtyard entrance on the north side of the building

    • For help with Blackboard issues, you can try the following resources:

Technology Requirements and Expectations
As participants in a Distance Education course, I am making the assumption that you are at least a moderately comfortable user of your computer and its operating system. Additionally, I have the following requirements and expectations for this course:
  • that you have consistent and reliable access to a computer and the internet

  • that you can search and navigate the web

  • that you can receive and send email and attachments

  • that you have a working understanding of how to login to Blackboard, how to navigate course materials, and how to use some of its basic functions such as the Discussion Board

  • that you have access to and knowledge of Microsoft Word, and possibly other MS Office applications (all assignments should be turned in as .doc or .docx files since I use the Comment feature in Word to respond to your writing). If you do not have MS Word, you can get a student license from ICT for around $7.00.

  • that you have access to and knowledge of Adobe Acrobat Reader for opening and viewing PDF documents from the course web site or from the internet. If you don't already have it, Acrobat Reader is available for free at

  • that you will consistently make back-up copies of all your electronic work

If you have questions about any of these requirements, please email at

About the Instructor
Since we likely won't have the opportunity to meet face-to-face during this course, I want to briefly introduce myself (you are of course welcome to come to my office hours or set up an appointment to meet with me in person if you are in Las Cruces). My name is Jennifer Sheppard and I have been at NMSU since Fall 2003. I completed my PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (yes, it was cold and snowed a lot, especially for someone originally from California).

My research focuses on web-based multimedia, professional communication, and pedagogy (the study of teaching theories and practices). I have been teaching writing, professional communication, web design, multimedia development, and visual and oral communication for the past 15 years (you can see my other course syllabi and my multimedia work at

Outside of work, I enjoy playing soccer, camping, walking my dogs and hanging out with my son, Eli who is three months old at the beginning of the semester. I also take any chance I get to travel.

Through this course, I think you will find that I enjoy teaching, and that I like to challenge students to expand their range of capabilities. If you have questions about technologies or assignments at any time, please don't hesitate to contact me by email or Skype.

ADA Statement
If you have, or believe you have a disability, you may contact the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) Office located in Corbett Center, Room 244, 575-646-6840, or email Appropriate accommodations may then be provided for you. All medical information will be treated confidentially. If you have a condition which may affect your ability to exit safely from the premises in an emergency during class, you are encouraged to discuss this in confidence with the instructor and/or the Director of University Disability Services/ADA Coordinator, Diana Quintana, at the SAS Office. Questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the American with Disabilities Amendment Act and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 should be directed to the SAS Office.
Questions regarding NMSU's Non-discrimination Policy and discrimination complaints should be referred to Gerard Nevarez, Office of Institutional Equity, 575-646-3635

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct
Any student found guilty of academic misconduct shall be subject to disciplinary action. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to, the following actions:

  1. Cheating or knowingly assisting another student in committing an act of cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty.
  2. Plagiarism is using another person's work without acknowledgment, making it appear to be one's own. Any ideas, words, pictures, or other source must be acknowledged in a citation that gives credit to the source. This is true no mater where the material comes from, including the internet, other student's work, unpublished materials, or oral sources. Intentional and unintentional instances of plagiarism are considered instances of academic misconduct. It is the responsibility of the student submitting the work in question to know, understand, and comply with this policy. If no citation is given, then borrowing any of the following would be an example of plagiarism:
    • An idea or opinion, even when put into one's own words (paraphrase)
    • A few well-said words, if these are a unique insight
    • Many words, even if one changes most of them
    • Materials assembled by others, for instance quotes or a bibliography
    • An argument
    • A pattern or idea
    • Graphs, pictures, or other illustrations
    • Facts
    • All or part of an existing paper or other resource
  3. This list is not meant to include all possible examples of plagiarism. See the University Library's web page on plagiarism for further examples.

  4. Unauthorized possession of examinations, reserve library materials, laboratory materials, or other course-related materials.
  5. Unauthorized changing of grades on an examination, in an instructor's grade book, or on a grade report; or unauthorized access to academic computer records.
  6. Nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other University records in, or for, academic departments or colleges.
  7. Students who engage in disruptive activities in an academic setting (e.g., classrooms, academic offices or academic buildings) are subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Section IV-Non Academic Misconduct-All Students. Such students are also subject to administrative actions in accordance with the NMSU Graduate and Undergraduate Catalogs.