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Grading and Course Policies

Course Overview and Policies
This course will provide you with diverse perspectives on document design through the lenses of rhetoric, technical communication, graphic design and design history. In addition to readings and class discussions, the assignments will give you multiple opportunities to develop your own visual communication strategies through practice in designing a variety of document types for a variety of rhetorical situations. 

Our class population represents a broad spectrum of educational and professional experience. Although this presents some challenges in designing the course and assignments, it also offers the opportunity for all of us to learn from one another, drawing on the unique strengths each of us brings to this class.

Because of these differences in experience levels, this class will require you to take a proactive approach to your own learning. This means that no matter where you are starting from, I expect you to push yourself to understand theoretical, practical, and technological approaches that are new to you. I view reading assignments, class activities, and course projects as occasions for you to explore and apply various approaches to design and communication. It is therefore critical that you not only complete all assignments, but that you come to class prepared and ready to participate.

Similar to writing, document design is an iterative process in which the overall message improves through collaboration, attention to thoughtful critique, and multiple drafts. In addition to analysis and design assignments, part of your final grade will be determined by your level of class and group participation.  To earn an A in this course you will need to excel in completion of all assignments AND:

  • be a generous, collegial, and enthusiastic collaborator during class activities, discussions, and group projects
  • be thoughtful, critical, and timely in your approach to projects and revisions
  • be an active explorer of design, gathering examples and ideas from multiple sources and constantly trying out new approaches and possibilities
  • be willing to spend time and effort learning new technologies
  • be in class and be on time

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, we all know that disruptive situations sometimes arise.  With the exception of peer reviews and in-class activities (which cannot be made-up), I will accept late work only if prior arrangements have been made. To get an extension, you must email me asking for an extension AND proposing a reasonable deadline for completing work (which you then must keep). 

Attendance and Participation
It is necessary for you to be here every day for the entire class. We have a lot of fun but complex subjects to cover in 15 weeks. Many of the activities and assignments are collaborative and their success is dependent upon sharing your knowledge and experience with others. Your ACTIVE participation is a large part of how I view your performance in this course. This means that I expect younot only to read material and complete assignments but also to engage in discussions and activities with your classmates. If you can't be here, you are responsible for checking the latest online schedule to find out what you missed and what is due in the next class period. Missing more than four classes may result in failure of the course.

Your grade is based on class, individual, and group participation in activities and on projects. You will be doing a wide variety of assignments to strengthen your practices in all of these areas. Late written responses or projects (with prior approval from me) will result in a lowering of your grade.

Your final grade in the course will be based on the following:

Several of the course projects offer you the opportunity to work with a classmate.  I have done this because it not only reflects working conditions you are likely to encounter in professional environments but also because it is an important way of learning.  Each of you has different strengths, talents, and experiences that you bring to class.  By working with others, you can pool these resources and create documents that are more effective and sophisticated than you might otherwise be able to do on your own.  Although collaborative work can bring with it additional challenges, I believe that learning to negotiate these with others is a valuable part of your experience. 

While we will spend a good deal of time in class working with graphic design, page layout, web-editing, and screen capture applications, this is not a course on software.  You should keep in mind that you will likely need to spend several hours per week (3-4 hours on average) outside of class time learning and using various applications and technologies.  The Design Center will be staffed 15 hours per week and you can get technical assistance during that time.

There is no shortcut to becoming adept at utilizing technology to create effective communication, but the more effort you put into it, the more return you will see in the success of your documents. One of the best ways to learn is by experimenting, exploring, and embracing the inevitable trial and error that comes with using technology. While I have realistic expectations and will take into consideration everyone’s technological starting point, I still expect to see everyone improve their comfort and facility with software and hardware over the course of the semester.

Phones, Texting, and Web Surfing
Although it should go without saying, texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, cell phone calls, and other technological distractions should not take place during class time unless it is directly related to your work.

ADA Statement
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cover issues relating to disability and accommodations. If a student has questions or needs an accommodation in the classroom (all medical information is treated confidentially), contact:

Trudy Luken
Student Accessibility Services (SAS) - Corbett Center, Rm. 244
Phone: 646.6840 E-mail:

NMSU policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, retaliation, serious medical condition, sex, sexual orientation, spousal affiliation and protected veterans status. Furthermore, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination to include sexual misconduct, sexual violence, sexual harassment and retaliation.

For more information on discrimination issues, Title IX or NMSU's complaint process contact:

Gerard Nevarez or Agustin Diaz
Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) - O'Loughlin House
Phone: 646.3635 E-mail:

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct
Plagiarism is using another person's work without acknowledgment, making it appear to be one's own. Intentional and unintentional instances of plagiarism are considered instances of academic misconduct and are subject to disciplinary action such as failure on the assignment, failure of the course or dismissal from the university. The NMSU Library has more information and help on how to avoid plagiarism at