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Registration for the Fall 2019 semester begins June 25.  Watch your email for more details.

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Technical Communication

Course Code: CMNS 3500
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Communications
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course develops an understanding of how technical communication projects (such as software manuals and policy and procedures manuals) are planned, written, and produced. Beginning with an analysis of objectives and audience, students will prepare a number of effective and professionally produced technical communication projects using industry-standard software programs. The focus of the course is on content development. Students will also be introduced to key trends and issues (ethical, cultural, technological, and economic) for technical communicators.

Course Content

1. Technical Skills for Professional Communicators

Students will

  • become familiar with the technical skills required by technical communicators
  • assess their own current skill levels
  • become familiar with the various software programs used by technical communicators
  • understand the strengths and weaknesses of those programs
  • develop their current skill levels through a series of structured lab exercises

2. Managing Writing Projects

Students will

  • understand the basic elements of project management (quality, scope, cost, and schedule) for technical communication projects
  • estimate and monitor the time required to prepare a project
  • prepare a detailed schedule of activities to produce the project
  • become familiar with the options available for distribution and production
  • produce a group project (for example, a small instructional manual) using MS Word skills

3.  Introduction to Writing Technical Manuals

Students will

  • understand the purpose of a technical manual and the differences between user, reference, and training manuals
  • become familiar with the types of technical materials produced by technical communicators in the local marketplace
  • become familiar with the companies employing technical communicators, the types of product and services they provide, and the types of manual they produce
  • analyze the range of manuals required to support a product, such as a software program
  • conduct user and task  analyses, defining objectives and identifying and understanding readers’ information needs
  • identify the different ways of organizing technical manuals and the specific uses and applications of each method
  • be introduced to the different types and uses of online documentation (information that is meant to be read from the computer screen) 

4. Writing a Technical Manual

Students will

  • understand the role of the technical communicator in the product development lifecycle
  • interview a subject-matter expert to obtain the information necessary to prepare technical documentation
  • prepare and evaluate a manual plan, including an outline and a schedule
  • examine the means of ensuring the technical accuracy of manuals, including review and approval cycles
  • examine the need for manual testing and the relationship with product testing
  • write and evaluate a manual based on the prepared manual plan (including a table of contents, index, front matter, and sample chapters)
  • become familiar with the mode of discourse typically employed in technical manuals (that is, writing to do)
  • evaluate the different means of communicating technical information (for example, flow charts, decisions, trees, illustrations) and understand the uses and applications of each
  • examine the characteristics of conversational writing and practise writing technical materials in a conversational style
  • understand the uses of examples in technical manuals
  • understand the role of editing in the preparation of technical manuals

5. Basic Manual Production

Successful students will use MS Word to

  • format revisable and reliable copy
  • structure documents into sections with dynamic headers and footers
  • create and use templates and styles for consistency in a series of manuals
  • test and debug the manual

Methods of Instruction

This course will use a combination of teaching methods, including lecture, demonstration, group discussion, analysis of samples, and in-class and home exercises and projects. The emphasis will be on learning by analysis reinforced with hands-on practice wherever possible. Students will be required to prepare, write, and produce all, or portions of, a technical manual during the course. Students will be required to work collaboratively on selected assignments.

Means of Assessment

Students are expected to be self-motivated and to demonstrate professionalism, which includes active participation, good attendance, punctuality, effective collaboration, ability to meet deadlines, presentation skills, and accurate self-evaluation.

Evaluation will be based on this general format:

Short assignments (4 to 6) 60%
Manual project 30%
Professionalism/participation (as defined above) 10%
  100%

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will

  1. gain an overview of the technical skills required by professional communicators
  2. learn the methodology for planning technical communication projects
  3. understand and know when and how to use appropriate writing and formatting conventions
  4. learn how to use industry-standard software to produce a project such as a manual
  5. understand the writer’s role in the team approach to technical communication projects
  6. be familiar with key trends and issues in the field of technical communication

course prerequisites

Acceptance into the Post-Degree Diploma in Professional Communication

or a minimum of 45 credit hours including a university-transfer course in English, Communications, or Creative Writing with a grade of B or higher

or permission of the Professional Communication coordinator

Corequisites

None

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.

assessments

If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.