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Sample Instructional Module

The sample below shows an example of how one teacher, Jim Porter, coordinates PWOnline readings into his technical writing course.

In this particular example, Porter spends two weeks early in the semester teaching the airbag case. The student's role in this case is as an engineer working for an automobile manufacturer, Vanguard Motor Company. The student must respond to a customer who is inquiring about the safety of automobile air bags. The case asks the student/engineer to write (a) a letter in response to a particular customer's inquiry, and (b) a set of instructions that would go out to numerous customers explaining how to use the safety restraint system in Vanguard cars so that the airbag system works safely. The case can be assigned as an individual or team exercise (however, in this sample, it is assigned as a group project).

Porter uses the airbag case early in the semester to introduce a number of principles and practices simultaneously: the basic rhetoric of customer relations, letter writing, teamwork, instructional text, and professional ethics, particularly the role of the engineer as an advocate for public safety. There are many principles to cram into one two-week module, but the purpose of this case is to introduce early in the semester a number of important principles that will then receive more in-depth treatment in later projects.

date topics covered in class readings in PWOnline
WK 3 M: introduction to the airbag case; discussion of case requirements and parameters; team assignments

W: the rhetoric of the letter

F: productive team work

M READ: PWOnline on the airbag case

W READ: PWOnline on the rhetoric of the letter; sample letters; Sample Bad News Letter page at PWO

READ: PWOnline on productive team work; template for evaluating teams teameval.rtf

WK 4 M: designing and writing instructional text-basic principles

W: designing and writing instructional text-basic principles (cont.)

F: ethics and the social role of the professional engineer/communicator; copyright and fair use of others' writing

M READ: PWOnline on designing and writing instructional text

W READ: (no new reading assigned)

F READ: ABET Code of Ethics for Engineers; STC Ethical Principles for Technical Communicators; PWOnline on ethics; PWOnline on copyright and fair use of others' writing

WK 5 —> Instructor moves on to next course topic or assignment —> Each team turns in their response to the airbag case: (a) a letter to the client, (b) a set of instructions for proper use of Vanguard cars' safety restraint system, and (c) a project assessment explaining their strategy in the case

—> Each individual student writes a peer evaluation of his/her teammates' work on the airbag project

5.2.4

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