Big Picture

ENG 304 is different from most other courses you have taken. Where most courses focus on the delivery of information or content to students and testing students’ knowledge of that content, this course focuses primarily on what you make.

We’ll do a lot less “consuming” and more “creating” here. In terms of learning, creating/making is about application of knowledge/learning, synthesizing of material, and construction of one’s knowledge/understanding. These are markers of higher-order learning appropriate for a more advanced course.

I assign relatively little reading for an upper-level class and require you to “make stuff” every week. There will be multiple assignments in the air every week, which can become confusing in the absence of a sense of the bigger picture. And there are no tests, quizzes, or exams in any traditional sense. The “tests” come through your creations.

This is the bigger picture! Keep it in mind. Return to it when you’re lost.

There are five main components to the class:

Blog – Component One (20%)

The blog project is a term-long project that starts in week 1. You choose a blog “topic” for your work, make your first post by the end of week one, and make at least two posts in each of the next five weeks. We do some reading on blog writing and style. Your job is to learn how to use our blog platform, write posts that work in the blog genre, and increasingly move your blogging closer to what more professional/successful blogging looks like. You create your blog and demonstrate learning through reflection and practice!

We’ll use WordPress, which is the platform on which more than 30% of the world’s websites run. It’s not some flash-in-the-pan or proprietary tool you’ll never see again. See for yourself at W3TECHS.

About Vlogging: Someone reading this page is thinking about a Vlog or Video Blog. I’m completely open to this, but you need a good topic that lends itself to vlogging and some fair-to-middling video editing skills. Vlogging might seem easier (no writing!), but it’s harder.  Many of the rules of regular blogging apply to vlogging, and you’re doing it in video. For these reasons, I don’t recommend using our blog project as your opportunity to try digital video editing! (If you want to learn some video editing, great! Take on the DS 106 “That 70’s Show Circle” assignment in week 5 for the extra 2 points, and make a more ambitious final DS106 compilation video. There’s little risk, and plenty of learning reward!)

After this class, familiarity with WordPress belongs on your resume alongside Medium, MS Office, Google Apps, and, depending on your major, some lab software or statistical package like SPSS. You’ll probably also have some knowledge of GIMP, an open source, free alternative to Photoshop. We’re real people working with real tools. Employers value those tools because they need people who can use them.

ePortfolio – Component Two (20%)

Think of your ePortfolio as your vehicle for a professional digital identity and you’ll be ok. It is your website, the place where you’ll do most of your work for the course, and a space to craft an online portfolio of your work.

We’ll start the ePortfolio in week one, and we’ll work towards a more complete ePortfolio as the course progresses. I’ll require you to do some things in certain ways, but you’ll also have considerable room to “make it your ePortfolio.” A student doing well on this component will have all of his or her work from the course in the ePortfolio, will showcase and frame work samples from select other coursework, include a working online resume, and more. He or she will present an organized, focused, website that shows what he or she has done, can do, and knows.

We’ll use the same WordPress site that runs the blog project, so you can know that you’re working with a real digital writing tool! I’ll actually encourage you to consider taking the work of your ePortfolio one step further by purchasing your own domain name (,, etc.) and launching a professional identity that you fully control. In higher education, we call this a “Domain of One’s Own” or DoOO. (We’ll read a little about it.)

DS106 – Component Three (30%)

Move beyond retweeting and liking stuff that other people make! Make your own and contribute to the Web.

DS106 or “Digital Storytelling 106” is a course originally developed at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). Its origins are fascinating, but its focus is on encouraging individuals to be more active and intentional in using tools of the web to tell their stories. Since launching some years ago, it has expanded well beyond UMW. In ENG 304, we’ll sample just some of what DS106 has to offer by completing some of the DS106 assignments (20% of your grade) and participating in the “DS106 Daily Create” project (10% of your grade).

We will complete a total of thirteen DS106 projects over the term, starting in week two, for 20% of the grade. We will complete three IMAGE assignments, three ANIMATED GIF assignments, three WEB assignments, and three MEME assignments. You’ll also create a video (maybe a voiceover powerpoint loaded to youtube, or something more ambitious if you have video skills) of your best DS106 work as your thirteenth DS106 project. These projects will all go into your ePortfolio and we’ll engage them through the course website’s blog!

Additionally, we will complete at least ten DS106 “Daily Create” assignments over the term, starting in week one, for 10% of the grade. Make Art Dammit! That’s the motto for the Daily Creates. You’ll tweet your creations, add them to your ePortfolio, and we’ll engage them!

To model what these things might look like, I’ll participate in some of the Daily Creates, tweet them, and post them to the course blog. You should think of these as examples of how to approach your DS106 assignments.

Along the way, you’ll figure out how to edit images, create animated GIFS, use some web tools, and create memes. It won’t always be easy, but Google is a great “how to” resource.

Do these in a way that shows thought and offer meaningful reflections/commentary on the idea and process and earn full credit. What’s important in the DS106 work is the idea and the effort. Be smart, funny, ironic, sarcastic, irreverent, serious, thoughtful in your approach to the challenges. The quality of the visual and digital work in DS106 is less important. After you’ve done a few of these, you’ll see what I mean.

Trust me. It’s not that hard if you’ll simply reject some notion that you’re not good with technology. My mother can’t even use that excuse, and she’s almost 70! It’s 2018.

*If you’re thinking of recycling others’ GIFs, memes, etc., I refer you to the university’s academic integrity policy. Remix is fine. In fact, it’s really at the core of much of DS106. But let’s make our own stuff here!

Collaborative Publishing – Component Four (15%)

We’ll create two “publications” in Medium, an online social media platform for longer form writing. Each student will contribute what Medium calls a story to each publication, and we’ll have an editorial team for each publication. But we’ll be creating particularly focused publications and stories.

One publication will feature tutorials about using specific tools for web-based creative work, and each student will prepare one tutorial for that publication. The software or technology tutorial is a very important aspect of the sharing economy of the open web. In preparation for this project, we’ll look at a range of tutorials that do this sort of thing to get a sense of the style. Think of these as “how to” articles, complete with relevant images and perhaps even video for those inclined in that direction. This project is worth 10% of your grade.

Our second publication will feature product reviews. Each student will select a relatively recent product of interest and write a review of it. Where some might choose to review an electronic product, others might choose to review a new toaster oven, reclining chair, or knife. As with web tutorials, more professional product reviews have a structure or approach, and we’ll be practicing that approach in this project.  This project is worth 5% of your grade.

Readings/Discussion/Others – Component Five (15%)

I’ll assign 1-3 readings per week. For most readings, I’ll assign some Discussion questions and require Responses, Comments, and Replies. In a more traditional course, these readings might form the basis for some sort of testing, but we do not have tests here. Any “testing” comes through meaningful engagement with the readings through discussion and application of ideas in the readings to your creative endeavors. Is this harder? Maybe. But all the educational research out there shows that it’s a better way to learn.

Over weeks three, four, and five, we will also spend about 8-10 hours in Codecademy, a free web-based resource for learning code.  Don’t whine or winge! It’s 2018. It’s time you knew a little about it. (If you already know a little, this will be pretty easy – and you’ll learn a little MORE.)

There is much one might do in Codecademy. Our focus will be the learning modules on HTML and CSS, two very important tools that power what we experience in web pages. I’ll give you three full weeks to complete the Codecademy course. Completion of the learning modules will help you make sense of what you experience through a DS106 WEB assignment due by the end of Week 5. And you can put it on your resume as yet another tech thingie with which you’re a bit familiar.