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Syllabus & Calendar

Course Title: Writing Manuals

Instructor Contact Information

Instructor: Ellen Faden
Contact via email only using Moodle class email.

Technical & Administrative Support

Kim Barrows, Vancouver Island University, Powell River
Telephone (toll-free) 877-888-8890 or 604-485-2878

Course Description

Technical writers are often asked to write manuals of varying sizes on a variety of topics from policies and procedures, to user guides and training manuals. The basic processes of researching, designing, writing, testing, and reviewing are encompassed in all the different types. This course will introduce the student to processes that will enable them to produce manuals in a reliable and systematic manner.

Goals & Objectives

  1. To introduce the basic skills in the process of manual design.
  2. To provide students with an opportunity to practice new writing skills.
  3. To provide an opportunity for students to get feedback and support from both the instructor and other students.

Texts and Materials

There is no required manual for this course. The instructor will offer a variety of paper and online references throughout the course that will be of interest to the students.

Instructor Bio

Ellen Faden holds a Masters in English from the City College of New York, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Graduate Art and Literary Magazine for 2 years. Ellen also holds a teaching credential and has worked extensively on curriculum design and web 2.0 products and services.

Our Moodle Classroom

Our Moodle space is our online classroom.  Here you’ll find the following:

News Forum - The news forum is a general discussion forum used for the delivery of class news and events. Check here for any date changes or news of general class interest.

Course Syllabus - You are currently reading the Course Syllabus. It will be posted in your online classroom to give you an overview of the online classroom setup and the week-by-week schedule for your class.

Water Cooler - The Water Cooler is a discussion area used for non-course-related topics.

Lessons - delivered as html or pdf files, these should be easily viewable. If you have any problems, please let the instructor or administrator know.

Web Page Links/Resources - Related links. Visit them for even more information.

Assignment and posting of assignment instructions - The Assignment area is where you will uplaod your completed assignments. If more than one file is required, you will need to zip them before uploading.

Sample files - There may be sample files included related to your weekly lesson or assignment.

Discussions (also known as 'Forums') - Be sure to visit the Discussion area for each week's lesson. Topics will be posted for each week's lesson. You will be expected (as part of your grading for the course) to contribute. For more information on what's expected here, see the 'Grading' area below.

Grading Criteria and Total Components of a Grade

Each student will be graded by earning points for class participation, for assignments, and for the final examination. Grades will be posted in the Moodle 'Grades' area so that you can check on your progress throughout the course. Grades will be assigned as follows:

97 - 100 points = A+
93 - 96 points = A
90 - 92 points = A-

87 - 89 points = B+
83 - 86 points = B
80 - 82 points = B-

77 - 79 points = C+
73 - 76 points = C
70 - 72 points = C-

65 - 69 points = D

Less than 65 points = Fail

Points will be distributed as follows:

Participation in class discussions: 30 points possible

Students should participate in class discussion by posting their comments or questions and by responding to at least one other classmate each week. The instructor expects each student to contribute at least two thoughtful, quality postings per week (including the response to a classmate). Just logging on and reading other people's postings is not considered participation, nor is mere agreement with others' postings.

Quality of postings is more important than their sheer frequency, length or grammatical form. Quality includes, but is not limited to:

  1. commentary on the lecture for the current topic;
  2. detailed sharing of a student's experience or research relative to the week's topic;
  3. opinions on the topic that are backed with compelling facts and reasoning;
  4. raising questions that help the class better understand the topic, particularly by proposing; and explaining implications that might have been overlooked in the lecture, or in previous discussion.

Quality participation also means conveying your experience, research, opinions, questions or commentary in a professional manner. Disagreements among discussion participants are expected and often valuable, but they should be expressed tactfully, not in a confrontational tone.

Assignments: 50 points possible

Points per assignment are listed in the Course Schedule, below.

Assignment instructions will be added to the end of each lecture. Completed assignments should be posted in the Discussions topic set up by the instructor for that week's assignment(s), as described in the assignment instructions. Please do not send completed assignments to the instructor's email box. Use either html (save as web page) or rtf (save as rich text format) as the format for your completed assignments.

Late assignments will automatically have one point subtracted for each day late, unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor for late submission due to extenuating circumstances.

Final project: 20 points possible

The Final Project will be a mini manual. It will require that you use all the skills learned during the course. Email your final project to the instructor privately using WebCT email by the due date listed in the Course Schedule. No exceptions.

Final grade in class

Your unofficial grade in the class will available to you no later than one week after the class ends, either posted in the 'Grades' area on your course site or emailed to you directly from the instructor. Your official final grade will be sent to you via 'snail mail'.

Extra-credit: The instructor may offer opportunities for extra-credit points. Participation in extra-credit opportunities is strictly optional.

Feedback Schedule

The instructor will provide feedback and points on graded assignments within one week of the due date for that work, unless otherwise noted in the assignment instructions. Late submissions may take longer. Feedback and points for each assignment will either be posted online via the "My Grades" area, or emailed to you directly by the instructor.

The instructor does not normally participate in real-time chat discussions, but students are welcome to use this feature on their own.

The instructor normally logs onto the course discussion forums at least once daily, Monday through Friday. Exceptions are the instructor's travel or sick days, which may be posted as an announcement on the Homepage.

The instructor's office hours are anytime Monday through Friday via her Moodle email.

Student Conduct

Vancouver Island University students are expected to behave in a responsible manner respectful of the learning environment inside the classroom, whether attending in person on online. This policy applies to all Vancouver Island University campus and off-campus locations where Vancouver Island University sponsored activity is occurring. For further information, link to Vancouver Island University's Student Conduct Code pages.

Course Topics and Assignments Outline

Week 1:


  • Types of manuals
  • Barriers to good manuals
  • Overview of the Document Development Cycle

Assignment: Introduce yourself and an idea for your manual.

Week 2:


  • Audience and task analysis
  • Conducting interviews
  • Working with technical experts

Assignment: Interview (10 points)

Week 3:


  • Outlining

Assignment: Outline (10 points)

Week 4:


  • Designing document
  • Writing a first draft

Assignment: Design exercise (5 points)

Week 5:


  • Technical review and walkthroughs
  • Usability testing

Assignment: Usability exercise (10 points)

Week 6:


  • Revising your document
  • Developing a table of contents

Assignment: Table of contents (5 points)

Week 7:


  • Glossary
  • Indexing

Assignment: Indexing exercise (10 points)

Week 8:


  • Maintenance
  • Production
  • Wrapping it up

Assignment: Final Project (20 points)

Questions, comments, or concerns? Please contact Instructor via Moodle Class e-mail.