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Beyond Drag and Drop: Balancing Experience and Innovation in Online Technical Communication Course Development

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Design, Assessment, and Redesign of Writing Instruction for Engineers

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Jessica Livingston Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Jessica Livingston is an associate professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She received a B.A. from the University of Georgia, an M.A. from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida. Her areas of interest include engineering communication and pedagogy, the intersections of gender and work in a global economy, and documentary film.

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Sarah Summers Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Sarah Summers earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Penn State University and joined the RHIT faculty in 2014. Her work focused on writing in the disciplines, particularly at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels. She teaches courses in writing and engineering communication, including technical and professional communication, intercultural communication, digital writing, and grant writing.

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Mary Jane Szabo Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Mary Jane (Janie) Szabo is currently pursuing her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Educational Technology from Indiana State University. In her current role as an Instructional Designer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, she collaborates with faculty on developing face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses. Janie also coordinates and provides training and support for the campus Learning Management System, Moodle, and Multimedia System, Panopto.

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When adapting a technical writing course to an online learning management system, it’s tempting to rely on existing pedagogies first and then integrate technology into that tried-and-true structure. Yet, a strictly pedagogy-first attitude assumes that technologies are neutral and that any practices can be simply mapped onto any technologies to serve any student. But merely dragging and dropping face-to-face content into an online course misses opportunities for the multiple means of representation and customized learning experiences that technology can afford (Camplese & McDonald, 2010; Kumar & Wideman, 2014; Moxley, 2008; Schreiner, Rothenberger & Sholtz, 2013).

Our proposed paper, “Beyond Drag and Drop: Balancing Experience and Innovation in Online Technical Communication Course Development,” written by two technical communication instructors and an instructional designer, draws on best practices in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to evaluate newly-designed hybrid and online technical communication courses. Technical communication courses generally include students who are from multiple disciplines and who may be resistant to taking a required course offered by faculty outside their major. A UDL framework that enables students to engage with course content in multiple ways can both lessen student resistance and increase students’ confidence in their professional skills. By comparing face-to-face assignments and student outcomes with online assignments and outcomes, we demonstrate how the incorporation of UDL principles encouraged us to make our courses more engaging, accessible, and flexible for diverse groups of students. We also highlight the recursive nature of these changes by explaining the ways our online course development has influenced the design of our face-to-face classrooms and assignments.

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Livingston, J., & Summers, S., & Szabo, M. J. (2018, June), Beyond Drag and Drop: Balancing Experience and Innovation in Online Technical Communication Course Development Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29846

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