IIT Coursework

In May 2012, I completed my master's in technical communication and information design at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Master's Project

Course description: Projects will require students to complete a theoretically based analysis of a practical communication situation, create a document appropriate to the situation, and write an analysis of or commentary on the choices made in the production of the document.

For my master's project, I project-managed the creation of a knowledge management wiki for a structural engineering firm. My project narrative describes the firm's needs for knowledge management, the decision to use a wiki to address those needs, and the process involved in choosing a wiki engine and populating the content.

Publication Management

Course description: Intensive work developing and using systems to create and deliver content digitally and in print. Special emphasis on project management and large-team collaboration.

This course emphasized systems for content reuse and single-sourcing. Most of our coursework was done using the open source content management platform Drupal. My first attempt at using Drupal involved creating a site to archive my eBay listings (see screenshot). It was a steep learning curve, but I was able to use views and metadata to generate a listing archive. The main project of the course was to create a Drupal site for a client. This memo describes my contribution to my team's work on goldenlegsrunning.com.

Standards-Based Web Design

Course description: Theory and practice of structuring and designing information for web-enabled devices. This course emphasizes web standards, accessibility, and agile design methods.

In this course, I created the original version of this website. It is hand-coded, created without any WYSIWYG tools (e.g. Dreamweaver), and is standards-compliant. I continue to make edits and design changes to the site, but this screenshot shows the design as of the completion of the course.

Usability Testing and Evaluation

Course description: An introduction to principles of user-centered design and to methods for conducting user experience research. Students will learn how to plan and conduct projects that evaluate the design, delivery, interface, and experience of a product or service. Course work includes designing studies, collecting and interpreting data, and reporting findings and recommendations from the perspective of user-centered design.

In this course, we used a wide range of usability testing techniques to assess websites and other interfaces. I worked with a group in a semester-long project to analyze the usability of the Chicago parking kiosks. This report presents our findings and recommendations for improvement. I was responsible for conducting the heuristic evaluation (page 14-19) and cognitive walkthrough (page 19-23).

Document Design

Course description: Principles and strategies for effective document and information design, focusing on print media and familiarizing students with current research and theory as well as with practices in document design. Students design, produce, and evaluate documents for a variety of applications, such as instructional materials, brochures, newsletters, graphics, and tables.

In this course, we used Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign to create families of documents, adhering to Robin Williams' design principles of proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast. I designed this trifold brochure with an accompanying letter and forms.

Knowledge Management

Course description: Analysis of the nature and uses of systems and knowledge in business and professional settings, focusing on the technical communicator's roles and tasks in generating and transferring data, information and knowledge within organizations.

The first project of this course involved presenting a knowledge management technology to the class. A partner and I developed this tutorial on Evernote. The second project involved observing an open-source development community for a month, noting the technologies and practices used to coordinate work and manage knowledge. I studied the community involved with Zotero, an academic citation and research tool. The final project for the course involved redesigning a knowledge management tool. My team created a prototype of a new instructor evaluation system for Illinois Institute of Technology using the open-source forum software phpBB. We wrote this report describing our system goals and design choices.

Linguistics and Technical Communication

Course description: This course examines how core concepts in linguistic theory are applied to issues in technical communication. Topics include discourse-level phenomena, sentence structure, sound patterns of speech, and language processing. The goal of the course is for students to be prepared to make their own contributions to tech comm using linguistic theory as a research framework.

In this course, we explored how the principles of linguistics, such as pragmatics, semantics, and language processing, can be applied to make texts more readable. For my course project, I wrote a paper about the use of negative politeness strategies in instruction manuals.

Communicating Science

Course description: Principles and strategies for communicating scientific information in professional settings. Students develop a literature review, proposal, and feasibility study; learn how to adapt scientific information to various audiences; and complete exercises on style, grammar, and other elements of effective professional communication. Emphasis on usability, cohesion, and style in each assignment.

This course provided an opportunity to create variety of technical documents. I conducted a feasibility study to select the wiki engine for my master's project, and I wrote a literature review on a related topic: knowledge management in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. I incorporated content from both of these documents into my master's project narrative.

Humanizing Technology

Course description: Investigate and experiment with both conceptual and applied efforts to humanize technology, especially computer technology. We will question the goals of humanization and its relationship to concepts such as design ethics and user-centered and emotional design. While the focus of the class will be on computer technology and programming languages, we will also look at humanization with regard to technologically rich areas such as industrial design and engineering, architecture and the built environment, and nanotechnologies.

As part of this course, I worked on a team to design a visual alternative to automated phone menus for smartphone users. I blogged my learnings throughout this course on Tumblr.

Technical Editing

Course description: Principles and practical applications of editing at all levels, working with both hard and soft copy and including copymarking, copyediting, proofreading, grammar and style, and comprehensive editing. Attention primarily to documents from science, technology, and business.

In this course, I had the opportunity to practice copy editing, proofreading, and comprehensive editing of technical documents.