Syllabus & Course Policies

Professor Steven D. Krause | 613B Pray-Harrold Hall | | 734-487-0985
(Email is the best way to get a hold of me and I almost always will respond to it within 24 hours. I only answer my phone and check my voicemail when I am actually in my office, which is more or less limited to my office hours. So again, if you want to get a hold of me, don’t call; email me).

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM; Thursdays, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM; and by appointment (my preference is to meet by appointment)

Course Description

The title of the course says it all (almost): Writing 516 is about the theory and practice of computers and writing. The one thing not included in the title of but explicitly part of the course description is that Writing 516 is concerned with the teaching of writing in computer mediated environments at all levels, from elementary school to college and beyond.

This semester, we’ll be viewing the course through the lens of the “Digital Humanities.” It’s an umbrella term including many disciplines in the humanities and their connection– both in terms of theory and in practice (or, in the slang of the DH world, “yacking versus hacking”)– with emerging technologies. As we will discuss, there are ways in which DH has been doing what folks who identify themselves as “computers and writing” specialists have been doing for decades; in other ways, DH scholars are blazing new trails. Inevitably, we will explore both the overlap and the emerging, and we will do plenty of both yacking and hacking along the way.

Required Reading

Ridolfo, Jim and William Hart-Davidson (Editors). Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2015.

This link is to the book via, but it is also available through the local textbook stores and through other retailers. Do get the paper copy instead of the electronic version.

There will be a lot of other readings too, all available via the web or via the course page.

Stuff You Need to Do:

Participation=300 Points

Participation means engaging with the readings and with each other in person and online, and it is the most important part of this course. Here are the components of participation:

Attend. In order to successfully participate in this course, you have to show up. Since this is a graduate course that only meets once a week (and face to face, we will only meet a total of 12 times since we will have online activities in lieu of two of our face to face meetings), I expect everyone to attend all of our class meetings, and also to attend each class meeting from 6:30 to 9:10 pm.

I do realize that “things happen:” people get sick, weather conditions in the winter might make travel to campus impossible (even if EMU remains open), etc. However, you should set the bar for what counts as a legitimate excuse for missing one of our class meetings (or arriving late or leaving early) extremely high. Missing class could result in a significantly lower participation grade.

Complete the reading online discussion posts BEFORE class meets. This is probably obvious, but you need to do all of the reading assigned for the course. Besides the fact that the readings will help you with your writing projects and to further your understanding of the subject area, the class discussions about these readings can only work if you complete them before we meet.

So to encourage this (and also to handle some online discussions we’ll have when we can’t meet face to face), we’ll use the class site at This is different than this site! You will post your initial questions, observations, and thoughts about the reading (50-100 words is fine, though you can write more if you want) before the class meeting where we’re scheduled to discuss this reading! Ideally, you will post your thoughts on the readings a day or two in advance of our Thursday evening meetings; at a minimum/in order to get credit, you need to post your thoughts before our class begins. You should post something about each assigned reading this term.

Keep in mind there are two main purposes for these brief responses:

  • This is your way to indicate to me that you have read the assigned reading.
  • This is how we’ll start our conversations about the assigned readings, particularly during our class meetings.

After you post your comment, you will be able to read (and respond to, if you’d like) the comments from your classmates.

Note that these brief responses are not meant to be detailed analysis or “mini-reviews” of the assigned readings. Rather, the most important thing about these posts is that you complete your post before the class where we’ll discuss the reading. Save your longer and more complete thoughts for your blog/online notebook assignment.

A slight tangent on the challenges of the readings:

Few of the the texts we will be encountering this term are what might be described as “light” reading, the sort of thing you might encounter in magazines, newspapers, novels intended for the beach. Many of these are difficult texts, ones that can sometimes take multiple readings to understand. Toward this end, here’s some advice on how to do the reading:

  • Reading these assignments will take you longer than your average John Grisham (or “name your favorite best seller writer here”) novel. A lot longer. Be sure to budget your time accordingly.
  • Print the electronic readings out! Even though I am making most of the readings available to you electronically (not the Ridolfo/Hart-Davidson book, of course), I think you should print them out. Reading on the screen often makes it too easy to skim (and not really understand), whereas a print-out allows for notes in the margins, slower reading, etc.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get each and every word in each and every reading. No one does the first time through. Just keep pushing ahead, understand what you can, post before class about the readings on, and come to class ready to ask more questions. It is better to complete (or come close to completing) the reading and, at the end, not “get it,” than it is to give up a few pages into the reading and never give it a chance.
  • Read the text first for understanding. Don’t judge! Don’t just skip ahead to an opinion! That comes later! Rather, read to get a hold of just what in the heck the writer(s) is(are) saying.
  • Ask/Note questions about the text. Some of this will be things you can do on your own– for example, simply looking things up in a dictionary can help a great deal, not to mention a bit of basic internet research. But much of this will be the energy of the online discussions we have. That cliché “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” is not true. However, I do think that almost any engaged question, even something as basic as “I don’t understand the point here at all,” is an excellent way to enter into discussion.

Participate in our class discussions. Of course, responding to readings in your posts before class and in your ongoing blog (see below with writing projects) is just part of participation; we’ll also be talking about these readings face to face. We’re a small group, so I assume that all of you will be able to contribute to the conversation.

Read/respond to your peers’ blogs. I suppose this could also be counted as part of the writing projects, but during the course of the semester, you should read and comment on each others’ blog/online notebook projects. I don’t have particularly rigid rules about how often you should do this; however, I don’t think you should ignore your colleagues’ blogs or other blogs you might find interesting.

Some of the usual things. For example, we will be doing some peer review, some in-class activities, etc., etc. You should play along and do these things as well.

A brief word about laptops and cell phones. If you have a laptop, I would encourage you to bring it and use it during class. We are meeting in a computer lab, and while those computers will often meet your needs, I find that the technology works best when students rely on their own equipment. As for cell phones: we might be doing some activities with cell phones, and I have gotten to the point where I don’t mind that much if someone glances at a phone because of a text or what-have-you. Still, don’t use cell phones (or laptops, for that matter) to not pay attention or to goof off.

Grading participation. Some time in about the middle of the term, I’ll ask you to email me to tell me what grade you think you have earned for participation and why. I’ll respond and this will help me arrive at a participation grade for the first half of the term. We’ll do the same thing again at the end of the term. The goal here is for you to be accountable and reflective on this aspect of the course grade.

Writing Projects= 350 Points

In brief, here is a description of the writing projects for the term:

The “invent” your own writing technology writing assignment, which is a brief (1500 or so word) essay describing a unique writing exercise. Check the schedule because this project will be due very near the beginning of the term.

The blogging/online notebook assignment, which will be an ongoing blog you will keep in relation to the class readings and activities, your own research beyond the class on topics in computers and writing, and just about anything else. You should also read and comment on your peer’s blogs occasionally. This is an ongoing assignment where you will be writing about a post a week.

The Codecademy “hack and yack” project, where you will independently work through one of the tutorials on the site Codecademy and then write a brief (1500 word or so) essay where you describe the experience of teaching yourself to “code.”

The short seminar essay, one seeded by your blog writings and/or other class activities, which will be slightly longer (between 2000 and 2500 words, or about the length of a conference presentation) and will hopefully be your beginnings of a contribution to the discussion of “computers and composition” as a scholarly interest. This essay will be due near the end of the term.

It’s probably best to think of these holistically as one grade: that is, these aren’t worth 88 or so points each but rather worth 350 points all together. For your blog, you will use, and for these short essays, you will use Google docs. You should use MLA style where it makes sense to do so– more for the short essays on Google docs than for the blog posts. We’ll do some peer review– particularly with the last assignment– and you will “hand in” these essays by sharing a link to your Google doc.

Book Review= 200 Points

Each of you will create a brief YouTube presentation on a book from a list of books I have prepared.  These books all connect in some way to the subject matter of the course, teaching English studies with technology at all levels. In addition to the brief presentation, you will also publish on your web site a short essay (around 1500 words) that offers a review of the book. 

Final= 150 Points

Finally, there’s a final. I’ll make it available (electronically) on the last day of class and it will be due (also electronically) April 21 at 6:30PM (Michigan time).


Given all of this, grading for the course is straight-forward:

A=1000-930; A-=929-900; B+=899-870; B=869-840; B-=839-800

In order to pass the course, you must complete all the writing assignments and the final, regardless of your grade on any other elements of the course.

The Fine Print:

Disabilities Resource Center: If you have a documented disability that affects your work in this (or any other) class, the DRC can provide support for you. Call them, or let me know and I can help you to call them, at 734-487-2470 to make necessary arrangements to ensure you success in this course.

Plagiarism. As the Council of Writing Program Administrators puts it, “Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately passes off another’s words or ideas without acknowledging their source. For example, turning another’s work as your own is plagiarism. If you plagiarize in this class, you will likely fail the assignment on which you are working and your case may be passed to the university for additional disciplinary action.” Don’t do this. If you plagiarize in this class, you will likely fail the class and your case may be passed to the university for additional disciplinary action.