Helpful Guides

Resources to help you navigate the class.

Getting Started 1: Registering on the Site

To get started with your course, you'll need to complete a few steps, which include

  • Registering for the course website (here).
  • Logging in for the first time.
  • Editing your account for the first time.

Registering for the course website

  1. Go to the course website.
  2. Click on "create new account" under "User Login" in the navigation menu on the left.

  3. Create a username that will identify you in the system and that you will use for logging in. Because this site is public on the Internet, your username should not include your last name. You are welcome to use any username (e.g., your IM screenname) that would not be offensive to others or otherwise inappropriate for a course website. Capitalize your username as you intend to use it; usernames are case sensitive.

  4. Enter your email address. You may use your Purdue email address. If you have an alternate one, use the one that you check most regularly.
  5. Provide your real name and home page URL (web address, if you have one). Note that your real name will not be visible publicly but only to students registered at the site.
  6. Complete the Blog info and and Major and interests boxes, using the suggestions on the form.
  7. Check whether or not you grant permission for your instructor to send you grades via your registered email address.
  8. Click on "Create new account." Registration information will be sent to the email address you listed, so check your email soon after you register. You will need the password that it sends you. Your instructor will approve your registration (if new account requests are moderated), and then you will be able to log in to use site features.

Getting Started 2: Logging in for the First Time

To get started with your course, you'll also need to complete this second step:

Logging in for the first time

  1. You should have received an email from the system that includes your new password. With that email handy, return to the course website.
  2. Enter your username and password in the "User login" box. Your initial password can be retyped or cut-and-pasted into the password box. If you cut-and-paste it, make sure you don't include any extra spaces before or after the password characters. The password and user name are case sensitive.

  3. Click on Log in. When you've successfully logged in, you will see a block of links in the left sidebar with your username above it as a title. This is a navigation menu that provides you with links to many services and content on the site. If you are unable to log in successfully, try re-entering your password. Remember that usernames and passwords are case-sensitve, so make sure you don't have Caps Lock turned on by accident and that (if pasting in your password) that you don't include extra spaces. You may also click on "Request new password" if you ever forget yours.

Getting Started 3: Editing Your Account for the First Time

To get started with your course, you'll also need to complete this third step, which will take a bit more time than the previous two.

Editing your account for the first time

Once you've logged in successfully, you need to edit your account and provide some additional information about yourself.

  1. Click on my account link in the navigation menu on the left.


  2. On the next screen, click on the edit tab.

  3. On the account settings screen, scroll to the Account information area.
  4. Change your password by entering a new one into the password boxes. Choose a password that you can remember but that is secure. Remember that passwords are case sensitive.
  5. Scroll to the Picture area.
  6. Upload a picture of yourself or avatar (an image that represents you well) that you would use in a public context. You may have to find one and edit in an image editor, so you just try to have this step completed by the end of Week 2. If you need help editing an image, send a copy to your instructor for help. See Creating Avatars and Images for Your Profile for more information.
  7. Next, scroll to the Theme configuration.

  8. The default selection will be checked. You can select any theme you like and all pages will show up with that theme. The default theme has been specially designed and will probably offer the most consistent display of all site content. The instructor uses that theme as the default and so designs pages with it in mind.
  9. Scroll to Contact settings.
  10. Check the Personal contact form box.
  11. When you have made your changes, click on the Submit button at the bottom of the page.

The following steps ask you to complete information for your profile. This will enable the instructor and fellow students to learn a little more about you and help the instructor tailor this class to your background and goals, as well as arrange collaborative projects.

  1. Click on the edit tab again, then on the Personal Information link at the top of the next page.
  2. Enter the required information in the boxes. If you don't have a home page, leave that box blank.
  3. Click on Submit to save.

That's it! You have completed all the steps of the Getting Started process. If you ever need to change any of the information, you can always edit these pages again.

If you have any trouble along the way, please be sure to let your instructor know.

Creating Avatars and Images for Your Profile

Some of you may be in search of an avatar or image to use in the profile that you created for yourself when you registered. If so, here are some suggestions:

An avatar is just an image that "stands-in" for your picture and can be an object, artwork, a photo, or something else that might convey some aspect of your identity, personality, or interests. So, for example, someone interested in biking might use an image of a bike as an avatar rather than a personal picture. The image works best if it's in jpg, gif, or png format, and the dimensions should be (about) 85x85 so that it displays correctly (and doesn't get squished when displayed, for example).

To find an existing avatar to use for free, you could look at a site like these. If you have a Yahoo! ID (free to get, if not), you can get some nice ones:

or try

You could also take an existing image of yourself and then create a picture by cropping out the part you don't want. If you haven't used an image editing program before, that can be a bit tricky. But if you have, just use the crop tool to draw a box around the part of the image you want to use, crop it, and then resize it so that it's about 85x85 pixels.

If you have a larger photo and would like help to make it into an avatar, send it to your instructor as an email attachment. Your instructor can help you from there.

Learning to Navigate the Site

For the first day of class, you'll want to explore some of the features of the site. This document gives an overview of a few features you might want to take a look at that will help you to navigate the site.


In the header visible at the top of every page, you'll find one row of links:

Primary links menu

  • The first five take you to important sections of the course guide.
  • The others take you to useful resource sites at Purdue.

Once you've logged in to the site, directly beneath the header on the left, you'll find the main navigation block, accessible from every page:

The navigation block is your gateway to many areas of the site useful for creating and viewing content and managing your work. For example,

  • My workspace
    Lists all the blog posts, files, and other content that you have posted to the site.
  • My inbox
    All Private Messages sent to you by your instructor or other students from within the course site are listed here.
  • Create content
    From here you can post to your individual weblog or the front page (see How to Post to Your Individual Weblog).
  • Blogs
    Lists all the blogs on the site and includes a direct link to your blog in its submenu.
  • Members
    Need to find out a classmate's email address? Use the members list. You can also click on any username to access the personal account page. Only registered users have access to the private portion of account pages.
  • Recent posts
    This display allows you to access all of the recent content posted by everyone. Note how it provides red asterisks to denote pages you have yet to read and notices of new unread comments.
  • My account
    Links to your profile information, site settings, and more. Adjust your account profile here.
  • log out
    Use this to log out of the website, which is recommended after each session.

Book Navigation

All course materials on the site are integrated into the course guide:

The course guide is a hypertext with many levels of pages.

  • You can use the book navigation links that show previous and next pages below the main text or use the breadcrumb navigation at the top.
  • Use the printer-friendly version link beneath any page to get a text-only version of that page and all of its subpages collated into one. For example, if you go to the top page of the guide and click on printer-friendly version, you will see the entire course guide, including the calendar, on one screen (a very long one).

How to Post Comments and Replies

Posting comments, as you will soon see, is easier than creating and sending an email.

  1. You must be logged in to the site in order to post comments.
  2. While you can click on the add new comment link on any post from the course home page, instead, first click on the title to access the full post and all comments. Always make sure you view the full post first. There may already be a comment conversation thread begun about what you are interested in discussing. Rather than starting a new thread, join in the existing one.
  3. Choose add new comment to reply directly to the main blog post and start a new thread or reply to respond to an individual comment.

    If you don't see an add new comment link, you are most likely not logged in.

  4. Enter a title for your post in the Subject field. Your title should describe the content of your post. If you do not enter a title, the system will automatically use the first few words of your comment post.
  5. Enter the text of your comment in the Comment field. You may use plain text or some HTML. Some people may have the "enable rich text" link visible. If you use that feature, Drupal will give you a set of buttons much like a word processor's to help you input your message. Be careful to review your input, however, since this feature will do some strange things with your text on occasion.
  6. Click on "input format" to learn about your formatting options. Drupal will use a filter to convert line breaks and URLs when you select "Filtered HTML." If you want to format your posts nicely, include images, or insert more sophisticated HTML, then choose "Full HTML." Generally speaking, leave the Input format on Filtered HTML unless you have used HTML tags other than those allowed.
  7. Select Preview comment at the bottom of the page.
  8. Always review what you have written in preview mode. You will not be able to edit your comment once you have posted it.
  9. If you are ready to submit your comment, select Post comment at the bottom of the page. Don't forget this step! The most common way people lose posts is by forgetting to submit after previewing their comments or blog entries. If you have made changes to a post, preview it again.
  10. Verify that your comment has been posted. It should be visible on the page. If something went wrong, try using your back button to get to the input screen. Review and resubmit if it's still there.

Note: You can use the Comment viewing options to change the way that comments are displayed on the page. Experiment with this feature and see which configuration works best for you.

How to Post to Your Individual Weblog

Posting to your individual weblog is a little more complex than posting a comment, but after a couple of times, you'll find it as easy as email.

  1. You must be logged in to post to your weblog.
  2. From any page on the site, choose the create content link in the main navigation block on the left hand side. That will bring you to the create content page. [You can also click on the blogs link and then the "my blog" sublink.

  3. The first time you visit the create content page, read the descriptions under personal blog entry and story.
  4. To post to your individual weblog, choose blog entry. This will bring you to the Submit blog entry page.

  5. [Tip: Users of The Thomson Handbook should review the Project Checklist on "Networking in Online Forums" (p. 627) to refresh your memory on posting successful weblog messages. (All of Chapter 28 would be a good review at this stage.)]
  6. Enter a good Title for your post.
  7. Choose a Category tag for your post. You can use a standard one (like "Reading Response" or create one suggested in the prompt or that suits your content. You may use multiple tags.
  8. Enter the text of your post in the Body field. You may use plain text or some combination of HTML in creating this post.
  9. Leave the Input format on Filtered HTML unless you have used HTML tags other than those allowed.
  10. Under URL path settings, you can give your post a short and unique URL alias. For example, you might want to use "team3projectlog" to identify your team's project log. If you use that URL, the full path would be something like
  11. Optional: If you need to attach a file,
    • Click on the File attachments link.
    • Use the Browse button to locate the file on your hard drive.
    • One you have located the file, click the Attach button.
    • A bar will show the progress of the upload . You should then see your attachment listed.
  12. Choose Preview.
  13. Review your post. If you make any changes, preview it again.
  14. When ready, select Save to post.


  • The system will not offer you a Save button if you do not give your post a title.
  • If enabled by your instructor, choose story on the create content page to post to the course home page. The rest of the procedure is the same as for creating a personal blog entry.

Creating Hyperlinks

For this class, you'll have to learn at least one HTML tag, the one for making hyperlinks.

It's easy to learn. Check it out:

  1. Make sure that your rich-text editor is enabled. Click on enable rich-text below the Body box.
  2. Highlight the text you want to turn into a link.
  3. In the buttons below the Body box, click on the chain link button.
  4. This box should appear.
  5. In the Link URL box, cut and paste your full URL there. Then click on Insert.

Your link will now show up in your text.

Here is how you make links in traditional HTML coding. it's still easy, but it doesn't show up with our rich-text settings and input format.

<a href=""></a>

is the tag itself without any information in it. Within the quotes, you'll put the url, or web address, for the site which you want to link to. In between the ><, you'll put the text you want displayed on the screen.

For example, the url for slashdot is And if you want to make the word Slashdot a link in a sentence to the website in a blog post, type in,

<a href="">Slashdot</a> is a well known community blog site.

To get

Slashdot is a well known community blog site.

HTML is picky and it's easy to make a careless mistake. Don't include any extra spaces in the HTML tag. Make sure that you include "http://" as a part of your web address. In fact, one of the easiest ways to make sure that you get the URL correct is to copy and paste it from the address bar of a browser window currently displaying the page.

See? Not too difficult. But there's one more thing . . . .

Avoid merely posting the URL as a link:

Notice how this doesn't convey much information. Better to have put the page title (often found either on the page or in the window bar at the top) or link to part of your text (think of the examples in this site). At the same time, really long URL's won't word wrap at the end of a line. They may cause problems with the way that text is displayed on web pages.

Creating PDF Files

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format created by Adobe Acrobat and useful for sharing printer ready versions of documents. Unlike when files are shared between different productivity applications (i.e., word processing, spreadsheet) or different versions of the same productivity software, the same layout and typographic styles are maintained regardless of the computer environment. What the author sees when creating a PDF is exactly what the receiver of the file sees and can print out on their computer. Consequently, PDFs are particularly useful for sending resumes, cover letters, and other business documents where layout and presentation is critica. Writers want all of the effort they put into formatting professional-looking documents to be maintained.

PDFs are typically viewed using Adobe Reader (which is free to download). However, Adobe Reader will not produce PDFs. As you will soon be submitting drafts of cover letters, resumes, and other documents in PDF format, make sure that you can successfully generate a PDF using one of the following means:

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional, Standard, or Elements are three versions of Adobe's productivity program for producing PDF files. These programs are not free and do not generally come installed when purchasing a computer. However, some public computer labs (i.e., most of Purdue University's main campus labs) may have Acrobat Professional installed. When Acrobat Professional is available, from your word processor or browser (or any screen that can be printed), select File -> Print. On a PC, you will be able to select, under Printer Name, "Adobe PDF" instead of sending your file to a printer. (See the figure below.) On a Mac, you will see a button "Save as PDF" on the print dialog box. In both cases, you will be asked where you want the created PDF to be stored.

  • Adobe offers a free PDF trial service online. However, you may need to produce PDF's more than allowed by the free trial.
  • CutePDF is a free application which you can download and install on your home computer.
  • Google Docs: You can use these free applications (word processor, spreadsheet, and more) for collaboration and, conveniently, to export a document file to PDF format. (Upload your Word document, for example, then export it as PDF later.)
  • OpenOffice is a free, full-featured, open source office productivity suite comparable to Microsoft Office that has PDF generation built in. From within OpenOffice, choose File->Export as pdf

Eliciting Good Response

Imagine the following scenario:

You have a great idea for a project for your department at work. Because it will require significant resources and funding, the senior manager in your department has asked you to prepare a ten-page proposal.

After working on the proposal for a while, the senior manager sends you an email requesting to see your draft in progress. The proposal is far from complete, but you fire off a reply saying "Here is my working draft," and attach it. The next day, you receive another email from the senior manager full of feedback which you are obligated to take. However, the feedback asks you to revise your proposal in new directions, quite contrary to what you had planned, effectively taking over the direction of the proposal. You now have to discard many good ideas you had for development. Those sections where you knew you needed the most help--they were not addressed at all.

This happens all the time in getting response to our writing. We get proofreading corrections when we need ideas; we get heavy revision suggestions when the draft needs to be proofread to meet a deadline.

To elicit useful and focused responses from readers (during peer review, for example), we must solicit good response. In the above scenario, if the writer had explained to the senior manager where she needed help in the draft and what her plans were for further development, it's quite possible that the feedback would have been more focused and helpful. So when asking for feedback on a document, explain to the responder

  • your concerns about the current state of the draft (i.e., where, specifically, you need help)
  • where you are in the process of drafting (i.e., ready to polish to meet a deadline, planning to do more revision)
  • your target audience
  • any plans you might have for further development of the text

Once you've defined your needs, your reviewer is more likely to shape their feedback effectively for you. As a reviewer, it's much easier to address the writer's concerns than to try to guess what might or might not be useful to the writer.

Five Steps of Storyboarding

  1. Find or create a storyboard template that you can use to draft your outline, like the storyboard template available from the Professional Writing website (PDF format).
  2. Each frame of your storyboard should represent a unique page, a step in a sequence, or some other individual component of your work (such as a PowerPoint or Keynote slide, a keyframe in Flash, or a Web page).
  3. In each frame, identify your content. Use shorthand to describe the content (including images and audio) that you want to include and approximately where it should be placed, as in the example below.
  4. Add notes to each frame in your storyboard on design, source files, material, and anything else that will help you remember what each frame should contain and how it should be presented.
  5. When you have completed a rough draft of your storyboard, read back through it to see whether it has an order that makes sense and includes the multimedia you want to use. Move frames around as necessary.

Principles for Comments and Replies

Posting projects, drafts, reading responses, comments, and replies will be a primary means of class interaction and discussion. The course description explains the purpose of this coursework

When commenting and replying to blog and other posts on the course website, follow all directions and guidelines listed in the course description or calendar. It will also be helpful to

  • Review How to Post Comments and Replies .
  • Read through all comments and replies in the thread
  • Strive to be thoughtful and analytical in your comments.
  • Try to find something new to say instead of repeating what has already been said in the original post or in other comments already posted.
  • When relevant, feel free to share the personal experiences that shape your views on the topic.

You should also

  • Provide links to additional resources on the Web that would better inform the discussion. You should always link to any other texts on the Web you mention, even those on the course website.
  • Contend with and/or support the original blog post. If you are criticizing what the blogger has said, remember to do so respectfully, which encourages further dialogue. "This sucks" would not be an appropriate response. Neither would "That's great!" if you don't explain what you mean.
  • Direct attention to related and relevant issues. You may find that none of the posts on the class website about a particular set of readings confront what you feel is an important issue on the assigned texts. As long as it is related to the general topic of the readings or the topic of this class, feel free to post a comment which turns the conversation in a new direction (use the subject line to clearly specify this new direction).
  • Occasionally comment on blog posts not on our front page, which keeps dialogue with your peers lively and interesting.
  • Use emoticons and acronyms to convey additional information (such as tone and intonation).

For those of you wishing to do more than the minimum requirements of the course, you might visit the class website additional times per week and post new comments and/or replies to any of the blog posts.

Principles for Posting to Your Weblog

You'll do a lot of the writing for this class in your individual weblog space on the course website. You can access your weblog via your my account page.

One way to think of a weblog or blog is as a journal. However, unlike a journal that you might keep at home (as well as most if not all of the writing you have done in school before), your blog space is public. Your fellow class members will be invited to read your blog. Classmates will respond to your posts with comments and replies. Group members will review notes you take when doing research. And, of course, since it's on the Internet, other Web readers may encounter your writing and take a look at what you have to say.

There are many uses for weblogs, but you'll only use them for a few things here. During this class, you may be asked to use your course weblog to

  • share drafts of your work-in-progress for peer review
  • keep a project log
  • post research notes 

In addition to the individual weblog space that everyone has, the home page of the course website is a community blog space where new content may be posted. While most of your blog writing will be posted to your individual weblog, the home page may be used as a place to promote discussion among all class members. For example,

  • When there is a reading response assignment, your instructors may promote someone's post to the front page for community discussion.
  • Groups may be asked to lead discussion by posting their reading responses or blog posts to the course home page instead of to their individual weblogs.
  • Groups may be asked to share proposals and progress reports with the entire class.

Good Blogging Practices

  • Titles for blog posts should reflect the context of what you have written, not merely restate the name of the title of the assignment or reading. Interesting and informative titles draw more interesting responses from others.
  • Blogs should demonstrate the principles of writing for the Web as they are covered in this course.
  • Bloggers link. Use hyperlinks when referring to another post on the public Internet and follow good attribution practices. Hyperlinks mean converting text to a link, not merely cutting and pasting in an URL. To do so, you'll have to know a little HTML for creating hyperlinks.
  • People visiting the course website from the Internet won't know what you mean if you just mention "the reading assignment for today." At minimum, you should mention the name of the text and the title of the chapter or section you are referencing.
  • Good bloggers always keep in mind that they are writing for a public audience.

To Learn More

  • To receive credit for your work, be sure to follow the course requirements for reading responses, replies, comments, and other coursework.
  • Optional: Read Meg Hourihan's What We're Doing When We Blog for a brief description of weblogs. For further reading on weblogs, take a look at The Weblog Webliography on Kairosnews.

Principles of Reading Responses

Your instructor may require you to respond to course readings with blog posts. Each reading response should be specifically focused on the reading and the prompt provided on the calendar, clearly indicate that you have read and thought seriously about the reading, and be sufficiently developed. Your instructor may set a word-limit minimum for these responses. Post your reading response as a blog entry and tag it "Reading Response" or use the tag provided in the prompt itself.

You and possibly your group members may be assigned to post your reading response to the course home page by submitting a story. The posts on the course home page will then be the focus of full class discussion. Selected reading responses will also be promoted to the front page for more lively community discussion.

In composing your reading response you should:

  • Be sure to focus your response on the subject of the prompt.
  • Link your response to recent class discussions online, your current project work, something you might have read elsewhere, and/or previous professional, academic, or personal experience writing and communicating in other contexts.
  • Discuss how the reading contributes to your understanding of the current project, expands your understanding of recent discussions, or suggests ideas for your work in the class.
  • Be sure to properly cite the original reading and any other sources you might mention. Good citation practice is critical in all writing and especially so on the Web.
  • You can apply the rhetorical considerations discussed in Principles for Posting to Your Weblog to your reading responses.
  • When it is your group's turn to post reading responses to the course home page, consider that the goal of these blog posts is to share new information and stimulate discussion. If your group is reponsible for posting about an assignment, check to see if anyone has already posted a response on the reading. If so, read through it. Shape your blog post to take the conversation in different directions.

Project Log Guidelines

During course projects, you may be required to keep a weekly project log and post it to your weblog on the course site.


Because you will have a weekly record at the end of the project, your project log will help you to complete the Peer Collaboration Evaluation Form or other form of self evaluation due at the end of each project. Project logs also provide evidence of each group member's contribution to the project. And detailed project logs lend more credibility to your evaluation of others in your Peer Collaboration Evaluation Form.

After college, you may find keeping a project log useful in your professional career:

  • In the busy life of a professional, it can often be difficult to remember all aspects of a project when compiling monthly or quarterly progress reports.
  • Consultants can use project logs to provide supporting evidence of work done on a project in preparing invoices or in case a client questions billable hours.
  • Once a project is completed, a project log can be useful as a record for planning similar, future projects that will be completed by others.


A good project log will usually include a progress report each week. Post a short report to your weblog covering all of the following:

  • Use informative titles (e.g., Project Log for Week 5: Project 2 Takes Shape)
  • Tag your post with "Project Log"
  • Report on the status of the project: Is it in early drafting? Is it production ready? Is your group conducting research? Etc.
  • Record your contributions to the project that week.
  • Record the contributions of others in your group.
  • Record the time and date of group meetings and communication and describe briefly what was accomplished. Did the group have a large email discussion? Did you IM with another group member? Etc.
  • Report on any scheduled plans for completing specific tasks in the project. What group members have taken on which specific tasks? What are the prospective deadlines?
  • Plan out ideas for completing the project, including ways to collaborate and communicate more effectively with your group.
  • Reflect on any lessons you have learned about collaboration and electronic communication.

Remember. Your project logs are public and can be read by other group members. Be diplomatic. Do not write about what other group members failed to do or negatively evaluate their participation. Simply record what others have agreed to do and the tasks which they have completed. You will have ample opportunity to assess the work of others at the end of the project.

You can of course post more than once a week.