December 16, 2020
I took away several new skills from my Collaborative Writing class at Indiana University. This course focused primarily on writing memos, reports/reviews, and informational materials which could be found in most workplaces.
The first skill I improved taking this class was my writing coherence. I have taken several writing classes which have heavily emphasized word count and expanding text into long paragraphs and which primarily targeted academic writing. This intensive writing course was extremely different and forced me to alter my writing style to be more concise and explanatory than any academic class I have previously taken. I modified my writing to use as little unnecessary jargon as possible and altered my revision process to ensure my thought processes are solid. This new coherence was developed through the writing process of professional documents (memos, reports/reviews, informational booklets) since these documents demand careful thought and consideration to be useful and efficient for the recipients. The review process for these documents was also a little different than in academic writing because the question is not “How do I cram more information into this document” but rather “How can I reword/rewrite this to be easier to understand and more useful for the reader”.
The second skill I improved on during this course was to write concretely. A major component of previous classes I took was to research a topic and then write a report answering some philosophical question or to respond to the author’s intentions. The objective is not to write a document that is straightforward and readable but requires some context and prior knowledge. Business writing shares none of these characteristics. A good professional writing is simple, self-explanatory, and targets several audiences, not solely a professor with a doctorate in their field of study. Admittedly, my first memo of the class left plenty to be desired to improve my writing from abstract to concrete, but by the second memo I had begun to improve on my empty references. Now at the completion of the class I think I have improved immensely.
The third skill I improved upon was basic communication which is not trivial during a pandemic. This class was focused on collaboration as much as writing and stands out from any writing course I have taken so far. Collaboration was the key to success in this class because many of our assignments required research and several written sections which any individual would have been hard-pressed to complete by the deadlines. Our groups had time in class to work on different projects and assignments and we were expected to schedule meetings throughout the semester to accomplish additional work. Keeping the group on the same page required consistent communication and weekly meetings so that we could remain on our schedule.
The fourth skill I developed in this project was to work with my group and balance the workload evenly. I have had a great experience working with my team this semester but that is not in line with previous groups I have been assigned to. I have always thought that group projects were assigned disproportionately to each member of the group and this has caused my plenty of stress in previous semesters. Through the creation of a group contract, weekly meetings, and a team member dropped out of the class, I learned how to navigate problems in a group setting and how they should be addressed.
I took WRIT-W 241 “Collaborative Digital Writing” in the Fall of 2020 in a synchronous virtual class setting. The focus of the class was learning to create professional writing samples which could regularly be found in the workplace. The advantages of this class over other professional writing classes is that this class doesn’t require book reports or 10 page drafts, but is based on realistic projects. Over the semester, we wrote several memos, after-action reviews, short reports, and booklets as both individuals and a part of our groups. These documents gave us the chance to develop strong writing skills which would make us more effective professional writers rather than improve our academic writing skills.
I think I improved greatly on the middle three of these learning objectives. In this class we worked as groups for the majority of our semester on projects but we also individually researched and prepared memos on collaborative technologies and strategies for implementation in our groups. This research exposed us to a couple new technologies for collaborative work and helped reveal the benefits of each for a scenario. Each of the documents we wrote included one of more revision periods where we were expected to edit for clarity, conciseness, and word choice. These greatly improved my ability to plan, draft, revise, and deliver strong written documents. During these revisions we also targeted how our audiences would view our work, whether our primary audience be our boss, coworkers, subordinates and we ensured that while our writing targeted these groups, secondary audiences and tertiary audiences would still be able to understand and implement our ideas.
Collaborative Digital Writing, the intensive writing course I took at Indiana University was focused on both creating professional writing samples as well as developing strong collaborative skills that translate directly to the modern workplace. The class study material consisted of professional development books designed to explain written and collaborative practices to be aware of and which to avoid.
One of the two focuses of the early classes in this course was to examine the types of acceptable professional documents and how they differ from academic counterparts. We reviewed several examples of documents ranging from memos to booklets and evaluated their effectiveness based on how well the hierarchy of information was conveyed to the reader, how consistent the document style was, and how actionable the information in the documents were. Ultimately the best documents were those which were prepared most carefully to account for these different criteria. The biggest takeaway from these early examinations was that an effective and concise document requires far more time to craft than to consume.
The second relevant focus of these first few weeks of class was the focus on developing a healthy and strong team framework. Some of these classes focused on the stages of forming a team, picking roles which complemented both skills and motivations, and how teams bond so that work can go smoothly. Other classes focused on the attributes of highly successful and performant teams. Google’s Project Aristotle research was an important aspect of studying these aspects of building a team.
By Week 3 in the course we had been given our semester long teams and we had met to begin the stages of forming a team. The task for Week 4 in the class was simple, write a memo to your fellow team members recommending a collaborative technology which could contribute to your projects in this course. The project that we were working on was a two minute elevator pitch presentation outlining a new collegiate engagement strategy for Indianapolis-based TechPoint.
Following this section is a copy of three memos, the first was the original memo I wrote in Week 4 of my Digital Collaborative Writing course. The second is the same memo but revised after completing the course to improve its actionability, and the third document is an annotated copy which reveals some comments about the changes I made. The documents can be reviewed in this window or in a new one by clicking the link below each document.
In this section I have shared the two handbook style documents my team and I created during this class. The first is a Team Handbook that we designed to showcase to Indiana University students some of the best practices in a newly formed team. The ideas are a combination of research and experience in a Zoom-based educational environment. The second document is the full proposal for collegiate engagement that we designed for TechPoint, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization. The proposal is to create a podcast which takes advantage of TechPoint’s unique position as a middleman between corporate leaders in Indiana and students. I have included links which will open the documents in a new windows for viewing as well as the slide deck used for the final proposal in the class.
I worked with Lauren Bishop, Pragyan Dey, Danielle Kameristy, and Julia Yelnick on these projects.