TWC 445/545: Content Management and Topic-Based Web Authoring

TWC 445/545
Content Management & Topic-Based Web Authoring: Fall 2015

This course is offered by the College of Letters and Sciences. For more information about the school, visit our website: If you have questions or concerns about the course, please talk with me or send an inquiry to

Instructor Contact Information

Dawn Opel, JD, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, IHR Nexus Lab for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics

Faculty Associate, Technical Communication


Online Office Hours: Wednesdays 9-11 a.m. via google chat, or send an email for an appointment

Twitter: @DawnOpel

Course Description & Learning Outcomes

This course explores concepts, techniques, strategies and technologies for authoring, managing, and publishing re-usable content as appropriate for an overarching, effective content strategy for an organization. The course will examine best practices for developing and maintaining content, including assessment of current content of an organization, and make recommendations for improvement of content structures, processes, and workflows. We will create and maintain content through use of a content management system (CMS) and explore a topic-based writing approach through structured authoring with Extensible Markup Language (XML).

By the conclusion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify the principles and practices associated with content strategy, including (but not limited to) content management and information architecture
  • Analyze and assess user and/or organizational communication needs
  • Identify when, why, and how an organization may (or may not) need a content management system (CMS) to effectively create and maintain content
  • Identify and define content types and audiences for each content type
  • Understand the purpose of structured authoring environments and how they contribute to a technical communication workflow
  • Use structured authoring approaches to create usable and rhetorically effective documentation
  • Research and develop an effective content strategy for an organization
  • Present research findings and work with representatives from an organization

Required Texts

Boiko, B. Content Management Bible. 2nd edition. Indianapolis: Wiley.

Halvorson, K. and M. Rach. Content Strategy for the Web. 2nd edition. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Pringle, A. and S. O’Keefe. Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Content. 3rd edition. Research Triangle Park, NC: Scriptorium.


You will need the following technology in order to complete the work for this course:

  • A reliable computer and stable internet access (particularly to access our course Blackboard and WordPress sites)
  • A text editor to create and edit XML files (there should be one installed on your computer, but if not, many free ones to download)
  • Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint or comparable software for word processing, spreadsheets, and slidedecks

Please be sure to back up all of your work in case of a technology failure. If you have any technology-related difficulties, please contact the ASU Help Desk at 480.965.6500. Remember: keep copies of all your assignments; back up all of your work!

Helpful Resources at ASU

  • Writing Centers ( offer assistance to ASU students who are completing writing assignments for their courses. The centers offer assistance for any type of writing project and for any stage of the writing process. While tutors won’t do your writing for you, they will work with you to improve your skills. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service, to use it frequently, and to schedule your appointment early. The Polytechnic Writing Center is in CNTR 92 (Academic Center Building): 480.727.2708.
  • Online Writing Tutors ( are available by appointment for all ASU students, with “virtual” walk-ins accepted if there is an opening in the schedule.
  • ASU Libraries ( offer 24/7 access to librarians through “Ask a Librarian” online chat and help by librarians in person at the Reference Desk during most hours the libraries are open.
  • Student Success Center ( provides students with services and programs for academic success. The Polytechnic Student Success Center is on the lower level of the Academic Center Building, 480.727.1452.

Course Policies

Course Time Commitment. This three-credit course requires approximately 135 hours of work. Please expect to spend around 18 hours each week preparing for and actively participating in the course.

Communication. The best way to communicate with me is via email; you can email me any time with questions about the class. I will make every effort to respond the same day to messages sent during the week; expect a longer response time on weekends. Likewise, I expect you to read and act upon course-related email in a timely fashion. All course-related email will be sent to your ASU email account. Students bear the responsibility of missed messages; please check your ASU-assigned email regularly.

Participation is expected and essential (i.e. mandatory). Our in-class time will include discussion, exercises, workshops, and critique sessions, in addition to brief lectures. In order to be a successful participant in the course, you need to complete the reading as assigned and be in class, on time, prepared to work. As importantly, you need to be a generous and thoughtful contributor to discussions, workshops, and critique sessions. Habitual tardiness and/or absence will affect your grade, as will attendance without active participation.

Deadlines are extremely important in the professional world. Accordingly, in order for you to receive credit for your work in this course, the work must be submitted on time. Late work will be accepted only if you have made an arrangement with me before the deadline or in the event of an illness or emergency. Please follow the appropriate University policies to request an accommodation for religious practices or to accommodate a missed assignment due to University-sanctioned activities. In the event of a Blackboard or system outage that prevents you from submitting work, deadlines will of course be extended.

Academic Integrity. ASU expects and requires its students to act with honesty, integrity, and respect. Required behavior standards are listed in the Student Code of Conduct and Student Disciplinary Procedures, Computer, Internet, and Electronic Communications policy, ASU Student Academic Integrity Policy, and outlined by the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. Anyone in violation of these policies is subject to sanctions. Academic integrity also includes taking responsibility for your own learning. It is your job to read and understand this syllabus, to obtain course materials in time to meet deadlines, to keep track of assignments and due dates, to cite sources properly, and to communicate with me when you have questions.

Student Conduct. Please maintain a cordial atmosphere and use tact in expressing differences of opinion. All students are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other members of the class. An instructor may withdraw a student from the course when the student’s behavior disrupts the educational process per Instructor Withdrawal of a Student for Disruptive Classroom Behavior.

Prohibition of Commercial Note Taking Services. In accordance with ACD 304-06 Commercial Note Taking Services, written permission must be secured from the official instructor of the class in order to sell the instructor’s oral communication in the form of notes. Notes must have the notetaker’s name as well as the instructor’s name, the course number, and the date.

Disability Accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. One element of this legislation requires that all qualified students with documented disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. Students who feel they may need a disability accommodation(s) in class must provide documentation from the Disability Resource Center to the class instructor verifying the need for an accommodation and the type of accommodation that is appropriate. Students who desire accommodations for a disability should contact DRC as early as possible to ensure appropriate accommodations can be provided. It is the student’s responsibility to make the first contact with the DRC.


Title IX is a federal law that provides that no person be excluded on the basis of sex from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity. Both Title IX and university policy make clear that sexual violence and harassment based on sex is prohibited. An individual who believes they have been subjected to sexual violence or harassed on the basis of sex can seek support, including counseling and academic support, from the university. If you or someone you know has been harassed on the basis of sex or sexually assaulted, you can find information and resources at

Evaluative Criteria

Students who are majoring in technical communication should save all of their work (including drafts) from this course, as they may need it for their capstone portfolio.


Graduate students enrolled in the course are required to complete additional assignments and will be evaluated as indicated in the table below.


Assignment Description Undergrad Students Grad Students
Discussion Posts Discussion posts will serve as class participation. Your postings should indicate that you have done the reading and thought about the questions and material; postings should be well-thought-out and well-written. Responding to the prompt on the Sunday of each week is the absolute minimum level of participation (6 pts); building conversation and community by responding to others’ postings will earn you a higher grade. 10 points each, for a total of 100 pts 10 points each, for a total of 100 pts
Discussion Boosters Graduate students will be expected (along with Dawn) to maintain and/or build momentum in conversations in discussion threads each week, bringing in additional resources (websites, tutorials, etc.) and responding to others’ posts. N/A 10 points each, for a total of 100 points
Assignment 1: Quantitative Inventory An Excel spreadsheet of all existing content of an organization with an online presence. 100 pts 100 pts
Assignment 2: Qualitative audit: best practices assessment Compare the content of the same organization against industry best practices, and identify holes in current content. Make recommendations appropriate for organization’s leadership team. 100 pts 100 pts
Assignment 3: Comparing CMSs Compare and contrast two similar content management tools. 100 pts 100 pts
Assignment 4: Content Type Analysis Design and produce an analysis that develops a set of content types for an organization’s content. 100 pts 100 pts
Assignment 5: XML Complete an XML tutorial. 100 pts 100 pts
Final Project Design and develop content using adaptive and reusable topic-based authoring principles. 200 pts 200 pts
Research Project Research and analyze the content workflow of a “client” organization, identifying the units involved in the content lifecycle. Make recommendations based on readings from course in memo and presentation form. N/A 100 pts
TOTAL = 800 pts 1000 pts


The standards I use for evaluating your work are professional ones. An “A” (A-, A, A+) is reserved for excellent work; work with surface errors, regardless of the quality of the content, cannot earn an “A.”








Excellent work that exceeds the assignment objectives and requirements.






Good work that meets the assignment objectives and requirements, but requires minor improvements or demonstrates easily correctable problems.




Adequate work, but the design may require significant improvement.
D 60-69% Disappointing work that meets some of the assignment objectives and requirements but not all.
E 0-59% Unacceptable work that fails to meet the requirements of the assignment. This grade will also be assigned for any evidence of academic dishonesty.

Tentative Course Schedule


Note: CS = Content Strategy for the Web; CM= Content Management Bible; TW= Technical Writing 101


Topic Learning Objectives Assignments Due
Unit 1

Thurs. Aug. 20 –

Wed. Aug. 26

§  Identify the key terms and elements of content and content strategy.

§  Recognize how content strategy varies from other disciplines.

§  Identify stakeholders in an organization’s content strategy.182.W

§  Research and create an audit of existing content of an organization.

Reading: CS xi-93; CM Chapter 1


Assignments: Discussion Posts 1 & 2 posted by Sunday 11:59 p.m.; Identify business with online presence for Assignment 1; Conduct Assignment 1.


Unit 2

Thurs. Aug. 27 –

Wed. Sept. 2

§  Use industry best practices for content strategy to assess the communications of an organization.

§  Present assessment and persuade stakeholders to an organization to adopt revised content strategy.

Reading: CS 94-182.


Assignments: Assignment 1 Due by 8/27.

Discussion Post 3 by Sunday 11:59 p.m.;

Conduct Assignment 2.

Unit 3

Thurs. Sept. 3 –

Wed. Sept. 9


§  Identify the defining principles of a CMS.

§  Distinguish between various CMSs.

§  Discern whether or not an organization needs a CMS (or not)!

Reading: CM Chapters 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, & 19.

Assignments: Assignment 2 Due 9/3.

Discussion Posts 4 &5 by Sunday 11:59 p.m.;

Conduct Assignment 3.


Unit 4

Thurs. Sept. 10 –

Wed. Sept. 16

§  Identify and analyze different content types.

§  Describe and use the concept of metadata.

§  Discern different audiences for different types of content, and understand how to best serve an audience by creating and maintaining appropriate content.

Reading: CM Chapters 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31

Assignments: Assignment 3 due 9/10.

Discussion Posts 6&7 by Sunday 11:59 p.m.;

Conduct Assignment 4.


Unit 5

Thurs. Sept. 17 –

Wed. Sept. 23

§  Analyze how and why structured authoring is important to content management.

§  Use templates and structured authoring approaches to create content.

§  Experiment with XML and structured authoring in XML.

Reading: TW Chapters 2, 13; CM Chapters 35 and 36

Assignments: Assignment 4 due 9/17.

Discussion Post 8 posted by Sunday 11:59 p.m.

Conduct Assignment 5.

Unit 6

Thurs. Sept. 24 –

Wed. Sept. 30

§  Identify the affordances of topic-based writing.

§  Demonstrate proficiency with the CMS WordPress and integrate structured authoring in XML.

Reading: TW Chapter 6; Resources for XML and DITA listed on TW p. 297; CM pp. 943-953;

Various WordPress Tutorials

Assignments: Assignment 5 due 9/24.

Post Discussion Post 9 by Sunday 11:59 p.m.

Begin Final Project.


Unit 7

Thurs. Oct. 1 –

Fri. Oct. 9

§  Understand the context of Web 2.0 on web users and content strategy.

§  Synthesize the concepts of structured authoring, adaptive and reusable content, content management, and information architecture into overall understanding of content strategy.

Reading: TW Chapter 14; review any material needed for Final Project.

Grad students: CM Chapter 33 for Research Project.


Discussion Post 10 posted by Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

Grad students: Research Project Due 10/1.

Final Project Due 10/9.



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