Electronic Assignments

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Email Assignment

Constructing an Effective Email Message

Directions: One of the objectives of this course is to prepare you for the communicating you will do further along in your college careers and later in the workplace. And as this message itself demonstrates, email is a common method for sharing routine information. An example of a routine communication in college would be to inform one of your instructors that you will miss a class meeting. The purpose of this assignment is to have you practice that routine task.

Assignment: We are scheduled to have a special class on Saturday (September ____) at 6:30 in the morning, at Memorial Park in Boone, IA. If you cannot attend class at that time and location, please send me an email.

Note: If you don't want the entire class to read your email, do not press the "reply all" button.

–adapted from an assignment prepared by Dave Roberts, Tad Patterson, and Viviane Vasconcelos

Supplemental Teaching Strategies

  • Send this email assignment to the class’s listserve. Consider assigning this type of task twice—once in the beginning of the semester and then again at the end of the semester—to see what learning has occurred.
  • To encourage students to think of the rhetorical situation, have students send three emails on a similar subject to three different audiences (such as a friend, parent, and teacher).
  • Have students examine some examples of poor or unethical email in small groups. To promote impromptu speaking skills, select one student from each group to share the group’s reactions to the examples.
  • In small groups, have student develop guidelines for email to instructors and classmates. This small group interaction will encourage students to practice oral communication skills of critical listening and negotiation.

ePortfolio Assignment

Web-Based ePortfolio

This assignment will help synthesize your activities for the semester. You will design a basic website using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It will document select aspects of your experiences this semester. Its primary purpose will be to record your communication growth this semester, including the specific skill of documenting. You’ll select samples of your best work (not just in this course but in other courses or in non-academic activities). You’ll show early work and later improvements. You’ll provide detailed analyses to demonstrate your understanding of communication principles and terminology. You’ll also show your ability to assess your own work with objectivity and accuracy.

As part of your demonstration portfolio of your multimodal communication skills, you’ll select one aspect of your semester’s experience that is particularly meaningful to you and one that you would like to document for your future personal use. You’ll integrate this documentary work into the overall eportfolio. Since this assignment depends on your having collected artifacts throughout the semester, you’ll need to start planning for it quite early in the course. The diagnostic activities with which you began the course were designed to preserve multimodal artifacts that you can use as benchmarks in your eportfolio to mark your growth as a communicator. If you prepare this eportfolio carefully, it will serve as an excellent memento of your early college experiences and a foundation for continuing to develop your communication skills.

While individual eportfolios will vary considerably, all should contain these elements:

  • An introduction to comment on the purpose of the eportfolio, its organization, its intended audiences, tips on navigation, highlights, etc.
  • At least one sample of your best communication work in each of these five modes: written, oral, visual, electronic, multimodal
  • Samples of earlier drafts to illustrate your improvement
  • Rhetorical analysis for each sample: a discussion of the communication strategies used in each sample using rhetorical terminology from the Student Guide: English 150 and 250
  • A reflection for each sample: an explanation of your observations, emotional experience, and process in producing the sample and in revising it for the eportfolio
  • A self-assessment of yourself as a communicator with goals and concrete plans for ongoing improvement
  • An introduction to the special aspect of this semester that you documented


Your eportfolio will be evaluated on these main criteria:

  • Do you make clear why the portfolio exists, why viewers should be interested, and how the site can be used?
  • Do you explain the situation that produced the communication samples you include: purpose, audience, date, location, etc.?
  • Do you distinguish between analyses and reflections? Do you discuss your own work with specificity and demonstrate that you understand basic rhetorical terminology?
  • Is your information clearly chunked visually? Is your website easy to navigate? Are site subsections clear, reasonable, and accurately named?
  • Do you format types of information (analyses, reflections, best work, drafts) consistently? Is text edited for conciseness and well proofread?
  • Are headings informative and consistently formatted?
  • Do individual pages show evidence of grid layout, visual direction, apt figure-ground contrast, spatial chunking, and color coherence?
  • Is typography appropriate to the material, sized for easy readability, contrasted with the background? Are visuals of high quality, suitably cropped, captioned, documented, and integrated with text?
  • Are file sizes for images, video, and audio kept to a minimum? Is HTML/CSS coding accurate and standard?


  • The homepage for your eportfolio should be located in the WWW folder of your net-id account and should be named eportfolio.html so that it will link automatically to our class website.
  • Use a simple text editor like TextWrangler or Notepad to create your web documents. Use Photoshop’s “Save for Web” feature to control image size and quality in GIF and JPEG formats.
  • This assignment is intended as a public document, something you’ll share with classmates, family, and friends. It should not include any information that you are uncomfortable publishing for public viewing.
  • While many approaches to web design are possible and much fine software exists for web design and editing, for this assignment we’ll use basic HTML with a single external CSS style sheet to handle ALL of the formatting.
  • Make multiple copies of your website for backup.
  • Planning is critical for a website. Plan your information structure (folder names and folder relationships). Plan the design for typical pages, using the basic visual communication principles, especially grid, direction, chunking, and coordinated color. Keep the design simple and easy to understand.
  • Consider offering PDF or Word documents for download. Use representative excerpts from longer documents to illustrate specific communication skills.
  • Get friends to critique your website for basic issues of clarity and ease of use.

Assignment Dates

  • November 7–11: Work on learning the basics of HTML and CSS in order to mock up a design for your eportfolio.
  • November 18: Present an online mockup of your eportfolio design for group feedback.
  • December 9: Post the final version of your eportfolio online linked to the course website.
  • December 12: Present your eportfolio to others during the assigned “Final Exam” period and celebrate your semester’s accomplishments in communication.
Sample English 250 Assignment
Don Payne

ePortfolio Resources

Basic ePorfolio Mockup with CSS Codes
This mini-site was created in fall 2005 by Don Payne for use by his English 105H students.

  • http://donpayne.public.iastate.edu/105H/home/tabfour2.html
W3 Schools CSS Tutorial
Introductory lessons on using cascading style sheets (CSS) to control the layout and design of HTML pages. Includes numerous examples and online quizzes.

  • http://www.w3schools.com/css/
This code generator allows students to select a basic layout, specify width and other options, and then preview or download the resulting HTML and CSS files.

  • http://www.inknoise.com/experimental/layoutomatic.php
CSS Creator
Another online code generator; this one has additional functionality, including a live preview of color choices.

  • http://www.csscreator.com/version2/pagelayout.php
Intensivstation CSS Templates
Twelve standard CSS-based page layouts, including thumbnail previews.

  • http://www.intensivstation.ch/en/templates/
MaxDesign Sample CSS Layouts
Free templates for several varieties of CSS-based layouts, as well as a few tutorials to guide students through the process of creating layouts step by step.

  • http://maxdesign.com.au/presentation/page_layouts/
Open Source Web Design
A library of 1600 free website designs that students can use for inspiration or as templates. The site allows students to search for designs by layout, color scheme, and version of HTML.

  • http://www.oswd.org/
CSS Zen Garden
A collection of sites demonstrating what can be accomplished visually using CSS-based design. Although most of the examples here are copyrighted and not available for use by students, the site is visually inspiring and may appeal to students who have already mastered basic HTML and CSS.

  • http://csszengarden.com/
Fall 2005 ePortfolios from Honors English 105
Last semester Don Payne and Quinn Warnick taught paired sections of English 105. For their final assignment, students created eportfolios of their best WOVE-communication work, as well as short documentaries about their first semester at ISU. These two pages contain links to the 36 portfolios created by their students:

  • http://www.quinnwarnick.com/classes/105h7/eportfoliolinks

    • http://donpayne.public.iastate.edu/105H/home/tabsix4.html

Final portfolio parts with grading criteria

Part 1 Reflection

Include multiple artifacts to demonstrate the qualities below. (Put in first 2-pocket folder.)

  • Thorough
  • Thoughtful
  • Honest
  • Forward thinking, as well as backward assessing

Part 2: Process

Include multiple artifacts to demonstrate the qualities in the chart below. (Put in second 2-pocket folder.)

  • Quantity of artifacts shows engagement with process
  • Quality of work shows a “good faith” effort: e.g. risk-taking, “get-and-give” attitude, openness, concentrated effort, work that’s more than perfunctory (“I’m doing the minimum I can get away with and only because it’s an assignment”)
  • Meets deadlines: work done consistently on time.

Part 3: WOVE Products

(Put in third 2-pocket folder.)

3.1 Written compositions

Include at least 2 chosen from Comp 1-5 to demonstrate the qualities below.

  • Involves reader early
  • Gives clear sense of question, problem, or motivation behind the composition
  • Establishes a clear relationship between the writer and situation
  • Includes detailed examples to develop ideas
  • Focuses on suitably narrowed subject
  • Uses facts and other kinds of evidence responsibly
  • Gives precise definitions of key terminology
  • Has clear thesis/claim
  • Structured to present an overall coherent argument
  • Contains well-developed, unified, coherent paragraphs that avoid being rigidly formulaic
  • Uses transitions within and between paragraphs to clarify logic and purpose of ideas
  • Contains audience-oriented headings when appropriate
  • Uses verbal expression (voice and language) suited to the audience and situation, including precise, meaningful wording; a preference for active, rather than passive and other “to be” verbs; and only purposeful repetition
  • Adheres to appropriate usage, punctuation, and grammar conventions
  • Shows careful proofreading and documenting

3.2.1 Oral Communication: Small-group work and group discussions

Include multiple artifacts to supplement instructor observation and to demonstrate the qualities below.

  • Uses team thinking
  • Listens actively
  • Offers constructive comments, intelligent questions
  • Recognizes other team members’ ideas
  • Summarizes actions or issues at key decision points
  • Helps develop productive procedures
  • Uses motivating, non-threatening, directive, relationship-building language
  • Exhibits clear, interested voice, gestures, facial expression, eye contact with team members

3.2.2 Oral Communication: Presentations

Include multiple artifacts to supplement instructor observation (and possibly videotaping) and to demonstrate the qualities below.

  • Shows a clear purpose
  • Uses an appropriate level of formality
  • Considers audience needs
  • Includes substantive, worthwhile, audience-oriented content
  • Creates clear logic through use of introductions and conclusions, repetition, cueing, enumeration, etc.
  • Maintains audience attention through language choices suited to the oral situation
  • Shows attention to volume, gestures, eye contact, facial expression, posture, etc.

3.3 Visual Communication

Include 1 or more artifacts to demonstrate the qualities below.

  • Creates a holistic visual impression to fit the situation
  • Quickly communicates overall purpose
  • Provides rich supporting detail
  • Includes informative, relevant, reliable visuals
  • Uses decorative and/or informational images as appropriate
  • Has a meaningful title/heading
  • Shows cultural sensitivity
  • Creates clear visual patterns with purposeful variations
  • Guides viewer eye movements through adherence to accepted design principles
  • Uses visual chunking to match emphasis and function
  • Maintains a consistent visual theme
  • Achieves clear, purposeful foreground-background contrast
  • Selects appropriate graphic style, typography, and color
  • Documents sources
  • Headings are logically and grammatically parallel
  • Shows audience/user-based technical decisions about color, resolution, size, luminance, format, sharpness, etc.
  • Crops images concisely and achieves a polished, professional-looking appearance

3.4 Electronic Communication

Include 1 or more artifacts to demonstrate either or both of the qualities below.

  • Effective use of electronic communication mode
  • Effective composing in the electronic mode

Final portfolio reflective self-assessment letter


After working for a semester on WOVE (written, oral, visual, electronic communication), you’re now equipped to consider what you’ve learned about these modes of communication as you compile your end-of-semester portfolio.

Besides serving as the basis for your course grade, this portfolio has a more important function: to offer you an opportunity to reflect on and assess your communication growth over the last few months by analyzing the different parts of the portfolio and discussing what its artifacts show about that growth. Although you’ve reflected on your work in small ways during the semester (for example, on your composition cover sheets and in your group-discussion log), you will now compose an overall reflective/self-assessment letter for your portfolio that

  • introduces its contents
  • explains how the artifacts you’re including show your communication abilities

In addition to an overall reflective letter, you can also attach short reflections to individual artifacts that indicate what you believe they show about your communication competency (how they meet the criteria by which they will be evaluated—see “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria”).

By creating your portfolio and reflectively assessing it, you’re revisiting the topic of Comp 1 (you as communicator) from a new, end-of-semester perspective, recognizing, I hope, that you’re a different communicator from when you began the course in January.

For your overall reflective/self-assessment letter, I’d suggest that you choose the genre of a friendly letter addressed to me, the audience for your portfolio. As you’re composing that letter (and, if you choose to compose additional shorter, artifact-specific reflective pieces), keep in mind that effective reflective self-assessment involves

  • thinking carefully and deeply
  • explaining the “why” and “how” of your ideas as specifically as possible
  • using the specific wording of the evaluation criteria in your discussion

Following are ideas for effectively writing this reflective self-assessment friendly letter. Feel free to expand on or modify these suggestions in any way that enhances the presentation of your work.


Open your reflection with a short introduction that sets the context for the reporting of the reflective assessment of your work, which comes next in the body of the letter.


Then divide the body into the following main topics of your portfolio: reflection, process, products (using headings and sub-headings, if you like, to separate these parts):


Explain how reflection artifacts you’ve chosen to include demonstrate the following qualities on which they will be evaluated/graded (See these grading criteria also in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.”):

  • Thoroughness
    • Thoughtfulness
    • Honesty
    • Forward-thinking, as well as backward assessing


    Discuss what you’ve included in the process section of your portfolio in terms of the criteria on which they will be evaluated/graded (See these grading criteria also in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.”)

    • The quantity of artifacts you’ve included and how this amount demonstrates your engagement (in other words, your interest and effort) in the development of your abilities in analyzing and composing WOVE “texts,” reading, researching, critical thinking, working with others, etc.
    • The process artifacts you’re featuring for their quality, explaining how they demonstrate your “good faith” effort in taking on the work of the course (i.e. how they show risk-taking behavior to push yourself to try new things, a “give-and-get” attitude that invests something of yourself in your work, a concentrated effort, work that’s not just perfunctory—the minimum you can get away with to earn credit for an assignment—etc.), in other words your interest in and independent directing of your own learning


    Discuss the product artifacts in your portfolio


    Two compositions of your choice, selected from Comps 1-5: Look at the rubric under 3.1 on “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria,” and discuss how the polished drafts you’ve decided to present meet these standards.

    Small group

    Discuss how the artifacts you’ve chosen to include (I’ll also draw on observation notes and videotapes) show your use of the productive group behaviors laid out in “3.2.1 Oral Communication: Small-Group Work and Group Discussions” in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.” For a fuller discussion of productive group behaviors, also refer to the document “Elements of Small-Group Work.”


    Think about your part in informal presentations we did during the semester and your formal poster presentation; discuss how these examples of your public speaking meet the standards of effective oral presentations as laid out in “3.2.2 Oral Communication: Presentations” in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.” For a fuller discussion of effective preparation and execution of oral presentations, also refer to the document “Elements of Oral Presentations.”


    Explain how the one or more visual artifacts you’ve decided to include in this section meets the standards of effective communication in the visual mode as laid out in 3.3 “Visual Communication” in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.”


    Highlight one aspect of your work in 250 that involved the electronic mode, providing at least one artifact.

    Discuss how what you’ve included shows your ability to effectively use or compose in the electronic communication mode. (See chart under 3.4 “Electronic Communication” in “Final Portfolio Parts with Grading Criteria.”


    Close your reflective/self-assessment letter by explaining how, overall, your portfolio shows your skills and growth in communication this semester (i.e. What conclusions, considering the parts of your portfolio and your self-analysis of these, might someone who doesn’t know you draw about you as a writer, reader, oral communicator, and composer/consumer of visual and electronic media from examining your portfolio—and, perhaps, how might this person grade it?)


    Bring your completed portfolio to my office, Ross 425 during our university-scheduled final exam period.

    Unit III: The Future of Romance, Culture, and Consumerism Poster

    This Unit draws on class readings, discussions, and your individual and collaborative imagination

    Project elements and due dates

    On Thursday, December 8 Unit III teams from both sections will present proposals for a reality TV show reflecting the team’s vision of the future of romance. Teams will develop a poster and supporting documents such as a brochure or handout.

    Presentation materials will be available before and during our conference luncheon in the Cardinal Room of the Memorial Union. Team members will present a 5-minute “pitch” for their proposal when the audience is seated for lunch.

    Supporting documents and dates

    Each team will submit

    • an email proposal on Thursday, 17 November with collaboration worksheet attached
    • an email status report on December 2
    • an individually developed annotated bibliography to the Team on December 6


    Joint session of two ISUComm Pilot sections of 105, also developing expertise in written, visual and oral communication and an interest in romance, culture and behavior. The class will provide oral and written feedback before and during the luncheon. Participants will vote to determine which proposal from each section should be forwarded to program development executives at major networks.


    Demonstrate to class that you’re only a step away from prime time!
    Exercise your ability to collaborate, plan and present a group project with written and visual support.


    Your reality TV show should be contextualized by claims that support your Team’s vision of the future of romance, culture, and consumerism. (Individual research and annotated bibliographies will supply this context.)

    • Develop a setting, set of “characters” selection criteria, program tests/challenges. All should clearly be both entertaining and consistently focused on your group’s vision of the future.
    • Consider management and development issues like contestant selection, site preparation, weekly challenges.
    • Draw on your group’s exposure to the genre of reality TV to develop a mock up or prototype outline (both text and visual) for a pilot episode.
    • Consider a range of goals—will contestants win by finding a well-suited mate, a prosperous match or by avoiding all entanglements? Will exaggeration or honesty be rewarded? Improvements in physical appearance or in “manners”?

    Questions and ideas

    The following ideas, questions, contexts, are intended to help you consider options. This is not a list of things you must do or include.

    • In your Team’s ideal world how will the role of romance conventions in personal relations, pop culture, advertising, class and gender issues change? (Or will your team freeze Romance time now, fall 2005?)
    • Which elements will change and why will the result be a “better” world? (Or the more terrible world we deserve? Or an ironic world, which explodes current perception and practice, by questioning roles and assumptions or reversing everything?)
    • Is your reality one of dystopia or utopia?
    • Who is included and who is excluded in your version of reality?
    • Are there divisions of labor, class, race, and gender in your reality? If so, how are these divisions maintained? If not, how?
    • Anti-diet universe. The thin meet disdain and loneliness.
    • Super body modification: Bigger is always better.
    • Back to the future: Recreate an idealized version of the good old days
    • Arranged marriages—to reduce divorce rate
    • De-romanticism chamber [tasks to detoxify contestants]
    • De-consumerism Island
    • The death of romance, a modern horror story
    • Alien romance

    According to this list from Reality TV World there is a multiplicity of reality TV shows currently being produced and consumed (http://www.realitytvworld.com/). What world view do these shows project? Whose reality are they reflecting and defining? According to whom? Who is in and who is left out of their reality?

    The Amazing Race American Idol America's Next Top Model The Apprentice The Apprentice: Martha Stewart The Bachelor The Bachelorette Big Brother The Biggest Loser Dancing With The Stars Extreme Makeover Hell's Kitchen Laguna Beach Nanny 911 Project Runway Queer Eye The Real World The Simple Life Starting Over Supernanny The Surreal Life Survivor Three Wishes Trading Spaces Trading Spouses Wife Swap More Shows

    We are inviting you to subvert, support, recreate the world as conditioned by romance Convention

    Assignment from Jim Noland, Iowa State University, May 2006