Technical writing workshops available for English majors

Allison Barker, a junior pre-medical radiography major from Riverton, is excited to utilize the new skills she will learn when the writing workshops hosted by the English department are eventually made available to the public. Photo illustration by Bailey Chamberlain.

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You need to know all the ins and outs of document editing and design in order to get the technical writing job you want after graduation, and you’re able to cover most things in class. But there are a few things you just can’t seem to grasp, and the internet tutorials you’ve looked up don’t yield any answers. You want to go over it in class, but there’s just not enough time, so what can you do?

Dixie State University’s English department is hosting free non-graded workshops to help English students learn tools of the trade.

Though the workshops are primarily geared toward students in the undergraduate professional and technical writing emphasis and graduate students majoring in technical writing and digital rhetoric, all English majors are welcome. The recorded workshops will also be made available to the public at a currently unspecified date.

Joy McMurrin, assistant professor of English, said she organized the workshops because her graduate and undergraduate technical writing students were invested in gaining skills they didn’t have time to cover in class. She said students are already reporting the benefits.

“I decided to put together a series of supplemental workshops focused on tutorials that will advance students’ knowledge of programs technical writers often use in the workplace,” McMurrin said. “Their work is more efficient and their knowledge expanded. Sometimes we don’t know that the programs that we regularly use have hidden features that are actually quite easy to unlock.”

“With the democratization of technology, these types of skills are as important as basic computer, typing or intro to Excel [skills] were in the near past.”

Rachel Ramsay, assistant professor of web and digital design.

McMurrin said DSU students have access to a lot of tools through Office 365 and Adobe Cloud, so she wanted to help them maximize their resources. Microsoft Word and Excel were already covered on Feb. 4 and 11, and Zotero and Endnote on Feb. 18, but the rest of the programs and tools to be covered are as follows:

  • Free online tools for tech writers, Feb. 25 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. on Zoom
  • InDesign, March 4 – April 15 from 6 – 8:30 p.m. on Zoom and in HCC 475
  • Slack and Google Drive, April 22 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. on Zoom

DSU Librarian Dianne Aldrich, who discussed how to cite sources using Zotero and Endnote, said, “I’m excited for the opportunity to reach out to graduate students and connect them with tools that support their success as students and researchers.”

Rachel Ramsay, assistant professor of web and digital design, said she was invited by the English department to teach InDesign during six of the workshop’s 11 weeks.

“We wanted to make it accessible to everyone, whether they could be in person or not,” Ramsay said. “The long-term plan is to create some online resources that students can refer to after the workshop is over. There is a lot to InDesign and building digital publications, [and] we have a list of certain learning objectives or skills that are important to cover, [so] that’s why it is taking six weeks.”

Lacy Hope, a post-doctoral fellow of English who will discuss how to use Slack and Google Drive, said these workshops are designed to give students the time, space and creative liberty to learn about these tools in ways that are meaningful to their own academic and professional interests. She said students won’t just learn how to use the programs, but also why each tool or program is the best to use.

“I think it fills a need to provide students with these additional skills,” Ramsay said. “With the democratization of technology, these types of skills are as important as basic computer, typing or intro to Excel [skills] were in the near past. Now employers are wanting content creation and visual professionalism attached to that content.”

McMurrin said she thinks her technical writing students are amazing and she wants to use these workshops to enhance their skills and abilities.

“If the workshops are successful this semester, we will continue the series next year,” McMurrin said. “We will let the students make suggestions for future topics, and we will tap into the traditions and trends of our field for inspiration. The plan is to record a wide range of micro-tutorials and longer workshops so that our students have a digital storehouse of knowledge to draw from.”

Any English majors interested in participating in these workshops need only email McMurrin at [email protected] to request a Canvas course invitation through their Dmail.