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Technical Communication Courses

View available descriptions and outcomes for Technical Communication courses in the English, Technical Communication & Media Arts department at Southern Polytechnic State University below.

Visit the Schedule of Classes to find out who is teaching each course in the current semester, then visit the Faculty and Staff Directory and click on the instructors' names for syllabi and assigned textbooks.

Visit Academic Advising to download your degree program's advising form.

If you're not majoring in an English, Technical Communication & Media Arts degree program, consult your major department for core requirements in this department.


TCOM 2010 Technical Writing

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: ENGL 1102

Introduction to organization, style, and mechanics of technical and professional writing. Includes practice in writing such typical documents as technical descriptions, instructions, proposals, and recommendation reports. Emphasis placed on planning, organizing, and writing reports; designing visual aids; and editing. Among other assignments, at least one complete technical report is required.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • analyze audiences and purposes for various technical documents;
  • write and edit effective technical documents, such as descriptions, instructions, progress reports, and formal reports;
  • demonstrate how audience needs affect the organization, design, and style of documents; and
  • insert eye-catching graphics, charts, and tables that illustrate key points.

TCOM 2020 Foundations of Technical Communication

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: ENGL 1101

Introduction to technical communication through a survey of the field's evolution and current status; its theoretical foundations, key concerns and issues, core competencies and specializations, and the technologies and societal trends that will impact the work of technical communicators in the future. Emphasis is placed on developing a strong professional identity and in beginning the process of career planning.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • describe the various career paths open to technical communicators;
  • identify the range of artifacts technical communicators create; and
  • understand their own communication skills and work preferences.

TCOM 2030 Research in Technical Communication

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010

Introduction to research methods used by practitioners and scholars in technical communication. Students explore the relationship between theory and research and learn how to design and carry out empirical studies using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Emphasis is placed on the research methods used in workplace settings to design user-centered information products and to test their usefulness and usability.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • conduct advanced Internet research;
  • understand the research phase of the user-centered design process;
  • plan and conduct various forms of user research; and
  • communicate research findings.

TCOM 3010 Science Writing

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: ENGL 1102

Examination of the types of writing produced in various scientific professions. Depending on the semester, possible topics may include one or more of the following: environmental writing, public policy documents, and other scientific documents. Cross-listed as ENGL 3010.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • analyze science and technology prose; and
  • write effectively for various scientific and technological audiences.

TCOM 3015 Environmental Writing

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: ENGL 1102

Close study of global and more localized environmental issues, including air, water, soil, biotic communities, and impact on and by humans. Students will read works on the relationship between technology, human population, and the environment and will write essays, give an oral report, and complete a research project on environmental topics. Cross-listed as ENGL 3015.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • possess an awareness of historical and current environmental issues; and
  • write and speak effectively to these issues.

TCOM 3020 Proposal Writing

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Theory and practice of writing proposals for business, industry, and non-profit organizations, with emphasis on in-house planning and external grant-seeking proposals. Course covers persuasion theory and strategies while leading students step-by-step through the proposal development process. Students develop skills in gathering and evaluating information, analyzing audiences, collaborating with peers and clients, building persuasive arguments, writing clearly and cogently, and designing visually effective documents. Cross-listed as ENGL 3020.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • write an informal proposal;
  • write and orally present a grant proposal;
  • become part of a group;
  • write an RFP proposal; and
  • write and orally present (using a Power Point presentation) an individual formal proposal.

TCOM 3030 Instructional Design

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Introduction to systematic instructional design and instructor-led training. Students will study a major model of instructional design and apply it to develop and refine a unit of instruction. Students will prepare and deliver a training lesson, participate in team instructional design activities, and evaluate the training developed and presented by other students.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • experience the application of ISD theory, tools, and techniques to an instructional development project;
  • experience a collaborative, project-based learning exercise in ISD;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ISD process;
  • identify, describe, and apply the major processes included in the typical systematic design process, including 'analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE);and
  • function independently and collaboratively in instructional systems design team activities.

TCOM 3045 Fundamentals of Information Design

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010

Introduces students to the principles and best practices of effective information design for both print and electronic media. Includes such topics as information types, information categorization and hierarchies, types of organizational patterns, message and document genres, structural markup languages, structured information design and technologies, content management, and single sourcing.


TCOM 3430 Foundations of Graphics

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

An introduction to the fundamental elements and principles of graphic design and application of these concepts to page design and layout. Study of elementary color theory. Introduction to production techniques and current software applications.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • understand design principles and know how to apply them to graphs and print documents;
  • know how to create, scan, manipulate, edit, and appropriately use digital bitmapped images; and
  • use design principles to competently and skillfully plan, design, lay out, and produce within a desktop publishing application graphs, one-page documents, spreads, and creative resumes.

TCOM 3901-3903 Special Topics

1 to 3 hours

Prerequisite: Consent of the department chair

Special topics in communications. Offered by the program at its discretion.


TCOM 4000 Professional Editing

3 credit hours

Prerequisites: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Development of skills in proofreading, copyediting, and comprehensive editing. This course addresses issues of style, content, organization, and visual design.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • learn the responsibilities and tasks of a professional editor;
  • discuss the organizational aspects of being an editor;
  • edit a variety of documents to correct errors in grammar, usage, style, and mechanics; and
  • develop competency in editing electronic documents and editing for the web.

TCOM 4035 Fundamentals of Website Design

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Study of effective information design and delivery for websites. Covers principles and best practices for creating usable websites and teaches students fundamentals of HTML, use of HTML authoring tools, web page writing and editing, web graphics and multimedia elements, and website architectures and content management. Students work individually and in teams to design and develop websites. Some classroom instruction is provided in basic HTML and XHTML coding, the composition of cascading style sheets, and the use of Dream Weaver and FrontPage.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • evaluate websites for their usability;
  • use design principles develop Web-based user interfaces; and
  • use industry-standard software to develop and publish a standards-compliant website.

TCOM 4040 Advanced Graphics for Technical Communicators

3 credit hours

Pre- or co-requisite: TCOM 4030

This course examines the role of graphics in technical and professional communication. Students develop competency in desktop publishing, digital image editing, and vector-based graphics applications. Students complete practical projects that use typography, photographs, illustrations, engineering drawings, and data graphics. Projects focus on the role of graphics as both an independent communication and as support for text-based media used in business, industry, education, and training.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • edit digital raster and vector images for print and web documents; and
  • apply design principles to desktop publication documents.

TCOM 4045 Foundations of Multimedia

3 credit hours

Pre- or co-requisite: TCOM 4030

A study of the foundations of multimedia including theory, planning, scripting, storyboarding, and production. Students will submit research work on the theory of multimedia.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • identify, describe, and apply the major skills and tools involved in the typical multimedia development process, including planning, scripting, storyboarding, production, and evaluation;
  • experience the application of multimedia theory, tools, and techniques to a project in technical communication; and
  • experience a collaborative, project-based learning exercise in multimedia development.

TCOM 4070 User Documentation

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Introduction to the process and principles of writing manuals, with emphasis on user manuals. Students write and produce all or part of a manual. Course includes study of structured writing. Course also includes discussion of (1) production issues and (2) theory relevant to designing usable, readable manuals.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • design a documentation plan;
  • be familiar with a page design application such as FrameMaker;
  • apply principles of effective user design to user documentation projects;
  • apply the principles of structured writing to user documents; and
  • know how to analyze tasks for the purpose of creating effective user documentation.

TCOM 4120 Usability Testing

3 credit hours

Prerequisites: TCOM 2020, TCOM 2030, TCOM 4030

Study of the relevant research and practical application of usability testing as part of product development. Includes strategies for planning, conducting, and analyzing a test. Teams will perform tests and report results from an actual test in a usability lab. (note: link to http://www.spsu.edu/usability/index.htm)

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • collaborate effectively as a team to plan and conduct a usability test;
  • analyze the results of a usability test; and
  • communicate those results orally and in writing.

TCOM 4130 Online Documentation

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 2010; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Study of the design and development of effective online Help systems and web-based documentation. Presents principles of usable online information design, task-based user analysis, and advanced tools and technologies for developing and delivering online information products, including single-sourcing, SGML, and XML. Students design and develop an HTML Help system. Instruction will be provided in the use of RoboHelp and alternative HTML Help authoring tools. Students entering the course without basic HTML knowledge will be expected to learn the basics of HTML on their own.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • understand best practices in help design;
  • be more aware of how different users have different questions when they interact with a help system;
  • write help topics that answer specific user questions;
  • design a help system that contains user-oriented content and is accessible, easy to navigate, consistent in its look-and-feel, and visually engaging; and
  • be familiar with different outlets for online documentation such as Web-based applications and online communities.

TCOM 4170 Video Production

3 credit hours

Prerequisites: TCOM 2010, TCOM 4030; either TCOM 2020 or 2030 or concurrently

Introduction to the role and use of video production for technical and professional communication. Topics include scripts, storyboards, shot selection, continuity, lighting, sound, in-camera editing, and fundamental post-production techniques. Students will complete at least two assigned videos as individual or team projects. This course is double-listed for both undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate students will be required to complete additional work that emphasizes theory and research over application. Thus they must demonstrate a higher level of learning than undergraduates.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • understand the fundamentals of video production;
  • write, direct, photograph, and edit fiction and non-fiction video projects; and
  • identify the craft and mechanics of visual storytelling which transcend media formats.

TCOM 4175 Animation Design, 2D

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: TCOM 4030 Foundations of Graphics Co-Requisite: TCOM 4035 Fundamentals of Website Design

This course will examine the application of design principles to motion graphics. Students will learn basic techniques for creating animated and interactive graphics. The focus of the course will be on design principles and aesthetics pertaining to the moving image. Discussions will center on aesthetics of interface design with moving graphics, 2D space, user-centric design and working with digital imagery as information. Students will complete a number of small animations projects designed to familiarize them with the application of design principles and aesthetics to animation. Students will be required to complete a larger final project that unifies the topics presented throughout the semester in a coherent animated layout.


TCOM 4600 Independent Study

3 credit hours

Prerequisites: 21 hours of TCOM course work and a 3.0 or higher GPA

A directed study for an undergraduate student who wishes to pursue a special interest in technical and professional communication not covered in the curriculum. The student submits to the TCOM Undergraduate Program Coordinator a proposal that clearly defines the course of study and the benefits to be obtained. The proposal, which must be submitted at least one semester prior before taking the course, must be approved by the student's advisor and the TCOM faculty committee. Upon approval, the student is assigned a faculty advisor.


TCOM 4700 Internship

3 credit hours

Prerequisite: Junior standing, with a 3.0 or better GPA in major

An opportunity for students to apply principles and techniques of technical and professional communication in a specific organization. The student is responsible for finding an internship, but the program will help in the effort. The student must submit a written proposal describing the internship according to program guidelines. Each internship is monitored by the student's advisor.

Visit Undergraduate Internships for more information.


TCOM 4800 Project Portfolio

3 credit hours

Prerequisites: TCOM 4030; Senior standing; completion of 24 hours of TCOM courses

Course examines portfolios as professional tools for technical communicators. The course includes portfolio and writing theory along with a collaborative workshop environment. Students develop a professional portfolio of sample documents based on course project, internship experiences, and/or work history. In addition, students write a reflective paper examining their growth and maturity as technical communicators. Interviewing techniques, resume writing, and the job search process are included in the course. Cross-listed as ENGL 4800.

Course outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  • create both an paper and electronic portfolio;
  • participate in peer review response sessions;
  • create career documents such as resumes, cover letters, and a marketing plan for their own entrance into the job market;
  • reflect upon their work across their degree program.

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