January 11, 2017
8 Weeks | $315
Many readers find technology news baffling due to the high incidence of jargon, acronyms, initializations, and just the pace at which technology moves. However, this news and information grows in importance each day – where things like “the cloud” used to be available only to a few, now they are standard technologies offered to every level of consumer (and often without their knowledge). Keeping abreast of developments in these areas can be daunting to a layperson, which is where Technical Writing comes in.
Introduction to Technical Writing will cover the basics of writing for technical topics. This course will explore the concepts behind several different technical realms, providing a baseline vernacular with which the writer can direct their research. The course will focus on taking complex technical topics and translating them into a format more accessible to the general public. We’ll cover computer hardware, software, programming languages, mobile devices, computer gaming, and other topics, with a focus on practical application of knowledge through a series of writing assignments.
By the completion of this eight-week course, you will have a small portfolio of technical blog posts and news articles, researched and written as you move through the course. Each week will introduce a new subject, provide a number of resources, and include a writing assignment that allows you to explore the course material through independent experimentation and investigation. Upon completion of this course, you’ll have experience writing blog posts, technical articles, API documentation, and other forms of tech-related journalism that can be used as portfolio pieces, writing samples to solicit work, or even articles ready to sell to a publishing service.
Each week will include lecture material and suggested readings, all available on the web.
Unit 1: Translating Complexity
The first step in technical writing is understanding the process of covering science and technology subjects for an audience with minimal understanding. We’ll explore the foundational terminology and concepts behind computers and computer technology, as well as introduce the different kinds of technical writing we will be examining in this course.
Assignment: Write an overview article on a technology that interests you personally. Include a thorough explanation of the underlying concepts and jargon.
Unit 2: Computer Hardware
In this unit, we will examine the physical components that comprise a computer. We’ll explore processor clock speeds, RAM speed, hard drive specifications, graphics cards, and various peripherals. We’ll discover what these concepts are, and what they mean for a technical writer.
Assignment: Write two news articles covering a press release in two different areas of computer hardware.
Unit 3: Computer Software
Computers are nothing without the software that makes them tick. In this unit, we’ll explore several domains of computer software. We’ll examine the subject from a number of angles, including operating systems, software versioning, compatibility, and software function.
Assignment: Write an opinion article comparing two software suites, concluding that one is superior to the other. Write another article about two software suites that are close enough to not have a “right choice”.
Unit 4: Mobile Devices, the Internet, and Networking
The world grows more connected by the moment, and understanding how those connections occur is vital to being a citizen of the digital world. In this unit, we’ll explore a wide array of the topics related to mobile devices, computer networking, and the internet. We will research privacy concerns, and why they’re different on the internet as opposed to in-person. We’ll also look at how cell phones work from an operating system level all the way up to the satellites driving the communication.
Assignment: Write an in-depth technical article on the most recent release of your cellular phone’s operating system. Include an explanation of what key features changed, and what those changes mean.
Unit 5: Computer and Home Entertainment
In this unit, we’ll touch on the various means in which computers and technology can be used for entertainment. We’ll cover display technologies, computer and console gaming, and movie and television streaming.
Assignment: Write a detailed review of two of the following:
1 – A video game
2 – A computer monitor
3 – A VR Headset
4 – An online streaming service
Unit 6: Blogging for Tech and Tech Journalism
As a technical writing freelancer, you’ll often times end up writing blog posts – either under your own name, or ghostwriting for someone with a deep understanding of technology but no experience writing. This unit will take a practical look at blogging for technology. We will cover the types of blogs you are likely to write, and the audiences for which you will be writing them. We will also cover tech startups, exploring how they get their start, how they are funded, and concepts related to the life cycle of a technical startup business.
Assignment: Write three blog posts based upon press releases from three different companies in tech. These should focus on startups, or companies that produce software as their primary output.
Unit 7: Programming Languages and APIs
The practical application of computer science theory has dominated the course to this point. However, it is vital to take a look at what is going on behind the scenes, in the world of computer programming. In this unit we’ll cover documentation for programmers and programming languages. We’ll explore what this type of deeply technical documentation entails, and what programmers usually look for when searching for a reference. We’ll also take a look at the modern programming ecosystem, getting an idea of which languages are popular, which are omnipresent, and what popularity and omnipresence mean in these contexts.
Assignment: Find a set of documentation for one of the following programming languages: C++, C#, Ruby, Python. Identify three articles that could use improved documentation, and rewrite the documentation based upon the original information.
Unit 8: Workshop
The final unit consists of a workshop on tech writing and freelancing. By this point you will have built a library of articles covering different areas of technical writing. We’ll explore using these as a basis for a pitch, and general places to look for freelance technical writing opportunities. We’ll also break down a few job postings for technical writers, exploring skills that may set you apart as you try to win work for your business.