ME304: Engineering Communication

Course Syllabus for "ME304: Engineering Communication"

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Effective communication is essential to teamwork, and teamwork is essential to accomplishing complex engineering work.  In this course, you will learn several aspects of effective technical communication that will help prepare you to work successfully on an engineering team.  The strategies and techniques learned here are also applicable to other situations—for example, preparing a résumé and cover letter, conducting a successful job interview, negotiating to make a major purchase or sale, and navigating through legal situations that you might encounter. As an example, consider the following situation.  You arrive home after a week-long vacation and find a note on your door saying: Dude – My plumber’s cut your phone cord.  I reckon they’ll fix it soon. On the other hand, consider that you find a note resembling:   From: John Atkins      October 24, 2015 2828 Fairlane Rd. Tel: 703-555-4800   To:       Occupant 2824 Fairlane Rd.   I regret to inform you that my plumbing contractor (Easy-Time Plumbing) inadvertently cut our phone lines while performing drainage work for me.  Your phone should be back in service by October 25, 2015.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact either me at the above address or the plumber, Mr. Philip Smith, at Easy-Time Plumbing, 4867 Dogview Rd., Fairtown 38565 (Tel: 703-555-4899).  I regret the inconvenience. Both notes are likely to cause some frustration, but which would you rather receive?  This course will teach you to pay attention to these differences in order to effectively communicate in a variety of situations. This course consists of four units.  In the first unit, you will learn about assessing contexts for communication and characteristics of the intended audience.  You will also learn about a range of communication genres appropriate to a variety of different situations.  In the example concerning the cut telephone line above, the latter, brief note with contact details is sufficient; a complete report detailing the plumber’s project would not be appropriate and would detract from the message that the sender wished to convey.  This unit will help you assess a given context in order to determine the appropriate mode of communication. In the second unit, you will learn about rules for written correspondence, including those pertaining to grammar, style, formatting, organization, and attribution.  In the first note above, for example, the casual, ungrammatical style might cause some worry for the reader.  This unit will help you avoid these unintended consequences. In the third unit, you will consider effective strategies for collaborative writing, and will continue in the fourth unit with consideration of the specific formats, styles, and organizational strategies required of different forms of written and oral communication, ranging from memoranda to complete reports.  In the fifth and final unit, you will practice what you have learned by designing a memorandum, cover letter, complete report, and slide presentation for a topic which you have encountered in another Saylor Foundation course (ME301: Measurement & Experimentation Laboratory). You may learn much about technical communication by reading the source materials and practicing the exercises in this course.  However, the best way to learn is to practice writing and speaking to various audiences and to work with others in planning and writing such presentations.  In doing so, keep the source materials you find in this course at hand; with practice, you will become less reliant upon them.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Define the purpose of effective technical communication.
  • List attributes of effective technical communication.
  • Assess audience and context, as well as identify appropriate genres for technical communication.
  • Choose appropriate grammar, style, and organization for documents.
  • Define and avoid plagiarism and implement appropriate citations.
  • Brainstorm and prepare and revise documents independently and collaboratively.
  • Organize and present information in written, visual, and oral modes in compliance with standard formats.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:
√    Have access to a computer.
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
√    Be competent in the English language.
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to ME304: Engineering Communication. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Dr. Steve Gibbs
Primary Resources: This course comprises a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned material. All units build on previous units, so it will be important to progress through the course in the order presented.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assessments at the end of each unit in this course. 

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again. 
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 94 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit and assignment. These time advisories should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at the time advisories before beginning this course in order to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit. Then, you can set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you approximately 10 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete Subunit 1.1-1.3 (a total of 2 hours) on Monday night, Subunit 1.4 (a total of 4 hours) on Tuesday night and Subunit 1.5 and 1.6 (a total of 3 hours) on Wednesday night, etc.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.