ENGL/IS 387 "Web Content Development"
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Course Web Site: http://blackboard.umbc.edu (updated frequently)


John Fritz
Director, New Media Learning & Development
UMBC Office of Information Technology
ECS Bldg., Room 101
fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596

Course Goals
Course Prerequisites
Course Texts
Course Schedule
(available in the the Blackboard course site)
Assignments & Evaluation
Guidelines for Class Project
Course Policies

Course Goals

As the Web matures, so do users' expectations about what a site should do. In addition to a pleasing design and working links, they also want sites that are clearly organized, relevant, accurate, up-to-date, interesting and interactive. That's a tall order for anyone publishing sites, but it can only occur by building the end user's needs into the development process. This course will define that process and provide an opportunity for students to apply it. After completing this course, students should achieve the following:

Foundation Knowledge

Understand the basic elements of the Web development process (e.g., content, design, programming, etc.) and the role of a content developer as “broker” or “facilitator” for how they relate to and affect each other.
Application (primary mode of learning for this course)
Develop content artifacts (e.g.., site scope, site map, app flow, wire frame and content inventory) that constitute a “paper web site” to represent the goals of a site sponsor/stakeholder, and guide the work of a programmer/designer.
Human Dimension
Research how site users and site sponsors/stakeholders use the Web differently and the implications this has for the success or failure of a site.
Explore the creative implications any kind of site has to offer, by managing or solving the expectations or information needs of users and sponsors. Content developers rarely get to “choose” the sites their sponsors or users want, so one must learn to apply a creative problem solving approach to any web development project.
Learning how to Learn
Contribute to and learn from a community of students and extended practitioners of the rapidly developing Web content development field; study peer and competitor sites to uncover the information architecture, usability and content development “best practices” that may be hidden beneath the visual appearance of a site.


Unlike a course in web design or programming, ENGL/IFSM 387 “Web Content Development” will focus on the creation and organization of web content that meets the information needs of end-users AND serves the intentions or purposes of a site's sponsors or stakeholders.

Very Important!: This is NOT a web design or programming class. Do NOT attempt to approach it as such or you will be disappointed, frustrated and ultimately unsuccessful. You WILL be planning and writing content for a "paper site" that facilitates consensus building among stakeholders and guides a designer or programmer in the production of a working Web site. To see an example of a model student goup project -- and the type of work you will be expected to produce -- click here.

Students will analyze the information architecture, navigation, audience awareness and usability of good and bad web sites; talk with web content developers from a variety of fields; and work in teams to develop the purpose and content for a variety of UMBC-related web sites, or propose sites the meet specific criteria for suitable class projects. At the end of the course, teams will be given 20 minutes to present their plans to working designers and programmers who work at UMBC.

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Course Prerequisites
        The prerequisite for this course is ENGL 393 "Technical Writing," ENGL 391 “Advanced Exposition and Argumentation” or permission of the instructor. Note: This course WILL NOT satisfy the programming requirement expected of all IFSM majors.
        Knowledge of and experience with the Web as a user is essential. Familiarity with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is helpful, but not required (nor will it be taught in this course).
Additionally, students will be required to have access to the following:
        A computer (see Assured Access to Computing Policy adopted Fall 2001)
       MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel ($20 total under UMBC site license)
        A version 6.0+ web-browser (preferably Internet Explorer).
        A connection to the Internet.

Course Texts

Information Architecutre for the World Wide Web

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, second edition
By Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville
Paperback - 461 pages (August 2002)
O'Reilly & Associates; ISBN: 0596000359

Don't Make Me Think

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
By Steve Krug
Paperback – 224 pages, 2nd edition (August 18, 2005)
New Riders Press ISBN: 0321344758

Web Content Report (selected articles)
http://www.ragan.com/wcr (login will be provided in class).

Recommended Reading

Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity
by Jakob Nielsen
432 pages 1st edition (December 1999)
New Riders Publishing; ISBN: 156205810X

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Course Schedule

The weekly course schedule including readings and assignments is published in the Blackboard course site.

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Assignments & Evaluation

Unless otherwise stated, all assignments are to be turned in on the Blackboard course site before class meets. Your filename MUST include your UMBC userid (e.g., fritz_site_map.doc).

Individual (Grade weight TBD by class)

  • Build a Blackboard homepage with photo, current email address
  • Complete Blackboard Experience & Expertise survey
  • Individual Readiness Assurance Tests
  • Online Participation Portfolio -- Designed to reflect each student’s participation through constructive feedback to others, the portfolio will be a running record of online responses to readings, other groups’ project deliverables, and questions about the class
  • Attendance & in-class exercises
  • Web content “artifacts” for group project

a. Site Scope
b. Site Map in PowerPoint format (required of everyone)
c.   Application Flow/Interaction script
d.       Content inventory in MS Excel format—all members must develop content for at least three links/pages.
e.       Wire frame (MS PowerPoint or Word)

Team (Grade weight TBD by class)

1.       Research a site plan by analyzing peer & competitor sites and interviewing 2 potential users (20 points)
2.       At least one member participates in another group’s web usability test; time will be available in-class (15 points)
3.       20-minute PowerPoint Presentation and zip file of all project materials (40 points)


Peer Evaluation (Grade weight TBD by class)

1.       Evaluate each group members’ contribution to the project, including your own.

Grading Scale

For each assignment and your final grade, I will use the following scale:

         A = 90 to 100 percent (excellent)
         B = 80 to 90 percent (good)
         C = 70 to 80 percent (satisfactory)
         D = 60 to 70 percent (poor)

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Guidelines for Class Project

Students in ENGL/IFSM 387 may play an important role in prototyping UMBC sites by defining the strategy, organization and content for one of the following current or proposed sites. Past projects have included the following:

        Commons "Grab & Go" Lunch: To avoid long lunch lines in The Commons, this myUMBC application would allow users to pre-order and pay for menu items available at any of the "Market Street" dining vendors. The menu would be tied to inventory to reflect daily changes in availability, and vendors would receive printed tickets that contain the requested pick-up time and user's photo ID & name when an order is placed and paid for directly from user funds. The printed ticket would be stapled to a carryout bag for the order. When the user comes to pick up the order, the vendor could match the person's face with the photo ID and/or request to see the user's campus card. The exchange is made and no time is wasted ordering or paying for food.

         Baltimore "Collegetown" : The Baltimore Collegetown Network (www.baltimorecollegetown.com) site is looking to improve interactive capabalities. How might students, faculty and staff use an online application to share resources and information, and thus raise the value of the consortium. How about a Baltimore Collegetown "Zipcar" that allows users to reserve and pay for a car only when they need it, Or a ridesharing, roommate referral or internship databank.

        Academic Integrity Tutorial & Tracking: Required of all first year students in the fall to register for spring courses, the online tutorial would present case studies on academic integrity issues and practice. If a student has passed the tutorial but later on has violated UMBC’s Academic Integrity policy, faculty could submit the incident to a tracking database. A confirmation email to the student would put him or her “on notice” and could help the Academic Conduct Committee deal with repeat offenders.

        UMBC Recommended Sites: Faculty and students from any discipline could submit and annotate links to web sites they find especially helpful or critical to their field. These would be centrally maintained by the Library, but published on relevant department web sites. The advantage to faculty is that they can see what sites other faculty are using; the advantage to students is that they can better understand how & why faculty evaluate certain web sites, and they'll have a better insight into their chosen discipline or major. Finally, if this site is available to prospective students, they can gain better insight into the students and faculty who make up the UMBC community.

Alternately, students may suggest other applications, but they must meet the following conditions:
  1. Deliver or use personal information dependent on an authenticated user login
  2. Be applicable to a significant portion of UMBC’s population, and
  3. Be approved by the instructor. To suggest a new application, post a paragraph summary of the application and target audience to the project discussion board no later than the second face-to-face (F2F) class meeting.

        Summary of peer, competitor and initial user needs analysis
        Graphical site map or blue print (everyone must do this; group submits one version)
        Application flow (required of group, but may be done by one person)
        Content inventory (everyone must contribute content for 3 links/pages: 12 minimum
        Wire Frame (required of group, but may be done by one person)

Group Roles & Responsibilities

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Course Policies

Academic Integrity: I follow UMBC’s Academic Integrity Policy.

How to Contact Me

Given my full-time work schedule, the best way to reach me is by email. However, you should first post any class-related question on the course discussion board, which I will check before responding. If you have a personal concern, feel free to email me, but include the course ID (ENGL/IFSM 387) in your subject line, which will help me filter your message from several I get each day. My email address is fritz@umbc.edu.

Alternately, I will be holding a “virtual office hour” on Sundays at 8 p.m. using our course site’s “lightweight” chat tool. If we need to arrange a real-time meeting, my preference will be to do so 1) in my office, 2) by telephone, or 3) by private chat on the course site, preferably on a day the class is not scheduled to meet face-to-face. My office phone number is 410.455.6596 and my office is ECS 101a. Also, my schedule is available on UMBC's Corporate Time Calendar server (calendar.umbc.edu).


I expect students to attend every class, but I understand unexpected circumstances. If you must miss class, an informal explanation will usually do. Try not to miss a class at which you are expected to deliver a presentation or group report. Don't skip class if you're late with an assignment. Excessive or unreasonable absences will affect your grade.

Inclement Weather Policy:

I follow the UMBC Inclement Weather Policy.


Class—Students are expected to read or attend to the assignment carefully and to find something intelligent, interesting, or at least thoughtful to say about it. Students who ask questions and carry on discussion always do better than those who stay silent.

Group—Students are expected to prepare for and contribute to the group’s successful completion of its project. At the end of the course, each student will also submit a one-page summary of each team member’s contribution to the project.

Computer Lab Etiquette

I believe class and group web browsing is essential to the success and enjoyment of this course. However, I will NOT tolerate personal use of the computer lab for instant messaging, email, surfing, etc during class time. I will give you breaks to do so, but if you abuse the privilege the lab affords, I will subtract 5 points from your final class participation grade for every instance.

Late Work or Missed Information

You are responsible for announcements, changes in the syllabus, and assignments that may be given out in class or on the course web site. Do not ask me to fax you course materials, all of which are available on the course web site. Likewise, do not leave voice mail asking me to call and catch you up on a missed class.

Basic Requirement for Passing Grade

You will not obtain a passing grade unless you complete at least 75 percent of the assigned work. I will consider petitions for an incomplete grade, provided you have completed at least 50 percent of the assigned work by the specified deadline in the course schedule. It is your responsibility to meet the deadline set on your petition. I do not send out reminders. I will not issue an Administrative Withdrawal if you stop attending. It is your responsibility to withdraw from the course if you cannot complete 75 percent of the work (or complete 50 percent and file for an Incomplete). Students who do not withdraw fail the course.

Technical Support—Three Before Me

This course makes extensive use of Blackboard's course management software. We will spend time on how to use it, but if you have technical problems, do the following before contacting me: 1) read the Blackboard online student manual; 2) post your question on the class discussion board or contact someone else in the course; 3) contact the OIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838 or helpdesk@umbc.edu; If all else fails, contact me but I will ask you to tell me what happened when you tried at least two of the options above.

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