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Summary and Description of the Project

Summary:

This is a teaching guide for professional writing instructors who are teaching their students to write usability reports. It includes teaching tips, suggested deliverables and class activities as well as a list of resources. Although this guide is created primarily for English 420 (Business Writing) and English 421 (Technical Writing) instructors at Purdue University who assign usability report as part of the OSDDP (Open Source Development and Documentation Project) initiated at Purdue, you may find many of the tips and resources useful and ready to be adapted to your own classroom context.

Contributors:Jingfang Ren, Dana Lynn Driscoll, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2013-10-08 03:41:44

What Is OSDDP?

Implemented by the professional writing program at Purdue in the fall of 2004 as a new approach to networked learning, collaborative education, and public writing, OSDDP (the Open Source Development and Documentation Project) has produced many success stories among students and instructors in various business and technical writing classes at Purdue. However, teaching the OSDDP project also presents many challenges to instructors of professional writing, especially new instructors, as it requires a thorough understanding of Open Source products and the concepts and philosophy underlying these products as well as genre knowledge about the deliverables that students are expected to produce throughout the project. This guide introduces new PW instructors to one particular OSDDP project, the OSDDP usability project and provides tips and resources that aid teaching.

What Does the OSDDP Usability Project Entail?

For the OSDDP Usability Project, students are expected to complete two main tasks: 1) conduct usability testing of an open source application (software, content management system etc.) or documentation (tutorial or user manual); 2) write up the test results in the form of a usability report and present it to the open source community by posting it to Purdue's OSDDP site under creative commons.

Why Assign the OSDDP Usability Project?

This project provides students with an opportunity to 1) learn more about how users/customers in real-world situations interact with commercial and non-commercial products (in this case, software applications and manuals); 2) use usability testing as a research method to generate raw data about such interactions; 3) practice public writing or writing that is subject to public reviews and revisions.

Although this project involves some individual elements, the majority of the project is the result of collaboration. This project involves approximately 6-7 weeks of work with each week typically consisting of two 75-minute class meetings or three 50-minute class meetings.

What Can This Teaching Guide Do for Me?

This teaching guide includes a brief summary of the project, suggested group and individual deliverables as well as evaluation criteria, week-by-week suggested activities with annotations, resources for instructors, and sample deliverables produced by business writing students at Purdue.

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