Professional Communication

Course Description

This ten week course consists of 10 modules and provides an overview of the fundamentals of professional communication and writing. It will cover the rhetorical theory and practice necessary for communicating, writing, and designing effective documents in professional contexts.

Learning Outcomes & Competencies

In this course, you will develop the following skills:

  1. Understanding of and ability to analyze rhetorical roles of purpose, audience, and context in professional communication and writing.
  2. Ability to make informed decisions about the appropriate rhetorical tools to use in a specific professional communication situation and in specific organization contexts.
  3. Ability to demonstrate effective professional communication through writing, designing, and speaking in a variety of professional genres.
  4. Ability to analyze and develop your individual writing process for use a professional setting.
  5. Ability to work collaboratively and independently to manage professional communication projects.

Course Competencies

If you are an Individualized Focus Area student, the following competencies are available in this course:


Competence Statement and Criteria


Written by student/instructor.

Example: "Can develop, manage, and apply one’s communication and writing skills to analyze and respond to a variety of professional situations including those in non-profit organization contexts."


Can identify and understand the purpose, audience, and context of communication situations in professional organizations and apply various rhetorical theories and modes of communication to address those situations.


Can develop and manage one’s communication and writing skills to analyze and respond to a variety of writing situations in professional contexts.

Learning Strategies & Resources

Required Text: Oliu, Walter, Charles Brusaw, & Gerald Alred. Writing that Works, 12th Ed. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2016.

To buy your books, go to

Learning Deliverables

You will complete the following six projects in this course:

  1. Email to a Former Student Project
  2. Sunny River Resort Letter Project
  3. Employment Search Project
  4. Software Learning Initiative Project
  5. Workplace Document Project
  6. Self Assessment Letter Project

These projects are developed through a series of assignments and discussions. The table below lists the specific assignments and discussions with the maximum points possible. Taken together, the assignments constitute 75% of your final grade and the discussions make up the remaining 25%.

Course outcomes are developed in each project. Individualized Forus Area students develop the H2X competence in the analysis and planning stages of each project and the H3X competence in the writing and revision stages of each project. Students working on an FX competence will work with their instructor to identify how to develop it across these projects.


Maximum Possible Points

Assignments (75% of final grade)


1.3 Email to a Former Student Project (Draft 1)


2.2 Planning Worksheet for the Sunny River Resort


2.3 Sunny River Resort (Draft 1) Project


3.3 Email to a Former Student (Draft 2)


3.4 Sunny River Resort letter (Draft 2)


4.2 Search for Job Opening


4.3 Planning Worksheet for Cover Letter & Resume Project


4.4 Cover Letter & Resume Project (Draft 1)


5.2 Planning Worksheet for the Software Learning Project


5.3 Software Learning Project Draft 1


7.3 Individually Written Report and Presentation on Software Learning Project


9.2 Brief Summary of Research into Professional Communication Task or Document (memo)


9.3 Analysis and Revision of Workplace Document (Informal Report) Draft 1


10.1 Final Draft: Email to a Former Student –OR- Sunny River Resort Letter


10.2 Final Draft: Cover Letter & Resume Project –OR- Analysis & Revision of a Workplace Document Project


10.4 Self Assessment Letter



Discussions (25% of final grade)


1.1 Introduce Yourself


1.2 Rhetorical Analysis of Email vs. Memo Discussion


1.4 Peer Review of Email to a Former Student Draft 1 Discussion


2.1 Rhetorical Analysis Routine Positive and Negative Messages Discussion


2.4 Role Play for Sunny River Resort Draft 1 Discussion


3.1 Revision Discussion


3.2 Discussion: Informal Report


4.1 Job Search Resources Discussion


4.5 Peer Review of Cover Letter & Resume Project Draft 1 Discussion


5.4 Collaborate on Software Learning Project Draft 2 (Group Draft) Discussion


6.1 Software Learning Project Group Draft 2 Discussion


6.2 Usability Testing Questions Discussion


6.3 Responses to Usability Testing Questions


7.1 Final Draft of Software Learning Project Discussion


7.2 Software Learning Project Final Draft Discussion


9.1 Workplace Communication Assessment Discussion


10.3 Course Summary Email



Course Structure

This course consists of 10 modules. With the exception of Module 10, the estimated time to complete each module is 1 week. All readings are in the course textbook, Writing that Works, and in the D2L course site at

This is not a self-paced course. To see course due dates, refer to the Calendar in our D2L course site which lists the specific due dates for the work due in the course.

Course Structure

This course consists of 10 modules. The estimated time to complete each module is 1 week.

The following table outlines the course:

Week,  Module # and Title



Week 1, Module 1: Email to a Former Student: Rhetoric, Audience, Process, Memos, and Email

Read Module 1 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Part One Intro, Chapters 1 & 3, Part Three Intro, Chapter 8

1.1 Self-assessment of Professional Communication Process Discussion

1.2 Rhetorical Analysis of Email vs. Memo Discussion

1.3 Email to a Former Student Project (Draft 1)

1.4 Peer Review of Email to a Former Student Project Draft 1 Discussion

Week 2, Module 2: Sunny River Resort Letter: Shaping Texts, Arranging Information, Building Arguments

Read Module 2 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Chapters 2 & 9, including Exercise #3 on page 341

2.1 Rhetorical Analysis Routine, Positive, and Negative Messages Discussion

2.2 Planning Worksheet for the Sunny River Resort Letter

2.3 Sunny River Resort Letter (Draft 1) Project

2.4 Role Play for Sunny River Resort Letter Draft 1 Discussion

Week 3, Module 3: Email to a Former Student and Sunny River Resort Projects (Cont.): Crafting a Second Draft & Mechanics

Read Module 3 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Chapters 4, 10, and one chapter of your choice from Part Four, Appendix B

3.1 Revision Discussion

3.2 Discussion: Informal Report

3.3 Email to a Former Student (Draft 2)

3.4 Sunny River Resort letter (Draft 2)

Week 4, Module 4: Employment Search Project: Job Resources, Resumes, Cover Letters

Read Module 4 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Chapter 15

4.1 Job Search Resources Discussion

4.2 Find a Job Opening in Your Field

4.3 Planning Worksheet for the Cover Letter & Resume Project

4.4 Cover Letter & Resume Project (Draft 1)

4.5 Peer Review of Cover Letter & Resume Project Draft 1 Discussion

Week 5, Module 5: Software Learning Initiative Project: Drafting Instructional Documents

Read Module 5 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Part Two Introduction, Chapters 6, 7, & 12

5.1 Software Learning Initiative Informal Proposal Email

5.2 Planning Worksheet for the Software Learning Initiative

5.3 Software Learning Initiative Draft 1

5.4 Collaborate on Software Learning Initiative Draft 2 Discussion

Week 6, Module 6:Software Learning Project (Cont.): Collaboration, Creating and Conducting a Usability Test

Read Module 6 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Chapter 5

6.1 Software Learning Instructions Group Draft 2 - Leader Posts to this Discussion

6.2 Usability Testing Questions - Leader Posts to this Discussion

6.3 Responses to Usability Testing Questions

Week 7, Module 7: Software Learning Project (Cont.): Revising for a Final Draft, Writing a Formal Report

Read Module 7 Content page in D2L

Read Writing that Works: Chapters 11 and 14

7.1 Groups Discuss Changes for Final Draft of Software Learning Project

7.2 Software Learning Project Final Draft - Leader Posts to this Discussion

7.3 Individually-Written Report and Presentation on Software Learning Project

Week 8, Module 8: Take a Breath

This module is built in to the course give you time to catch your breath or to catch up on any missing or late work. However, you are welcome to move on to Module 9 and get started on the next and final project. It's always good to give yourself a little cushion in the real professional world! See you next week.


Week 9, Module 9: Analysis of Workplace Document Project: Information Gathering, Observations, and Situational Assessment

Read Module 9 Content page in D2L

Read additional resource about writing in your workplace/field: your choice (Writing that Works, another book, web resource, workplace documentation, etc.)

9.1 Workplace Communication Assessment Discussion

9.2 Brief Summary of Research into Professional Communication Task or Document (memo)

9.3 Analysis and Revision of Workplace Document Project (Informal Report) Draft 1

Week 10 &11, Module 10: Tying it Together: Final Drafts, Course Summary, and Self Assessment

10.1 Final Draft: Email to a Former Student or Sunny River Resort Letter

10.2 Final Draft: Cover Letter/Resume Project or Analysis and Revision of a Workplace Document Project

10.3 Course Summary Email (Discussion)

10.4 Self Assessment Letter

Assessment of Learning

Assessment of Learning          

Grading Policies and Practices

To complete the course, you must participate in every discussion and complete/submit each of the drafts and assignments as described in the course by the assigned deadline. You should login to the course at least three times a week. A point is deducted for each day a work is late.

Grading Scale

A = 95 to 100

A- = 91 to 94

B+ = 88 to 90

B = 85 to 87

B- = 81 to 84

C+ = 77 to 80

C = 73 to 76

C- = 70 to 72

D+ = 65 to 69

D = 61 to 64

F = 60 or below


Grades lower than a C- do not earn credit at the School for New Learning.

General Assessment Criteria for All Writing Assignments

All writing assignments are expected to conform to basic college-level standards of mechanics and presentation.

All assignments are assessed based on the following criteria:

You will receive detailed feedback from the instructor on first drafts in the D2L Dropbox within one week of submission. You should also post your first drafts to the appropriate discussion forum for peer review. Please keep the public nature of your work in mind when drafting so as not to include any confidential or sensitive information.

Your instructor will assess your second and final drafts and post that assessment to the D2L Dropbox using the Sloan Management School’s Professional Writing Rubric found here. If at any time you are unclear about your instructor’s feedback or how to improve your work in the course, please email him/her immediately for clarification.

Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email. Obviously, the tutors won’t necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you’ll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit

Online Discussion

Assessment Criteria for Online Discussion Participation

Participation In the online discussions: your responses will be assessed on whether one or more of the following are present:

  1. Offering ideas or resources and inviting a critique of them
  2. Asking challenging questions
  3. Articulating, explaining and supporting positions on ideas
  4. Exploring and supporting issues by adding explanations and examples
  5. Reflecting on and re-evaluating personal opinions
  6. Offering a critique, challenging, discussing and expanding ideas of others
  7. Negotiating interpretations, definitions and meanings
  8. Summarizing previous contributions and asking the next question
  9. Proposing actions based on ideas that have been developed

The above list was adapted from Gilly Salmon’s book E-Moderating: The key to teaching and learning online.
London: Kogan Page: p.143 (2000).

When you respond to a classmate's post, refrain from simple phrases like, "Great ideas!" or "I like that." Refer to the 9 points above and use words like, "But," "Additionally," "I agree and," "However," "What about," etc.

Discussion Forums & Group Work

Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week, some of which will be peer review and some of which will be group work.

When participating in class discussions, it is important to keep the conversation constructive, professional, respectful, and friendly. As many of you have probably experienced in other courses or in the workplace, group discussions are not a place for discussion of “too” personal issues, inflammatory or discriminatory language, or insults.

Group work is a difficult task in a fully online environment, especially when group members may have different priorities, work schedules, personal lives, and communication methods. If at any time you are concerned about discussion that is happening in the forums or in group work, you should email your instructor immediately.

Please read and follow these general netiquette rules:

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students.

Course Policies

College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office



Course Expectations

Time Management and Attendance

SNL's online courses are not self-paced and require a regular time commitment EACH week throughout the quarter.

You are required to log in to your course at least four times a week so that you can participate in the ongoing course discussions.

Online courses are no less time consuming than "face to face" courses. You will have to dedicate some time every day or at least every second day to your studies. A typical four credit hour "face to face" course at SNL involves three hours of classroom meeting per week, plus at least three to six hours of study and homework per week.

This course will require at least the same time commitment, but your learning activities will be spread out through the week. If you have any problems with your technology, or if you need to improve your reading or writing skills, it may take even longer.

The instructor should be notified if your life events do not allow you to participate in the course and the online discussions for more than one week. This is particularly important when there are group discussions or you are working as part of a team.

If you find yourself getting behind, please contact the instructor immediately.

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Your Instructor's Role

Your instructor's role in this course is that of a discussion facilitator and learning advisor. It is not their responsibility to make sure you log in regularly and submit your assignments. As instructor, s/he will read all postings to the general discussion forums on a daily basis but may not choose to respond to each posting. You will receive feedback to assignments.

The instructor may choose to designate "office hours" when s/he will be online and available and will immediately respond to questions. Depending on the instructor, this response may be by e-mail, instant messenger or telephone. Otherwise, you will generally receive a response to emailed or posted queries within 48 hours.

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Your Role as a Student

As an online student, you will be taking a proactive approach to your learning. As the course instructor's role is that of a learning guide, your role is that of the leader in your own learning.

You will be managing your own time so that you can complete the readings, activities and assignments for the course, and you will also be expected to take a more active role in peer learning.

Please also note that this is a course offered by DePaul University's School for New Learning (SNL), a college for undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students 24 years and older. SNL welcomes the perspectives and encourages the participation of all DePaul students, and students who take this course should respect and be mindful of SNL's mission in supporting a diverse and inclusive environment. More information about SNL can be found here.

View this brief demo Taking SNL Online courses in D2L to learn how to navigate through your course.

If you’re new to SNL Online see additional resources on the course home page under Student Resources/Getting Started.

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Course Netiquette

Online discussions are an important part of your course experience. To ensure a positive learning environment, please follow the following minimum expectations. Use your common sense, as not all situations can be covered:

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Academic Integrity

DePaul University is a learning community that fosters the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas within a context that emphasizes a sense of responsibility for oneself, for others and for society at large. Violations of academic integrity, in any of their forms, are, therefore, detrimental to the values of DePaul, to the students' own development as responsible members of society, and to the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas.

Violations include but are not limited to the following categories: cheating; plagiarism; fabrication; falsification or sabotage of research data; destruction or misuse of the university's academic resources; alteration or falsification of academic records; and academic misconduct. Conduct that is punishable under the Academic Integrity Policy could result in additional disciplinary actions by other university officials and possible civil or criminal prosecution. Please refer to your Student Handbook for further details.

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Plagiarism is a major form of academic dishonesty involving the presentation of the work of another as one's own. Plagiarism includes but is not limited to the following:

Plagiarism, like other forms of academic dishonesty, is always a serious matter. If an instructor finds that a student has plagiarized, the appropriate penalty is at the instructor's discretion.

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DePaul University Incomplete Policy

The intent of the Incomplete grade is to allow students extra time to complete their final assignments. This need arises because, in the closing weeks of the course, they have an event of significant magnitude that adversely affects their ability to complete the course, e.g. serious illness, death in the family, overseas deployment, or natural disaster.

You must request an incomplete grade in writing two weeks before the end of the quarter. Incomplete grades will be considered only after you have satisfactorily completed at least 75 percent of the coursework, and you have such an unexpected, uncontrollable event that prevents you from completing your course. Do not assume that you will qualify for an incomplete. Students who are failing the course at the point where they request an incomplete will not receive one, nor will they be granted after the end of the quarter. Incomplete grades are given at the discretion of the instructor.

If you do receive permission from the instructor to take an incomplete in the course, you will be required to complete a contract with the instructor, specifying how you will finish the missing work within the next two quarters (excluding summer). See the Incomplete Grade Contract Form.

Undergraduate and graduate students will have up to two quarters to complete an incomplete. At the end of the second quarter (excluding summer) following the term in which the incomplete grade was assigned, remaining incompletes will automatically convert to "F" grades. Ordinarily no incomplete grade may be completed after the grace period has expired. Instructors may not change incomplete grades after the end of the grace period without the permission of a college-based Exceptions Committee. This policy applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. NOTE: In the case of a student who has applied for graduation and who has been approved for an Incomplete in his or her final term, the incomplete must be resolved within the four-week grace period before final degree certification.

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Description of Pass/Fail Grading Options

Students have the option of taking all SNL undergraduate courses as Pass/Fail even if a class is initially structured for a letter grade assessment. In these cases a Pass is awarded when competence is demonstrated at a level that would otherwise earn a grade of C- or higher.

In deciding to select Pass/Fail grading students should be aware that competencies assessed in a course as Pass will earn credit hours toward degree completion but will not be included in computing grade point averages. Attempted competence demonstration assessed within a class as Fail will not only be recorded as credit hours attempted but will also be included in computing a student's grade point average.

For SNL students, competencies awarded for Independent Learning Pursuits and in the Lifelong Learning Domain do not count toward the university's specification that only twenty credit hours may be earned through the Pass/Fail assessment option.

Please note:There are three SNL courses within the BA curriculum that are always assessed on a Pass/Fail basis: Foundations of Adult Learning (course number LL 250; competences L-2 and F-1), Advanced Project (course number FA 303; competences F-11 and F-12) and Summit Seminar (course number LL 390; competence L-12). These classes may not be taken for a letter grade assessment. Therefore, work that might otherwise be assessed at grades A through C- will earn a Pass in these classes.

There are an additional five SNL courses within the Lifelong Learning Area of the BA curriculum for which instructors regularly use a Pass/Fail grading system that may instead be taken for a letter grade assessment if this is a student's preference. These classes are: Independent Learning Seminar (course number LL 103; competence L1); Writing for Competence (course number LL 260; competence L-4), Critical Thinking (course number LL 270; competence L-5), Research Seminar (course number LL 300; competences L-8 and L-9), and Externship (course number LL 302; competences L-10 and L-11). In addition, SNL's undergraduate Writing Workshop (course number LL 140; competence H-3-J) regularly uses Pass/Fail, although students may request a letter grade assessment. In these instances SNL offers undergraduate students the opportunity to request a letter grade assessment from their instructor. Students who need a letter grade for tuition reimbursement may wish to consider this option, as well as those who wish to raise their GPA. Students planning to attend graduate school may also prefer letter grades to Pass/Fail assessments.

If a student wants to switch the method of assessment, either to or from the Pass/Fail option, this must be requested from the instructor in writing by the beginning of the third week of the quarter. For courses that meet fewer than ten weeks of the quarter, this request must be made by the beginning of the third week of the course. The grading basis may not be changed after these deadlines, with no exceptions.

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For Students Who Need Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Students seeking disability-related accommodations are required to register with DePaul's Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) enabling you to access accommodations and support services to assist your success. There are two office locations:

Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD)
Loop Campus: Lewis Center 1420. (312) 362-8002
Lincoln Park Campus: Student Center 370. (773) 325-1677

Students are also invited to contact their instructor privately to discuss your challenges and how the instructor may assist in facilitating the accommodations you will use in this course. This is best done early in the term and the conversation will remain confidential.

Dean of Students Office

The Dean of Students Office (DOS) helps students in navigating the university, particularly during difficult situations, such as personal, financial, medical, and/or family crises. Absence Notifications to faculty, Late Withdrawals, and Community Resource Referrals, support students both in and outside of the classroom. Additionally we have resources and programs to support health and wellness, violence prevention, substance abuse and drug prevention, and LGBTQ student services. We are committed to your success as a DePaul student. Please feel free to contact us.

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Protection of Human Subjects

For more information see:

Demonstrating the acquisition of competencies in this course can involve "interactions"—interviewing and or observing other people—discussing those interviews or observations with other class members and writing them up in one or more final report(s). As such, these activities qualify as "research" with "human subjects" and are subject to University and Federal guidelines. Because it takes place in the context of this course, your research is exempt from approval by the School for New Learning's Local Review Board only under the following conditions:

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Copyright and Student Privacy

In accordance with DePaul’s Acceptable Use Policy, commentary and materials within SNL Online classes shall not be copied, reproduced or published elsewhere without the express written consent of individuals involved.

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This course was designed and produced by staff and faculty at the School for New Learning of DePaul University.
©2017 School for New Learning, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SNL DCM.
Printed in the USA.