Syllabus : COM 585
Managing Your Web Presence: Strategic Digital Platform Fundamentals

1. Course Description and Objectives

This course is a hands-on class that is part of the University of Washington Department of Communication’s Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program. A PDF of this syllabus (dated 15 September) is available for printing or offline reading. This course is a companion to COM586, Managing Your Web Presence: Applied Content Creation, Curation, and Optimization, which is scheduled for Spring 2012.


Examines the framework of social media applications, with the goal of helping digital media communications professionals understand the technologies underlying legacy and emerging Internet applications. Introduces the terminology, history and evolution of web-based communication; focuses upon elements of effective web site design; introduces project management techniques needed to organize digital assets, allocate resources, and meet deadlines.

In order to make sense of the legal, social and policy issues that are created by new technologies, as well as to function as a leader in the field, it is essential to know what they are and understand how they actually work. Students will gain a solid understanding of legacy and emerging technologies and web programming (how to speak the language, not write code), which are essential skills when managing cross-functional teams.

Students will develop hands-on skills in core technology implementation, such as WordPress (PHP, MySQL, CSS) and Twitter (API) and will experiment with emerging technologies such as Google+. Students will learn a little about HTML and CSS, but will not become “proficient” (insufficient time). Any code written in class will be written “naked” (plain text editor – no Dreamweaver). Students will develop hands-on skills but the goal is not to turn you into a developer … the goal is for you to understand what’s involved to produce content with these various technologies.

The course is structured like a workshop or seminar: each class member is responsible for formally and informally contributing to discussion of readings, activities and assignments. This is a project-based course, and students may work in teams or solo; bring your pitches. This is not a “web design” or “information architecture” course, although design fundamentals are a core component.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Compare/recommend technologies that support communication goals and business cases
  • Install and customize WordPress
  • Speak the language of Web 2.0, from LAMP and Ajax to XHTML and CSS
  • Select appropriate graphics formats and understand issues related to color and typography
  • Explain types of web site genres and navigational structures
  • Use social media technologies to share presentations digitally

Student Responsibilities

  • Be prepared for class; have reading and assignments done on time
  • Participate in active learning inside and outside of class (in other words, both on-line and face-to-face). That means asking questions, helping classmates answer questions, and working with one another to solve problems.
  • Be in class. It’s the only time we’ll have to work face-to-face
  • Ask questions!
  • Regardless of your experience with design or web technologies at the start of the class, I expect you to challenge yourself so that your skills are greater at the end of the quarter than at the start.

Alignment With MCDM Core Values and Competencies

Value/Core Competency COM585
Identify and analyze the latest developments in digital media technology. Students will deploy WordPress as a content management system and will experiment with other technologies such as Google+ and the Twitter API.
Understand how to use digital media to create and convey a message.
  1. Students produce a standalone website for their term project, using WordPress
  2. Students share their presentation material using
Pursue new business and management models based on the application of digital media. Students will have an intimate understanding of the free development tools available today.

2. Course Structure and Teaching Strategies

Teaching methods for this course will include lectures, video demonstrations, student presentations, reading, and writing assignments. Some classes may feature a guest lecturer who is a leading professional or scholar in interactive digital media. Because it is a hands-on class, enrollment is limited and it will be structured like a seminar. Class discussions are a key element of the course, and students are encouraged to ask questions, offer their own observations, and share their own experiences with technologies.

Instructor’s Educational Philosophy

My goal is to provide a stimulating environment for learning. Course material includes both theory and application, with an emphasis on application to real world problems and situations. Written and oral reports are required because these skills are needed in the work environment in general, and in web development, management, and consulting in particular. Students are required to comment and collaborate as these are practical skills; the means used demonstrates theories discussed in class.

Communication with the Instructor

I am happy to meet with you in order to accommodate your schedule. I also strongly encourage you to send questions, comments, concerns to me via email. I check my campus email less frequently on F-Su; please do not expect an answer to email sent F-Su until Monday. Please use clear subject lines that includes the course number COM585 (add “urgent” if the message is time-sensitive). Double your chances of a quick response by also sending the note to my gmail account: kegill at If you have not heard from me within 48 hours, please resend to both email accounts; it would also be a good idea to also change the subject line. [Note: emails without subject lines will not be read; they are automatically filtered into the spam folder.]

3. Schedule

Class Meets Wednesday evenings, 6-10 pm, CMU301; we will also meet two Sundays (substituting for two Wednesday nights). The schedule is the home page of the course website:

4. Required and Recommended Books and Resources


  • Using WordPress. Tris Hussey. Que (2011)
  • Designing The Obvious. Robert Hoekman, Jr. New Riders (2011)
  • Beginning Web Programming With HTML, XHTML, CSS. Jon Duckett. Wrox (2011 – O’Reilly) OR Beginning HTML, XHTML, CSS and Javascript. Jon Duckett. Wrox (2009 – Amazon)

Recommended Books For People Interested In Design

  • Design of Everyday Things. Don Norman. Basic Books (1990, paper)
  • Designing Interactions. Bill Moggridge. MIT (2007)
  • Speaking in Styles: Fundamentals of CSS for Web Designers. Jason Cranford Teague. New Riders (2009)

Recommended Books For People Interested In WordPress

  • WordPress 2.7 Cookbook. Jean-Baptiste Jung. Packt Publishing (July 15, 2009)
  • WordPress: Visual QuickStart Guide. Jessica Neuman Beck and Matt Beck. Peachpit Press (2009)

I will use some books from the Safari library (UW Proquest subscription – offsite log-in required).

Students will be required to purchase a website hosting package (as little as $60 a year); recommended, buying a personal domain name (url, prices vary based upon term of purchase but minimum is about $15 for one year).

There will be a quarterly package of subscriptions (optional, approximately $20 per student for 11 weeks).

5. Assessment

Grades are based on a project (individual), an individual (discussion leader) presentation, team assignments, and class participation. Your grade for this class will be based on a possible total of 500 points; and your score will be translated into the 4.0 scale.

The final project will be published as a standalone website using WordPress as a content management system. The discussion leader presentation will be published on

Your final grade will be based on the total points received. For points, see the Google Spreadsheet (course links).

Discussion Leader (presentation/in-class discussion) 75
Term Project (individual) 250
Technology Assignments (team of two – two assignments) 100
Participation 75
Total Points 500

Grades (total points x 2/10)

  • 97 – 100 = 4.0
    94 – 96.9 = 3.9
    91 – 93.9 = 3.8
    87 – 90.9 = 3.6
    83 – 86.9 = 3.3
    79 – 83.9 = 3.0
    75 – 78.9 = 2.8

Grading Scale

  • 4.0 – 95-100
    Exceptional work. Student performance demonstrates full command of course material and evidences a high level of originality and/or creativity
  • 3.9 – 90-94
    Outstanding work. Student performance demonstrates full command of course material and exceeds course expectations by completing all requirements in a superior manner.
  • 3.7 – 87-89
    Very good work. Student performance demonstrates above average understanding of the course material.
  • 3.5 – 84-86
    Good work. Student performance demonstrates good comprehension of the course material.
  • 3.2 – 80-83
    Average work. Student performance demonstrates average comprehension of the course material.
  • 2.8 – 77-79
    Below average work.
  • 2.6 and below – 76 and belowUnacceptable work. Course work performed at this level will not count toward the MC degree. For the course to count towards the degree, the student must repeat the course with a passing grade.

UW Grading System

6. Course Policies

By becoming a member of this class, you agree to abide by these rules and any other policies not explicitly stated here that are detailed in the UW Student Conduct Handbook.


Students are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for completing all course material on deadline. You must e-mail me if you miss class because of illness or emergency. This communication is part of your class participation. Moreover, rather than ask me what happened while you were away, you should also check this blog as well as talk to your classmates to “see what you missed.” In-class assignments cannot be made up except by arrangement.

Additionally, from the Faculty Code:

A student absent from any class activity through sickness or other cause judged by the instructor to be unavoidable shall be given an opportunity to perform work judged by the instructor to be the equivalent… Examples of unavoidable cause include death or serious illness in the immediate family, illness of the student, and, provided previous notification is given, observance of regularly scheduled religious obligations and might possibly include attendance at academic conferences or field trips, or participation in university-sponsored activities such as debating contests or athletic competition (Faculty code, Vol. 4, Part 3, Chap 12, sec 1B).


All work must be completed on time. Errors (facts, spelling and grammar) will result in a reduced grade. You are expected to produce original work and properly cite the thoughts and works of others. All sources must be properly cited. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and are not tolerated by the University. For more information, please refer to the University’s Academic Honesty policy.

Classroom Environment

Students and faculty are responsible for creating a good learning environment. We will use computing technology in the classroom during labs; specific uses of computing technology will be announced in advance with detailed instructions.

Students may use laptops or other portable devices for taking notes. However, these portable devices should not be used to engage in non-classroom activities, such as surfing the Net, checking e-mail, playing games or listening to music. These activities would certainly divert your attention away from class and could distract other students as well, thus corrupting the learning environment. I reserve the right to end your use of a portable device, ask you to move, or revoke the privilege of using wireless devices in the classroom.

During class breaks, students may use portable computing devices or lab computers for personal use as long as they respect other class members. Material visible on the computing device should not be offensive or incendiary. Any music played during breaks should be at a level conducive to classroom civility.

Courteous Discourse

Whether in class or online, students are expected to conduct themselves with professional courtesy and decorum. Please make constructive comments; flames and insults are not acceptable. Disagree with the idea, not the person!


The instructor will not give incompletes except under exceptional circumstances.


To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-5430-8925/TTY. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need for the class.

E-mail Communication

E-mail communications among members of this class should reflect respect for the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. In addition to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, there are additional policies for this class:

  • E-mail communication from a student to the instructor will be acted upon, if possible, within 24 hours (M-Th). If an e-mail from a student does not receive a response within 48 hours, then the student should investigate other ways of contacting me (telephone, office hours, etc.). E-mail to the instructor must have clear, not cryptic, subject lines and should include the course number (COM546).
  • Students are responsible for checking their UW mail regularly; instructor and class mailing list mail is directed to the student UW address, as it is the official e-mail address for class enrollment.
  • E-mail communications should not include any CCing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • E-mail communications should not include any blind-CCing to third parties.

Updated: 15 September 2011

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