Public Relations Writing: Online Study - 2

Twenty rules that define this course.
(I'd suggest you print this out and keep it with your class papers. I will sometimes quiz you on these rules to assure myself you have not skipped this page.)

  1. Deadlines matter. You can do your work whenever it's most convenient for you, but you will still have regular deadlines – just like the real world of public relations. They will be posted with each assignment.

  2. Don't skip any part of the lesson. Be sure to read everything in the lesson, twice. I'm not in the classroom with you and I can't repeat for emphasis – you have to take that responsibility on yourself.

  3. New lessons will be posted every Monday. You can sign on whenever you like, but you'll have more time to meet your deadline if you sign on around noon on the day the assignment is posted.

  4. Subject field in your email address: Whenever you email me, put PRW and your last name somewhere in the "Subject:" field. Without the PRW I'll probably get it eventually but it will not arrive in the right mailbox, and will therefore be delayed – which might make your assignment late. For example, if Jim Jackson emails me with a question about Lesson One, the subject line might be:

  5. PRW-Jackson-Question about Lesson 1

  6. Name your files correctly: For each assignment I will tell you what to name the file(s) you send me. It will always be PRW, then a hyphen, then last name, hyphen, and a filename I will give you. Don't forget the hyphens. It will look something like:


    When you begin to submit rewrites (typically, after the Midterm Exam) add a version number, starting with 2. Again, don't forget the hyphens. Your first "Evita" rewrite will be named:


  7. Use Moodle to submit your assignments. This is new this semester -- I am finally taking the leap and trusting Moodle to do what it's supposed to.

  8. I grade your assignments as printed documents. This means that whenever you email me your PR writings, they must be ready-to-print directly from the attached file. If they're garbled or if the page breaks, headers, etc., don't work, they are not acceptable.

  9. To email me, please use my faculty address .

  10. Other communications channels will be available for posting questions and comments, for collaborating, and for real-time chats. Students who answer other students' questions will receive extra credit.

  11. Don't fall behind in your assignments. Assignments that are late are given a grade of zero for that lesson. As my in-class students know, there are no exceptions to this rule – just as you would not be able to tell a client that your floppy disk didn't work or your roommate had a nervous breakdown so you were up all night, the same excuses don't work in this course.

  12. Expect to write and rewrite each press release assignment at least three times. Especially at first, you are almost certainly not going to be able to get it right without trial and error. Your first draft will always come to me from your team, and will be returned to each of you with my comments. After that you will produce your own individual draft of each assignment, which I will edit and return to each of you. Thereafter you will have multiple opportunities to perfect your work.

  13. Typically, I don't assign a letter grade to a press release until the third draft, sometimes the second draft, if your work is very good. Except for the Lesson One press release assignment (which is diagnostic), every release assignment includes a "pre-writing" exercise, the Message Planner, worth 20-25 percent of your grade. The lead is worth about 40 percent, and the rest of the release about 35 percent. It's rare that early drafts score well in all three areas, and I don't want my students to be wading around in "D" and "F" grades – it's demoralizing. So I hold off giving grades until the work is coming along well. Different students have different learning curves, and I'm patient.

  14. Now pay close attention to this cautionary tale: A certain student signed up for my online course. She reasoned this way: "I can sit in a classroom for almost three hours a week, then do two hours of homework – that's five hours a lesson ... or I can take the course online, read the lesson, do two hours of homework – that's about half as much time!" What's wrong with this picture? Her math was bad: online learning doesn't mean less learning time. In fact, it can take longer to internalize each lesson, since you have to take the initiative to grasp difficult points. To learn this material you need to spend as much time on your own as you would otherwise spend in the classroom. PR Writing is complicated and you need to make sure you have allowed yourself enough time to absorb the information – not just read it once through and tell yourself, "I get it!" By the way, that student didn't do so well in the course...

  15. This online course is not just a Web-based textbook, with email assignments. Like any good class, it's a relationship between you and your teacher (me), and among you and your classmates. These relationships will be mostly online instead of face-to-face, but they will still be relationships that we will all have to work to maintain.

  16. You are welcome to visit me in my office whenever I'm on campus, which is most of the time – but make an appointment first by email, and then phone me before you come over – I'm often called to a meeting somewhere on campus.

  17. You are also welcome to visit my personal home page at any time. It's at But you don't really need to go there – everything you need is on the Web site where you are already reading this.

  18. Your next step now should be to check out the Syllabus . Give this syllabus a careful reading. Since I'm not standing in front of the class discussing it in detail with you, I want you to take the initiative to let me know if there's anything there you don't understand. Or maybe there's something else you'd like to know about PR writing that I don't seem to have covered. I want to make sure you get what you need from this course – and I want you to understand why some topics are covered in such detail. So read it carefully and email me with feedback.

  19. Then go on to the first lesson. Email me right away if you have any problems.

Looking forward,

Alton Miller