Course Syllabus

The Winter 2019 version of WRT 451 will be conducted under the banner: Becoming Word Press Experts

We will still be satisfying the course objectives listed below, but we will do so through a deep dive into WordPress.

Using a full-featured content management system, students in this advanced class will learn to build sites and create content for a variety of web genres and diverse audiences, and they will enable interactive features for communication such as blogs, forums, podcasting, social networking, and picture galleries. Students will also extend their skill with visual rhetoric and document design principles by applying advanced HTML/CSS techniques to the modification of CMS visual themes to address specific rhetorical situations.

Course Objectives

  1. Install and develop websites using a CMS (
  2. Analyze specific web audiences, genre constraints, and rhetorical situations suitable for implementation using a CMS
  3. Explain general software features of CMSs and choose the best software options for specific writing contexts
  4. Configure the CMS for effective document production workflow and content organization
  5. Optimize websites for improved user experience and search engine ranking
  6. Demonstrate good project management and collaboration skills
  7. Modify and develop CMS themes using HTML/CSS strategies


  • features of Content Management Systems and brief history of web development, including the CMS.
  • CMS configuration and website design for various audiences
  • HTML/CSS and CMS theme design
  • Keyword analysis, Google Analytics, and other techniques for maximizing site exposure with search engines
  • Drupal configuration, including content types, views, dynamic displays
  • Management techniques and teamwork best practices

Week One

  • The first four videos will get us started. You should use these videos for review in case you fall behind or want to remind yourself of what we did. We'll take a quick tour here of good principles for basic page design, and the common features of each. This video will give an overview of what we'll learn to do as we work our way through this video series. We'll learn here at that getting hosting is a fist step along with getting domain name. To this end, I arranged with SiteGround (SG) to provide us free hosting service for a year. We'll begin by exploring our new hosting service and the CPanel (control panel). They will supply a generic domain name for us. In this first week our goal is to get our SG hosting service set up, install WordPress, and view our out-of-the-box WP website.
  • We'll learn about SiteGround, how to set up email, and where to find support. We'll want to create some Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for our site and learn to check our emai even if we never use it. When you build sites for others, they may want email with their new domain name.

Install WordPress & Login to WordPress

  • We'll use the WordPress installer paying special attention to which directory we are installing into (previewing how we can create a second, third, and more if needed. We'll have to keep distinct our SG login from our WP login. So we'll sign in to our WP site and explore the dashboard. One of the things we'll do is change our password.

Dashboard vs Customizer

  • One of the things we want to explore before diving in to building is the Admin Dashboard. How is this different from the Customizer? We'll do some in-class activities to make sure we have a solid grasp of these differences.

Week Two

  • We'll work through the next 6 tutorials--if I don't assign those in advance of week two--and in those we will work with some plug ins and do some other global stuff. We'll also install Ocean-WP theme so we'll have that as we work our way through these Tyler tutorials.
  • We'll return to our SiteGround control panel and install a second instance of WP and see how much of what we've learned so far we can do from memory.

Week Three

  • We'll add new pages, following the simple directions in Tyler video #12. Next we'll add some navigation menus and learn to user the Customizer. We'll see how to add pages to a menu--the main menu--and rearrange those menu items. There's also instructions here about changing the style of the main menu. There's more to this than it seems at first, but it's not difficult. We'll set up our first site with a customized main menu, then we'll go to our second site and try to replicate that without guidance from the tutorial.
  • All of this #13 video shows quite a bit about the header area, which is important and gets complex.
  • We'll change the title and tagline of the site.
  • We'll learn how to switch from "blog" style to regular page style website. This lesson will teach us to remove our page title and use full width. But we'll see here also that using the built in WP editor is probably not the method we're going to use for creating content and building our pages. This ends week 3 and we'll introduce the new Elementor page builder at the start of week 4. If we begin with Elementor at the end of week three, that's fine. There's a lot to explore there and week four will be all about the Elementor plugin.

Week Four

  • It's all about the Elementor plug in and page builder this week.
  • We'll watch tutorial #16, 17, and 19, with a brief look at importing pre-built templates.
  • Once we have the Elementor approach nailed down, we'll use this approach to mimic as closely as we can this design. This assignment will serve as a check on our page-building skills. We'll begin this week and complete it by the end of week five.

Week Five

  • We'll work through our week-five tutorials this week and complete the CapitalOne page mimic.

Week Six

  • We'll work through our week-six tutorials.
  • Look ahead to Week Eight and begin research and discovery.

Week Seven

  • We'll work through our week-seven tutorials (perhaps another page mimic as a mid-term check)
  • Our mid-term exam will involve building a site from scratch, reproducing what you see here.

Week Eight

  • We'll work through our week-eight tutorials, and we'll begin the second-half of the term with website project planning.
  • By the beginning of this week, you need to have done some research and discovery to find at least five websites that typify the design and content conventions of the first site you intend to build. For example, if you are building an author's portfolio/brochure site, you need to find five examples and be ready to discuss the content features and the design features that you like and intend to incorporate.

Weeks Nine through Fourteen

  • We'll build multiple websites, sharing our techniques and discoveries along the way.

If you miss four class periods, you will likely miss enough information that it will impact your grade but there is no required penalty for missing four classes. If you miss five class periods (i.e., about 20% of the course) you will automatically get a letter grade drop, and if you miss six class periods, you cannot pass the course. There is no distinction between excused and unexcused absences. A missed class for whatever reason is a missed class. I assume you excuse yourself.

Academic Integrity
Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated in this course. If you use the words, images, or research of another writer (including your classmates), document that material appropriately. All material you submit in this course should be your own work written expressly for this course; please do not simultaneously submit assignments from this course to another professor without explicit permission of both instructors. If you are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism, please see me.

You are responsible for making yourself aware of and for understanding the policies and procedures that pertain to academic integrity. To that end, be sure to familiarize yourself with the GVSU Student Code [Section 223.01] related to academic integrity.

If there is any student in this class who has special needs because of a learning, physical, or other disability, please contact me and Disability Support Services (DSS) at (616) 331-2490. Furthermore, if you have a disability and think you will need assistance evacuating this classroom and/or building in an emergency, please make me aware so that the university and I can develop a plan to assist you. It is the student’s responsibility to request assistance from DSS.