blue duke continuing studies logoIntroduction

If you have an interest in technical communication but are finding it hard to “break in” to the industry, you are not alone. Recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike need in-demand skills, a professional network, and a relevant work history. But what if you don’t have any of those, and don’t know where to start to get them?

Enter the Technical Writing program from Duke University Continuing Studies. This 5-month intensive curriculum was developed by practitioners who focus on real-world applications in  technical writing and professional communication. This course was developed for anyone who wants to improve their professional communication skills while targeting careers in technical communication and editing.

The Technical Writing course is one of several non-degreed and non-credit programs offered. The career enhancement programs are offered across 19 industries, both in person and online. The adult continuing studies programs are set apart from other universities because the classes are developed and led by practitioners in their field instead of traditional faculty. Duke also offers camps for middle and high school students as well as adults who are not interested in career-focused classes.

Dee Holland, Director of Continuing Studies, ensures that the programs offered meet market demands, are competitive with other institutions, and complement to Duke’s degree offerings. Since Holland has been running DCS, Duke has been a strong supporter of STC Carolina. Recently they became official sponsors of the chapter. “Partnering with STC gives the Technical Writing program validity and instructors who are tapped in to the local industry,” Holland said. In return, Duke provides employers with new talent and STC with excited volunteers.

About the Program

Started in 2004, the Technical Writing program is one of Duke’s most successful programs. Student evaluations and career progression after the course speak volumes of its practicality. The course also succeeds because the instructors serve as mentors and they are the beginning of each student’s professional network.

Seven instructors, several of whom are veteran STC Carolina leaders, develop their lesson plans and projects with working professionals in mind. Students meet one or two nights a week at Duke’s Durham campus. Next to the classroom is a computer lab available for tools instruction. The courses, which last several weeks each, are:

  • Intro to Tech Comm – Overview of careers in Technical Communications. The program’s expectations and requirements are also discussed.
  • Essential Skills Advanced writing and editing skills essential for all technical communicators, including typography, document formatting, and use of graphics.
  • Technical Writing Workshop – Working individually or in small groups, students contribute to class projects that are derived from their own interests and those of classmates.
  • Information Architecture – How to design and deliver information effectively for a specified audience; basic principles of visual design, audience and task analysis; and how to organize information, information delivery systems, and topic-based authoring.
  • Managing the Information Development Process – The process for developing technical information from initial planning to final distribution. This course covers the best ways to plan, schedule, budget, track, and report status.
  • Tools Overview – Overview of the most commonly used technical communication tools and how to select the best tools for a successful project. This year, the course will focus on Microsoft Word, Madcap Flare, and DITA (using oXygen).
  • Final Project Portfolio – Applying skills learned throughout the program, students develop and complete a final written project that can be showcased in a technical communication portfolio.

The portfolio project is designed to showcase the skills learned during the program and serve as a “work product” to show prospective employers. Upon completion of their portfolio project and other course requirements receive a certificate of completion. Duke ensures that each student earns their certificate by completing all required coursework; certificates are not given just based on attendance.

This program is not a preparatory course for the STC Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) certification.

Learn More

Students can learn much more about the program and meet some of the instructors at a free information session on August 22nd in Durham. For more information about the program, visit