English class publishes its own digital textbook

A group of Troy University students recently published a new textbook about writing and editing for digital media.

A group of Troy University students recently published a new textbook about writing and editing for digital media.

A group of Troy University students and faculty recently published a new textbook as part of a class on digital media.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes’ “Writing, Editing, and Publishing for Digital Media” class has published “The Student’s Guide to Digital Publishing,” available now as an e-book on Amazon and Apple Books.

The project began when Nokes realized there were no textbooks on the market addressing the topic of the new class.

“Last year Dr. Kirk Curnutt, Chairman of the English Department, and I met because we wanted to be more proactive about assuring that our students were well-trained in the subtle differences between writing and editing for digital media vs. print media,” Nokes said. “When I began looking at what other schools were doing, I found that the classes were either very low-end computer literacy classes or were graduate-level projects that tended to be focused on fulfilling a single grant. I found that other schools weren’t really properly training their undergraduates in this field — a terrible oversight, since anyone graduating today will do almost all their writing for digital media. I decided that we would write our own textbook as a class.”

Nokes brought in noted experts as guest lecturers, including a senior editor for a digital trade journal, a senior writer for a major computer game company (leading the writing of such games as “Star Trek Online”) and the systems architect for a digital publishing company to talk about the technical aspects.

“Our students didn’t just learn from me, they learned from industry pioneers,” Nokes said. “During the semester, the students published an online magazine, Trojan Digital Review, in which each would pitch an article topic on the subject of digital writing, and then another student would edit that article. The purpose of the project was to build experience and a portfolio of writing that potential employers could see, while at the same time researching the subject of digital publishing for the production of the textbook.”

Near the semester’s end, students decided what each chapter would be and who would work on them, based on their interests. After writing the articles, their fellow students edited the chapters while Nokes worked with the publisher to ensure they met quality standards.

Working on the book presented an interesting opportunity for students.

“While I had taken creative writing classes, the idea of a nonfiction writing course designed for publishing online seemed beneficial to my career and what I may want to do with my degree,” said Draven Jackson, a recent TROY graduate who majored in English. “I think the final product is amazing — both because of all the hard work put into it by the students and because it’s really cool to see how a group of students banded together to create a book that ended up being published. And I think the book itself is really beneficial as a learning tool and a textbook, especially to students interested in how the world is being changed by technology.”

Jackson’s fellow graduate Wesley Ralph, also an English major, felt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to publish a book.

“I spoke to Dr. Nokes about this class he was teaching. His goal was to give us real world experience and create something relevant to the modern publishing world,” Ralph said. “I love the way it turned out. It was a fantastic collaboration of a diverse group of people with a ton of different interests. The text itself begins to fill a need in modern English curriculum: understanding and exploring reading and writing in the digital age. It may be some of the most applicable advice as I move into the job world.”

The publisher, Witan Publishing, has agreed to donate all author royalties to the Troy University English Department Foundation.