The Impact of Business Communication Education on Students' Short- and Long-Term Performances

By Zhao, Jensen J.; Alexander, Melody W. | Business Communication Quarterly, March 2004 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Business Communication Education on Students' Short- and Long-Term Performances


Zhao, Jensen J., Alexander, Melody W., Business Communication Quarterly


The purpose of this longitudinal study was to identify the short- and long-term impact of business communication education on students' skill developments and performance outcomes. Nearly 400 students at an AA CSC International-accredited business college participated in the study during their sophomore and senior year. The findings indicate that the business communication course helped students develop good skills in writing reports, solving problems, working in teams, communicating orally, and using Internet technologies for both the short term (sophomore year) and the long term (senior year). More than 95 % of the students reported achieving As and Bs on written assignments, company-analysis reports, problem-solving assignments, and oral presentations in their sophomore, junior and senior years. However, the long-term effect was statistically less significant than was the short-term effect, although both were within the same positive range.

Keywords: longitudinal study; assessment of course effectiveness; report writing; problem solving; teamwork; oral presentation; short- and long-term effects

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EMPLOYERS REQUIRE THEIR EMPLOYEES to have good communication skills and expect that college students will possess such skills when they graduate (Cappel, 2002; Epstein, 1999; Stowers & White, 1999; U.S. Department of Labor, 2002). To meet such a demand, business communication education is offered as a required course for business students at most universities and colleges in the United States (Knight, 1999; Ober & Wunsch, 1995).

The content of the business communication courses includes a wide range of concepts and skills. In a national survey of 229 members of the Association for Business Communication (ABC) in the United States, Wardrope and Bayless (1999) found that instructors taught communication theory, written communication, oral communication, employment communication, technology, and ethics and cultural diversity in their business communication courses. This finding is consistent with that of an earlier national survey of 301 ABC members on the same subject (Ober & Wunsch, 1995).

Several course-assessment studies report that students improve their skills in business communication by taking the course. For example, Hiemstra (2001) surveyed 286 business communication instructors and 406 students in the United States. The survey found that most instructors and students either agreed or strongly agreed that students improved in the areas of report organization, clarity, completeness, correctness, conciseness, content, grammar and mechanics, tone, audience analysis, and confidence in writing after completing the course. Similarly, Murranka and Lynch (1999) reported that each semester, around 600 business students enrolled in their competency-based management communication course, which teaches business writing fundamentals, formal report writing, informative oral presentations, and persuasive oral presentations, created better written documents and oral presentations because of the course. Students, faculty, and administration all viewed the course positively.

These assessments reported only students' performance outcomes at the end of their business communication course. No studies have been found that assess students' long-term performances in business communication. Therefore, a need exists for a longitudinal study to examine the impact of business communication education on college students' short- and long-term performances. In this study, we assess the short-term impact by asking sophomore students to report their perceived learning outcomes voluntarily after completing a required business communication course. When the students reach the end of their senior year, we assess the long-term impact by asking them to report voluntarily their perceived communication-related performances in upper-division business courses and in job-related activities. …

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