Using the Internet in Written Business Communication

Article excerpt

The Internet already has become a pervasive force in our society, and projections are that it will continue to become even more so in the future. We educators need to be sure we are preparing our students adequately to use the rich resources found on the Internet. The purpose of this article is to help business communication instructors become more familiar with the Internet and to discuss ways its use -- through several scenarios -- can be incorporated into written business communication courses.

Interconnecting literally millions of individual computers, the Internet has a number of important -- even profound -- uses in the written business communication course. With it, students are able to access many different resources that they will find useful in the written business communication course and afterwards. For example, they can use it to gather information when writing reports',to communicate with students in the class and at most other colleges, to communicate with their instructor, to collaborate on writing projects at another college, and to look for employment opportunities.

Until recently, most major Internet sites have been academic and government organizations. However, within the last two to three years, commercialization of the Internet has increased dramatically, primarily because commercial users now have fewer restrictions than previously. Originally under the direction of the National Science Foundation, the Internet stopped receiving federal funding during the spring of 1994. That action does not affect Internet management, for it is managed as it has always been managed -- by its users, with no one individual or organization actually owning it.

Connecting to the Internet

Using the Internet requires a computer with either a modem or a direct connection to the Internet via a local area network. Individuals who access the Internet from a home computer will likely use plain, nofrills terminal emulation, or SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol), or PPP (Point-to-point Protocol), which provides full -- albeit slow -- Internet connectivity. When Internet access is not available as a job perk (although most universities and sizable companies now offer access), varying degrees and service-ability of Internet access can be obtained through a commercial provider. These providers, such as America Online, Delphi, Prodigy, or Compuserve, offer fee-based access.

When users obtain Internet access, they get an Internet e-mail address, such as this: jdoe@unixl. okstate.edu. "jdoe" is the user name for John Doe, "unix1" is the name of the computer, "okstate" is the Internet name for Oklahoma State University, and "edu" indicates that Oklahoma State University is an educational institution. Anyone with Internet access worldwide can send an e-mail message to John Doe using this address.

E-mail access is only one useful aspect of the Internet. Students in written business communication courses will likely use the Internet in two primary ways: to communicate electronically with others (using e-mail) and to access information resources (using a variety of tools).

Components of the Internet

Most Internet tools could be useful to students in written business communication courses, although some will be more readily useful than others. Instructors who decide to incorporate various Internet components into their course will want to become familiar with how to access the Internet using one of their university's computer systems. The availability of a local area network connection for everyone in the class would be ideal. Failing that, an account on a UNIX-type computer system would be the next best choice. In addition, a variety of books about the Internet (usually with UNIX-based examples) are now available, with new ones appearing on a regular basis. Because different computing systems and environments require different commands when using the various Internet components, the assistance of the computer center's staff will also be helpful. …