Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

A Graduate Communication Course for an Era of Global Commerce: A Case Study

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

A Graduate Communication Course for an Era of Global Commerce: A Case Study

Article excerpt

The MBA program coordinator at an eastern university was aware of the importance that other schools of business, including some that my school competes with for students, were placing on communication skills. As Sorenson, Savage, and Orem (1990) state, "Today's business schools exhibit strong interest in the field of communication. They require students to take communication courses, and . . . increasingly offer these courses in-house" (p. 148) rather than rely on courses offered by Communication, English, or other departments. He wished to offer a management communication course that would be pedagogically sound and that would recognize the needs of employers in the area, a number of whom are high-technology firms engaged in global commerce.

A trend to communication courses within schools of business has occurred at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. "Graduate schools of business are realizing how important communication is for MBAs. Therefore, over the past five or six years, many graduate schools have either started up or expanded their management communication programs," (Munter, 1983, p. 5). Richard R. West, then dean of the Amos Tuck School, is quoted by Munter:

Anyone who browses through business school catalogs knows that an increasing number of the leading graduate schools are putting more emphasis on the area of management communication. . . . The vast majority of MBA students need to improve their skills in written and oral communication. (p. 11)

As a member of the business school faculty with training in communication science, I undertook to design and offer the course as an elective, initially on a one-time, experimental basis. I envisioned a course that would present the emerging role of technology in business communication and that would address intercultural communication problems in a global economy. At the same time, the course would retain primary emphasis on improving oral and written communication skills. This case study traces the development of course objectives, explains decisions on content, and describes the conduct of the course itself. It presents recommendations for other schools that may wish to create or update a graduate business communication course.

Objectives of the Course

I began designing the course by studying current practices at other universities. Nationally, Munter (1983) observed several pedagogical trends in graduate communication courses. They are listed here with some of her remarks on relevant ones (quotation marks omitted):

1. Advanced level curriculum. Most graduate level courses and programs are advanced, not remedial. We do not teach primarily such skills as spelling, punctuation, or placement of the return address on a letter. Instead, most of these programs feature rhetorically- or business problem-based curricula.

2. Relatively motivated students.

3. Oral as well as written components. (Until recently) many programs did not include oral communication. Now all (surveyed) include speaking - many of them with speaking comprising a full half of the program.

4. Peer, as well as instructor, responses. Not only do peer feedback sessions give each student more detailed responses than any single instructor could hope to do, these sessions allow the students to practice the essential management skill of giving effective feedback.

5. Managerial focus. Most graduate programs do not include job-getting skills, such as resume writing or job interviewing. Instead, the curriculum seems to be increasingly based on simulations of on-the-job experiences - from memo writing to formal presentations.

6. Analysis as well as skills education. Although all of us teach skills in graduate programs - from clarity in writing to delivery in speaking - most teachers seem more concerned today with problem solving.

I also surveyed the offerings of graduate business programs at nearby universities thought to be competitive with my own school. …

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