Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Online Professional Communication: Pedagogy, Instructional Design, and Student Preference in Internet-Based Distance Education

Academic journal article Business Communication Quarterly

Online Professional Communication: Pedagogy, Instructional Design, and Student Preference in Internet-Based Distance Education

Article excerpt

NEWCOMERS TO INTERNET-BASED instruction, seeking advice about teaching professional communication courses online, quickly find that only a few comprehensive discussions about online instruction exist. With so few working models to emulate or consider and so little advice to be had, professional communication program directors and instructors face a challenging task when trying to determine the most appropriate and desirable goals to include in an online professional communication course and the most effective technological delivery method. The goal of my research is to fill this gap with a comprehensive study that identifies and describes effective and satisfying pedagogical designs and that provides guidance in making technological delivery choices for professional communication distance education.

My study's introductory chapters consider professional communication pedagogy--its goals, assignments, and activities--and the literacies it promotes. A prominent strand of professional communication instruction claims its roots in late nineteenth century engineering instruction (Connors, 1982; Kynell, 1996). These early courses were developed and designed to improve engineering students' reading and writing. Instructors' first pedagogical goals, therefore, were basic literacy skills, focused on mechanical and grammatical correctness and the study of professional models. As professional writing courses have multiplied and matured throughout the twentieth century, so, too, have the complexities of their pedagogical goals. No longer are basic literacy skills instructors' primary concerns; today instructors must provide students with opportunities to learn multiple literacies which promote future workplace success. As we move to online instruction, our Internet-based courses will ideally promote these multiple literacies, not just the basics.

In order to articulate the multiple literacies professional communication instructors currently incorporate into their courses, I review eight pedagogical frames that have been used to identify and classify goals and activities in writing instruction. As I review these frames, I note the literacies each classification promotes and explain how these literacies have been translated into course pedagogical goals, assignments, and activities. Considering these eight frames, I then propose a new theoretical framework based on six layered literacies--ethical, critical, rhetorical, social, technological, and formal or basic--which I believe underlie current trends in professional communication pedagogy. Using this framework, I assess a sample curriculum (its goals, assignments, and activities) to identify the literacies which are most articulated in it, and I explain how translating this curriculum for online delivery modified and shifted the course's curricular goals. I also use the same theoretical frame to criti que technologies used to deliver writing instruction and to suggest how technology choices affect online students' literacy opportunities and achievements.

The heart of my study employs a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies to compare two Internet-based pedagogical designs--one presentational, the other interactive--on such issues as student literacy achievement, student satisfaction, and Website design and usability. The presentational design is most similar to traditional paper-based correspondence courses: materials are provided online; students work independently at their own paces to read these materials and complete assignments; and student/teacher interactions are restricted, for the most part, to student-initiated questions and teacher feedback on assignments. The interactive design, in contrast, employs three additional communication features--a bulletin board, a chat room, and peer evaluation software--in the course's delivery mix. …

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