How to Incorporate Multimedia in the Business Communication Classroom - without Learning New Software Packages

By Wolff, Aline | Business Communication Quarterly, September 1997 | Go to article overview

How to Incorporate Multimedia in the Business Communication Classroom - without Learning New Software Packages


Wolff, Aline, Business Communication Quarterly


Incorporating multimedia in the business communication classroom might appear to be the ultimate straw: we are already responsible for the basics of business writing and speaking, multicultural and interpersonal communication, as well as interviewing, e-mail etiquette, resume and cover letter writing, not to mention writing across the curriculum. To add multimedia to that mix means more technology to master - and many of us are still getting used to last year's software.

Over the past few semesters, I've been developing an assignment that gives students a chance to incorporate multimedia while focusing on communication issues. This assignment doesn't require teachers to learn new Web languages or to dedicate hours of classroom time explaining technical processes. I have given this assignment in different forms to both MBA and undergraduate students; this article discusses the somewhat simpler undergraduate version and describes the ways in which their final projects have expanded my own concepts of multimedia.

The assignment concludes a one-semester undergraduate course on organizational writing and speaking. By the time students receive this assignment, they have already used traditional presentation media including photographs, flip charts, transparencies and computer-generated slides in three or four individual speeches. They have completed numerous writing tasks, both standard and online, including e-mail, and they have been asked to check the class Web site for course-related chats and background information on assignments. For this assignment, students are placed on teams of no more than five people to choose an industry in which they share some common interest (e.g., fast-food, brokerage, sneakers, insurance, luxury cars, advertising, all-terrain vehicles, consumer banking, ice cream, etc.). From that industry, they select three companies.

Their overall task is to describe how the companies present themselves to their main audiences, identifying media and methods of communication common to the industry and unique to the companies. The first goal of this assignment is a brief proposal describing the industry, companies, and media. Students review communication messages in advertising, Web sites, annual reports, and any other sources of relevant corporate information. For the final presentation, a 15-minute group talk with visuals, they compare the communication messages, objectives, and products of the three companies they selected and recommend the company with the most effective communication strategy for that industry.

Multimedia presentations are not required, and students know that the visuals they use can be as simple as placards or flip charts. However, I try to include in each group at least one member with a fairly high level of technological competence. Each group must attend at least one coached rehearsal with me before their final presentation. This is where I learn how they have expanded my concept, and their own, of what visuals can be. …

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