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Tuesday, March 2, 2004
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Faculty Learning Community adjusts courses to enhance business students' communication skills

By Bethany Miller

Today's business world has made claims that business students are not graduating with adequate "people skills" that allow them to manage communication-oriented situations and conflicts in the workplace. But the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) Revising the Professional Communication Curriculum within the College of Business is making some changes to ensure Ohio University is one institution with prepared graduates.

Mary TuckerPhoto by Rick FaticaFacilitated by Dr. Mary Tucker, associate professor of management, the FLC redesigned and standardized two business communication courses, PRCM 202, foundational communication, and PRCM 325J, advanced communication, to provide business students with a more complete knowledge of business communication.

Carrie Brokaw, lecturer in the Management Systems Department, directed the changes in the introductory-level course. The new course, replacing PRCM 202, started this quarter. PRCM 150, business communication basics, teaches technical writing and speaking skills, with concentration on concepts such as audience, tone and revision and requires students to be more involved in the classroom.

"We put a lot of ownership on the students," Brokaw says. "They do online quizzes and are expected to understand the material before they come to class so they can interact instead of listening to lectures."

The FLC also had to examine and eliminate overlaps between the new introductory course and the revised advanced course implemented last quarter, PRCM 325J, now strategic managerial communication. Laura Myers, visiting professor of management systems, directed the changes in this course, which now focuses on managerial communication issues such as conflict resolution, media relations and advanced versions of material learned in PRCM 150, all concepts that will better prepare students for the business world.

"(In PRCM 325J), we start to expose issues of conflict within individuals, between individuals, within organizations and between organizations," Myers says. "And the students learn how to deal with these different types of conflict and how to negotiate."

This FLC began last year after Tucker attended training and then organized faculty for the learning community. Other members of this FLC include Jan Ross, Dr. Stephen Flaherty, Dr. Christine Yost and Theresa Moran. Although results are too early to assess for the new courses, feedback show students enjoy the newly redesigned courses, Tucker says.

"The students' liking the change is a very positive reinforcement for us," Brokaw says.

This FLC, motivated by the College of Business Executive Advisory Board, was one of the original eight learning communities in the Scholarly Communities of Practice in Education at Ohio University (SCOPE-OHIO). While the FLC's project focuses on the students, the faculty involved has grown closer because of the collaboration.

"We are all much closer in collegiality," Tucker says.

Brokaw already presented the project at the International Academy of Business and Public Administration Disciplines in January. Tucker, Myers and Brokaw will attend more conferences to present their results including the Association of Business Communication in October, the International FLC Conference and June and the University's Spotlight on Learning presentation March 4-5.

Bethany Miller is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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