I'll reply on-list because others may be interested in this.
COMS363 is a course for second year and above (U of C numbering starts
at 200 for reasons no-one has ever been able to explain to me). It's
positioned there largely because we didn't want to have to step into the
huge swirling FYC vacuum that the English department left when they got
out of this game.
The course is mandatory for all Business and Engineering students and
heavily pressed on students in Computer Science, Geography, and several
other programs. Some of our own Communications Studies students even
take it! As a result it serves about 1400 students a year, so the sheer
weight of numbers tends to take centre stage, although we do manage to
squeeze in some discussions about curriculum and such from time to time.
When the Haskayne School of Business asked us to take it on, they were
in a position where three full-time people who had looked after their
in-house communications course were retiring or otherwise moving on.
They moved some funding to us in order to add their students to the
previous mix heavily dominated by Engineering. As flattering as it was
to be considered the experts in this, of course the money and the work
never quite match up. But you've all heard this one before.
First of my two cents: running a course like this as a huge megasection
with tutorials sort of works but it's iffy. Successive teams of
instructors (Tania and Doug Hare, Helen Holmes and Doug Hare, myself and
Andrea Williams) were unable to make the subject of writing exciting
enough to rapture an audience of 300, who therefore simply did not
come. Smaller sections, on the other hand, seem to work even though the
curriculum gets more scattered.
Second cent: we are piloting an on-line version of the course on the
assumption that electronic text might actually be the ideal medium for a
writing course. To do this we have had to give up the oral component,
which we are not happy about, but are trying to keep a collaborative
component, utilizing the strength of the multidisciplinary audience.
Early anecdotal reports are positive but we have not tried to ramp it up
past the pilot stage yet. Jo-Anne Andre is spearheading this.
A third cent, though I was only asked for two: one of the features of
the megasection experiment which Tania spearheaded and which we have
been trying to hold onto is a Boyer-inspired emphasis on inquiry-based
research rather than writing fundamentals AKA correctness. This is a
hard message to get across to legions of sessional instructors, and one
of the advantages of the megasection was having a full time rhetorician
in charge who could keep at this message, but we think we've held onto a
fragment of it.
I will send you off-list a draft of an article that outlines this
research-oriented philosophy. I'd be glad to send it to anyone else
interested as well.
Margaret Procter wrote:
> Hi, Tania and Doug:
> I was hoping you would respond. I'd be glad to hear more about Coms
> 363 if you think it should be a model for our Commerce
> students--especially why it's a third-year course if I've understood
> that numbering correctly. I note, by the way, that Professor B. Curtis
> Eaton of your Faculty of Social Sciences was one of the reviewers who
> was so scathing about the U of T program.
> Tania S. Smith wrote:
>> Hi Margaret. I thought I'd reply to you briefly and see if Doug
>> Brent (cc'd) wants to add his 2 cents in regard to the U of C
>> experience with Business Communication. I am not sure how much to
>> say because some info might be sensitive, and I have not been
>> involved with the communication course since the end of 2003.
>> Prior to Fall 2003, our Haskayne School of Business had its own
>> communications courses. For various reasons the Business faculty was
>> unsatisfied with this arrangement. So they redirected the resources
>> back through the central university budget to our Faculty of
>> Communication and Culture, and we became responsible for serving
>> Business students' communication education (in addition to
>> Engineering students) through Coms 363: Professional and Technical
>> Margaret Procter wrote:
>>> Dear Colleagues (with apologies for cross-posting):
>>> I have just been asked for advice on designing writing and
>>> instruction for the undergraduate Commerce program here at U of T,
>>> and I
>>> need your help. Students in that faculty can take Arts and Science
>>> courses and use the college writing centres, but there is very little
>>> instruction on writing within their own program. An external review
>>> summer (see
>>> suggested strongly that Commerce include such instruction,
>>> especially on
>>> the types of writing done in the business professions.
>>> So now the administrators in Commerce are starting to consider
>>> curriculum options, with a special emphasis on first year. My first
>>> suggestion was to look at the innovative first-year course in our own
>>> Engineering program -- a course on Engineering Design co-taught by
>>> people from various Engineering departments and from the Engineering
>>> Communication Program (see
>>> http://www.ecf.utoronto.ca/~apsesp/espintro.htm). I have already had my
>>> say about the ideas of having a post-entry writing test and of having
>>> student work double-marked, once for content and once for writing
>>> (meaning language correctness). I have mentioned the Boyer Commission
>>> emphasis on integrating writing instruction within courses and noted
>>> prevalence of WAC or WID programs in other faculties here and in other
>>> Now I have been asked to outline ways that writing instruction is
>>> included in other undergraduate business programs across Canada. Any
>>> program in Commerce here would be starting from scratch, and the
>>> external review has motivated the Commerce faculty to invest resources
>>> and program time in an effective system. Please send me news and ideas
>>> -- offlist if you wish, and I will compile a summary and distribute it.
Dr. Doug Brent
Associate Dean (Undergraduate Programs)
Social Sciences 110
Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N.W.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
Voice: (403) 220-5458 Fax: (403) 282-6716
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