Many thanks, Doug! Excellent to hear that you're experimenting with
variations of large, and with possibilities of online, not to mention
hopes for inquiry. I look forward to reading your article.
Thanks also to others for the various offline messages I have received
today. I will summarize them in a few days for the list. There is
certainly more to business communications in Canada than skills/drills.
The range and depth I'm seeing give me hope that I can get the Commerce
people here to slow down a bit and consider their options.
Doug Brent wrote:
> Hi Margaret,
> 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 the
>>>> 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
Margaret Procter, Ph.D.
University of Toronto Coordinator, Writing Support
15 King's College Circle, Toronto ON M5S 3H7
416 978-8109; FAX 416 971-2027
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