End-of-the-School-Year Resource Roundup

Yes, indeed, the end of another school year has arrived, and I am already thinking ahead to the next academic year. In planning ahead, I’ve also reflected on the past year and realized I have gathered a LOT of online resources related to business communication. I’m guessing many of you are like me in that you never really leave the classroom and are always thinking about the next semester, class, or lesson.

The articles below appeared in the news feed generated by my Zite app, and I then saved them to Pocket. (Zite and Pocket, by the way, are probably my two favorite apps.) You can also find more resources by following me on Twitter (@pjglentz) or viewing my teaching board on Pinterest. If you have any “must have” resources you’d like to share with us, please do!

Corporate Culture

Design & Typography

Email

Employment

Grammar

Interviews

Leadership & Teamwork

Persuasion

Presentations & Oral Communication

Research

 Rhetoric

 Technology & Communication

 

Getting Ready for a New Semester

Where has the summer gone? I don’t know, but I do know that the time has come once again to think more carefully about what I will do in my classroom this fall. The following links have come through my various newsfeeds and social media accounts. I am finding them useful as I prepare my fall courses and hope you do, too. Of course, if you have links to material you think we might enjoy, please send them our way. Happy planning!

Syllabus & Course Design

Course Delivery

Student Competencies

Productivity & Assessment

Technology

Some Summer Grammar Fun

It’s a little early to be thinking about fall courses, but I’m sure some of us are already making a few plans. If you’re looking for a way to integrate a little grammar and mechanics instruction into your courses, check out the links below. Some are old favorites, and some are new opportunities for a little grammar fun.

I’ve used these sites in a variety of ways. For example, when students are drafting in class and finish before their peers, many will find their way to Facebook.  I’ve told students they can be on Facebook during this time as long as they are on the Daily Writing Quiz wall. Usually, students are on Facebook just to pass a little time, not because they have a pressing need to be there, so as long as they have a way to occupy their five free minutes and as long I know they are practicing their grammar and writing skills, we’re all happy.

Do you have favorite sites you’d like to share? Please tell us about them and about how you use them with your students.

General Business Writing Help

  1. 50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills
  2. Business Writer’s Free Library
  3. Daily Writing Tips

Online Quizzes

Grammar Podcasts

Business Writing Blogs

Creative Final Exam Ideas

Before we get to the main attraction…If you have not yet submitted your conference proposal for the Association for Business Communication’s annual conference in New Orleans next October, you still have time. Proposals are due April 22. You can find more information at the ABC Web site. It’s always a great conference for networking, socializing, and learning about current research and practices in our field.

Onward…

‘Tis the season for final exams. If your school requires final exams, you probably get to this point in the semester and wonder about creative options for what can otherwise seem like an exercise in futility.

In December 2011 I posted the final for my Advanced Business Writing class in which students report to me what they believe they learned in the course. As I searched the Internet this semester, I discovered several other creative options for final exams and have included the links below. Though none of these Web sites address business communication specifically, they do inspire some ideas for final exams in business communication that demonstrate student learning, provide for some fresh and fun (at least to me) options for assessment, and—perhaps best of all—remove some of the stress and monotony for both the instructors and students:

Research Symposium or Juried Poster Session

In classes such as my Advanced Business Writing course where students spend much of their time writing a formal report for a real client, this option presents some interesting possibilities. In a research symposium or poster session duried by their peers, students could demonstrate their understanding of the client’s problem; articulate their purpose for writing; talk about the primary and secondary research they uncovered; and reflect on what they learned about audience, purpose, tone, style, etc.

Service Learning or Other Community Connection

Students use what they learned in class to conduct interviews and report findings, present a communication workshop to a community organization, or otherwise share what they have learned with those outside the university/college community.

Student-Generated Exams

Students submit questions of any type for the final, along with the answers. (An aside:  I did this once for a regular exam. I thought the questions were great—thoughtful and challenging. However, I was not prepared for some of the incorrect answers that accompanied the questions, though these did give me some insight to how students were processing information.)

Portfolios

As a final assignment, students submit a final professional employment portfolio that contains assignments from the semester.

Super-Sized Multiple Choice Questions

Instead of having students simply choose an answer, instructors let students explain their answers. According to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning, this option does not penalize good students who choose the wrong answer just because they have a more sophisticated understanding of the course material. According to the University of Minnesota, only a few students will take this option, which means this practice does not require a lot of extra grading.

A Video Presentation, App, or Podcast

If you prefer not to grade a lot of written work, a final exam where students show what they’ve learned via some type of communication technology might make for a more interesting finals week. The idea is that students perform what they have learned rather than write answers to traditional exam questions.

Three-Tiered Exams

This idea comes from Becky Ances’s blog on her experiences teaching English in China. For their final, students choose a set of behaviors that result in a score in the 80s, another in which the resulting score is in the 90s, and a final behavior in which the student gets a 100. Business communication instructors might consider what such behaviors would look like in a bcomm final exam and let students choose accordingly.

Do you have a creative way to administer your final exams? If so, please share it with us.

Links

PechaKucha What?

Those of you who were at the ABC Midwest-Southeast meeting in Louisville a couple of weeks ago may have attended a presentation or two about (or using) PechaKucha. PechaKucha (Japanese for “chatter”) is a delivery format in which a presenter delivers images in 20 slides, spending only 20 seconds narrating each slide. Because slides advance automatically after 20 seconds, presenters must stick to the time limit, meaning that the entire presentation lasts only 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

Why use PechaKucha? How might it help students in the business communication classroom?

  • PechaKucha forces presenters to really think about their main points and stick to them. The time limits on the slides ensure that presenters do not get off on tangents or extensively elaborate on their topic.
  • Because the slides contain mostly images rather than text, presenters avoid the trap of reading slides to their audience and instead focus on the delivery of their message. Another benefit, of course, is that audiences are not subjected to a mind-numbing reading of the slides and then left wondering why they attended a presentation when they could have read the presentation on their own.
  • We all know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Because PechaKucha relies on images, audiences may be more likely to recall a main point or idea if they can associate it with an image rather than with a lot of words or lines of text.

To see an example of PechaKucha, visit the PechaKucha Web site and check out Greg Judelman’s 18 Tidbits on the Design of Change. You can learn the 18 tips in 20 slides in 6 minutes, 40 seconds…impressive and effective.

Is PechaKucha right for every business presentation? As with any communication channel, PechaKucha should be used if it is right for the audience, purpose, context, and content for a presentation. Do you use PechaKucha in your classes? If so, tell us about it.

NNTR…No…Wait…

Actually, we do want your response to this post.

I recently led a workshop on writing email messages. After the session, one attendee (we’ll call her “Sue”) asked my thoughts on the use of NNTR (no need to reply) or NRN (no reply needed) at the end of an email. Sue attended another workshop recently where the presenter advised attendees to use NNTR and NRN to reduce the number of emails in their inbox. Sue also said her boss uses NRN and NNTR frequently in emails to office staff.

Sue finds the use of these initialisms rather rude and unsettling. To Sue, their use communicates that her boss does not think Sue or other employees have the sense to know when a response is necessary. In addition, Sue says she and her colleagues see the use of NNTR and NRN as the boss’s attempt to limit and control communication and evade employees’ questions. Sue noted several times when employees had questions regarding an email but were afraid to ask because they did not want to violate their boss’s directive to not respond.

In other words, the use of a simple initialism has created a culture of fear, intimidation, and uncertainty in her office.

Further, Sue says she and her colleagues see no harm in a polite “Thank you for the information” response to acknowledge a message. Wouldn’t a writer want to know that a message was received?

For my part, I agree with Sue. I also think the use of NNTR or NRN seems a bit lazy. Business professionals should write messages so clearly that the reader knows whether a response is needed.

What do you think about the use of NNTR or NRN? Are Sue and I out of touch and overly sensitive? Do I need to rethink my position on this? Should using NNTR and NRN be a standard practice? Are they ever appropriate? What should we advise our students?

We look forward to your thoughts.

Flipping Your Classroom

Lately, I’ve received several articles in my RSS feeds, Zite feed, and elsewhere promoting the concept of the flipped classroom.

Two articles, Wong’s “Colleges Go Proactive with Flipped Classrooms” and Educause’s “7 Things You Should Know about Flipped Classrooms” are particularly helpful in explaining the concept.

According to these articles, in a flipped classroom, lectures and other content are delivered outside the classroom, usually via the Internet; work that is traditionally done outside the classroom (e.g., homework, group work) is done during class time.

The thought is that if students come to class with conceptual knowledge, they can spend their time in class in practicing skills or gaining applied knowledge related to those concepts. The instructor’s role is to facilitate the hands-on learning.

Wong notes that the flipped classroom is not a new concept but says technology has made using the flipped classroom much easier for instructors because they can put lectures online or work from electronic textbooks.

According to Educause, the flipped classroom presents many advantages. For example, students are not likely to get all of the information they need from listening to an in-class lecture once, but in a flipped classroom, they can visit a video lecture on the Web as many times as they need to. In addition, by using class time for hands-on work, instructors can gauge how well students understand the material. Further, in the flipped classroom, students must take charge of their learning as they become responsible for leading discussion, participating in a group, or completing their work. Challenges for teachers, however, include finding the time to create video lectures and motivating and training students to engage in the flipped classroom model.

I am guessing that many business communication instructors spend at least some of their time flipping the classroom. In my class, for example, students read the text and complete a guided reading quiz outside of class and then come to class with their computers, ready to draft or peer edit. I can visit with students and provide feedback before they have to turn in an assignment for a grade.

Do you flip your classroom? If so, what do you do? Please share your ideas. We look forward to learning from you.

And for those of you who find yourself on a semester break, may you enjoy your opportunity to recharge and regroup. We wish you a very happy and successful new year!