Director, Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication, NEIT
- 48 years old
- Associate Professor of English, Department of Humanities, New England Institute of Technology
- PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Tech
- Promoted to Associate Professor with tenure seven years ago
- Concerned about the marginalization of English faculty at technological university to service role
- Member ATTW, CPTSC, IEEE, and STC
I know what the retention rate is for my program, but what are my students expected to be able to do once they graduate?
Preparing for an Institutional Program Review initiated by NEIT’s Provost of all existing programs, Anu has been leading a small committee in preparing documentation for the review. The committee has gathered demographic data on the program’s student and faculty population to serve the auditing requirements of the review process. In addition to these performance indicators, Anu wants to gather information for assessment of student learning. She has known for some time that her committee must establish and clearly articulate learning outcomes for graduates of the master’s program in technical communication. However, this task seems daunting, and she has been putting it off.
Last week she emailed Charlotte Moss, her dissertation committee chair and former mentor asking if the master’s program at Michigan Tech, her doctoral alma mater, had developed a set of learning outcomes. This morning, Charlotte’s reply arrived: “Funny you should ask. That’s on our agenda this year too. One of my colleagues has suggested we use the STC’s new body of knowledge website to take inventory of what we’re covering now and what we may need to consider adding.”
- Known for keen dissection of issues and soft-spoken persuasiveness
- Takes pride in organizational skills and time-management discipline
- Keeps up with research and theory in cross-cultural technical communication and globalization and localization but feels behind in technology-related topics such as DITA and content management
- Thinks of herself as bridging and balancing on the one hand the critical/cultural-studies orientation to technical communication within academia and, on the other hand, a pragmatic, practice-focused approach to shaping curricula and designing courses
- Teaches one master’s level and one undergrad course each semester
- Serves as chief administrator, spokesperson, curriculum planner, and marketer for the master’s program
- Advises and mentors master’s students
- Conducts research in and publishes articles about cross-cultural technical communication
- Guides junior faculty members
- Wants a quick way to assess whether her program is offering instruction in all the areas it should based on industry trends and job requirements
- Prefers visual-spatial communication for overviews and summaries of complex information
Scenario of Use: Anu Patel
With the deadline for NEIT’s university-wide program reviews looming, Anu decides to follow up on her mentor’s advice and see what STC has to offer. She goes to the STC website and sees a link to the Technical Communication Knowledge Portal.
Anu takes an approach with which she is more comfortable; she goes to her library electronic databases, selects the Communication and Mass Media database, and searches scholarly literature for “body of knowledge.” Her search turns up several recent publications, the most current in the journal Technical Communication written by several of the architects of the STC Knowledge Portal. “These are good people, well-respected scholars and practitioners,” Anu notes. She prints out the article to read on the subway ride home.
Dr. Patel also needs to speak directly with other possible users of the TCKP such as Dr. Alicia Madison, who is trying to design a curriculum for a degree program in TC at Dixie University. Her e-mail dialogue with her mentor, Charlotte Moss, indicates that she actively seeks the advice of others in her field. An interactive component would be especially useful in this regard-a discussion forum using blog and wiki components would facilitate dialogue with others facing the same issues Drs. Patel and Madison are exploring.
The TCKP could sponsor an online mini-society of technical communications educators by providing a directory of programs and professors in the field. Like Dr. Madison, Dr. Patel needs to be able to see what the results of existing programs are-what are the employment rates and experiences of graduates? What are corporations, government, and NGOs requiring of technical communicators? She needs to be able to see studies of job descriptions, or to search a database of actual TC job descriptions, similar to some of the features STC offers to its members, perhaps through a special subscription, via links directly to those resources.
An indexed database in both academic literature and practical information on job descriptions, best practices, and new technologies and techniques (e.g., DITA) in real-world terms would facilitate speedier searches for Dr. Patel and mesh well with her practice-focused approach to shaping curricula.