About a month ago, on August 7, I wrote a piece titled What should a Technical Communication course teach? It sparked an exciting discussion about reigniting a conversation, involving both academicians and practitioners, about how to design educational programs in Technical Communication.
Lots of people weighed in on the importance of having that conversation. Many of you said you’d be glad to take part.
Unfortunately, since the discussion died down, I haven’t heard anything more. So I write this in hopes that it’ll fan the flames and get things started again.
First, a disclaimer: I’m a practitioner. I teach part of a certificate course that’s designed to give students the skills and knowledge they’ll need to work in the profession. But I’m not an academic. As a result, the impressions and opinions I’m about to express might be incomplete or even totally incorrect. I welcome all constructive criticism. Continue reading
Technical communicator, do you wonder why your SME treats you like a pencil-pushing drone? Maybe they took an undergraduate Technical Communication course like the one Becky Todd took.
“I thought the class was boring,” Becky writes, “because we mostly wrote memos and learned how to format letters. Like any good college student, I completely forgot about the class and moved on with my life.”
But Becky knew that she liked to write. And fortunately, soon after embarking on a career in chemical research, she found the opportunity to enroll in a Professional Writing program where she learned the true nature of technical communication. It changed the trajectory of her career.
Now, six years into her new life as a technical writer, it turns out Becky didn’t forget that first writing course at all. Instead, she remembers it for all the wrong reasons — for how boring and unsatisfying it was.
And I can’t help wondering how many courses are like that one: reinforcing the stereotype that technical communication is dull and menial. And how many students take those courses and then go through their professional lives looking with disdain upon technical communication and its practitioners.
I’ll bet there are lots of courses like that. And I’m certain they do a lot of damage.
So how can colleges and universities ensure that they’re teaching technical communication the right way?