Student Assessment of the Business Communication Course

                              Marsha L. Bayless, Betty S. Johnson...
Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to find out how business communication students assess the
importance of t...
Table 1
                                   Demographics of Students

Major                                                ...
Table 2
                           Most Valuable Course Components
                            (items rated 5 in student s...
Students were more likely to indicate that more time was needed in a component area than that
less time was needed. A numb...
The resume and interviewing component was perceived to be the most important by the majority
of the students. Surprisingly...
MARSHA L. BAYLESS is a Professor in the Department of General Business at Stephen F. Austin State
University. Her doctorat...
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Student Assessment of the Business Communication Course

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Student Assessment of the Business Communication Course

  1. 1. Student Assessment of the Business Communication Course Marsha L. Bayless, Betty S. Johnson Stephen F. Austin State University Abstract This research study surveyed 315 business communication students in Spring 2003 at an AACSB-accredited College of Business to determine the student assessment of the various components of the course. The top five components listed in order were resumes and interviewing, teamwork, oral presentation, and the memo. Least valuable components and demographic information are also presented. Introduction How do students assess the business communication course? Nearly ten years ago Swanson and Meinert (1994) surveyed over 500 students to determine how they compared the importance of the business communication course to other business core courses, to determine the difficulty of the course as compared to the other business courses, and to judge the effectiveness of the instruction in the course. They found the business communication was considered the most important of the business core courses; it was perceived to be the easiest of the core courses; and the instruction was thought to be more effective than that in five other core business courses. The issue of assessment continues to be important in Colleges of Business as reflected by the emphasis given to accountability in the accrediting standards of the AACSB-International (2003). One institution, for example, restructured its management communication course to be competency-based as a means of quantifying student outcomes (Murranka & Lynch, 1999). Issues of assessment including accountability of instruction, accreditation standards, course and grading standards for core courses, and student outcomes are all examined by Varner and Pomerenke (1998). One factor that Varner and Pomerenke discussed was value added—what value can be added to the student’s education by a particular course? When designing the curriculum, faculty frequently assess the various components of the business communication course, addressing such questions as which components to include and how much time to spend on each. Student evaluations provide another source of assessment. When students evaluate a course, however, they are usually evaluating the presentation and teaching style of a specific instructor rather than the value of the course components. Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 1
  2. 2. Purpose of Study The purpose of this study was to find out how business communication students assess the importance of the components of the business communication course. The content of the business communication course was divided into twelve subsets. Students were asked to assess the degree of value they attributed to each of these components. Procedures This study was conducted during the Spring 2003 semester at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, an AACSB International-accredited university where business communication is taught as part of the business foundations in the College of Business. In addition to being a required course for all business majors, the sophomore-level course is also one of the communication options of the university’s core curriculum and, as such, attracts business minors and non-business majors. A survey instrument was developed identifying twelve basic components of the course. Based on the validation from seven faculty members teaching the business communication class, the instrument was modified prior to distribution. Students were asked to determine the value of the following course components: written report; oral presentation; memo; positive/neutral news letter or message; negative news letter or message; persuasive news letter or message; communication theory and concepts; any of these-- electronic mail, WebCT, chat, or online discussions; assignments composed/completed in the computer lab; resumes and interviewing; teamwork; and out-of-class homework and writing assignments. All of these components are currently included in the business communication survey course. For each component, respondents were asked to indicate the value as follows: 5—very valuable; 4—of some value; 3—no opinion; 2—of little value; or 1—not valuable. In addition, students were asked to judge if the amount of class time spent in these components was about right, excessive, or insufficient. Following the completion of instruction in all of the component areas, students in thirteen sections—taught by six different instructors--of the basic business communication course were asked to participate in the study. Usable surveys were completed by 311 students. Findings Demographic information indicated that over 53% of the students were business majors and minors; the remainder were not business majors or minors. See Table 1 for additional details. Information about the student interpretation of the value of course components was also collected. Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 2
  3. 3. Table 1 Demographics of Students Major Number of Percent of Students Students Business Majors and Minors 166 53.38% Majors 127 40.84% Minors 39 12.54% Non-Business Majors and Minors 145 46.62% 311 100.00% Status Sophomore 140 45.02% Junior 101 32.48% Senior 40 12.86% Freshman 30 9.65% 311 100.00% Took Course Because: Required for Major 209 67.20% Optional for Major or Minor 41 13.18% Required for Minor 32 10.29% Elective 28 9.00% No Response 1 .32% 311 100.00% Over sixty percent of the students (188) indicated that the resumes and interviewing component was one of the most valuable components of the course, closely followed by approximately 58% who judged that teamwork was one of the most valuable components. Students rated the writing assignments as less valuable than some of the other components (See Table 2). Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 3
  4. 4. Table 2 Most Valuable Course Components (items rated 5 in student survey) Number of Percent of Component Students Students 1 Resumes and Interviewing 188 60.45% 2 Teamwork 179 57.56% 3 Oral Presentation 155 49.84% 4 Memo 147 47.27% 5 Negative Newsletter or Message 144 46.30% 6 Persuasive Newsletter or Message 141 45.34% 7 Written Report 139 44.69% 8 Positive/ Neutral Newsletter or Message 136 43.73% 9 Communication Theory and Concepts 118 37.94% 10 Assignments Composed/Completed in the Computer Lab 115 36.98% Note: Valid responses were received from 311 students Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 4
  5. 5. Students were more likely to indicate that more time was needed in a component area than that less time was needed. A number of students reported that additional time in class working on reports and with teams would be helpful. The majority of students indicated that all of the course components were of some value. However, some students judged some components of little value or no value to the course. Some students didn’t like out-of-class homework and writing assignments (9.52%) while others did not care for electronic mail, WebCT, chat or online discussions (8.8%). See Table 3 for more information. Table 3 Course Components Perceived to be Least Valuable (items rated 1 and 2 in study survey) Number of Percent of Component Students Students 1 Out of class Homework and Writing Assignments 30 9.52% 2 Electronic mail, WebCT, Chat or Online Discussions 28 8.88% 3 Oral Presentation 19 6.11% 4 Teamwork 18 5.79% 5 Written Report 17 5.47% Note: Valid responses were received from 311 students Conclusions Based on the findings of this study, the business communication course is perceived to be a valuable one by the students completing it. The majority of students currently seem pleased with both the course components and the time spent on them. Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 5
  6. 6. The resume and interviewing component was perceived to be the most important by the majority of the students. Surprisingly, most faculty spend only about a week on this topic. Perhaps this means that students feel a stronger need for job preparation skills in the current economy. It may also mean that they have not received this exposure in other courses they have taken. Teamwork was another component that was highly rated. Although many College of Business classes require team assignments, this course is the first business course teaching teambuilding. Not only does the course stress concepts of team communication, it also integrates team skills in class projects. The oral presentation was also rated as very valuable. Considering that many students have already completed a speech course in the Communication Department, they may feel that more oral presentation opportunities are a plus. Electronic applications may not be adequately used by students. While the majority of students have appreciated the inclusion of electronic mail, WebCT, and other electronic enhancements, some students have not found the features as attractive. Some of those students appear to be less proactive and less willing to assume responsibility for learning. They may rarely or never check their email and do not access the web-based platforms. The results of this study have given the faculty an opportunity to reassess and revaluate the components of the course. Based on these findings, faculty may modify their individual class assignments and activities. References AACSB International—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Eligibility Procedures and Standards for Business Accreditation. (2003, April 25). Retrieved October 7, 2003, from http://www.aacsb.edu/accreditation/standards.asp. Murranka, P. A. & Lynch, D. (1999). Developing a competency-based fundamentals of management communication course. Business Communication Quarterly, 62(3), 9-23. Swanson, J. C. & Meinert, D. B. (1994). Business communications: A highly valued course in business administration. Journal of Education for Business, 69(4), 235-240. Varner, I. I. & Pomerenke, P. J. (1998). Assessing competency in business writing. Business Communication Quarterly, 61(4), 83-91. Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 6
  7. 7. MARSHA L. BAYLESS is a Professor in the Department of General Business at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her doctorate is from Oklahoma State University. She has been actively involved in the Association for Business Communication and was recently elected Second Vice President. In 1996 she was awarded the Meada Gibbs Outstanding Teaching Award. BETTY S. JOHNSON is Professor and Chair of the Department of General Business at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her doctorate is from the University of Arkansas. Betty is a past president of ABC and is a Fellow of the Association. Her communication textbook Business Communication 3e, co-authored with Marsha Bayless is published by Dame-Thomson Learning. Proceedings of the 2003 Association for Business Communication Annual Convention Copyright © 2003, Association for Business Communication 7

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