Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication

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Programmatic Perspectives publishes articles related to programmatic issues related to technical communication. ISSN 2326-1412

Current Issue

Volume 5 Issue 2 (Autumn 2013)

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From the Editors

Issue Preview

Tracy Bridgeford, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kirk St. Amant, East Carolina University

This issue preview welcomes the community to Programmatic Perspectives. The editors preview articles and invite the community action. Volume 5.1 contains special commentary on a recurring theme in this issue: diversity in technical communication programs.



Technological Literacy in the Visual Communication Classroom:
Reconciling Principles and Practice for the “Whole” Communicator

Eva Brumberger, Arizona State University

Claire Lauer, Arizona State University

Kathryn Northcut, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Abstract. This article argues that technical communication programs—specifically visual communication pedagogy within those programs—must better address the tension between principles and practice, concepts and tools, to effectively prepare students for the 21st century workplace. The authors contend that program outcomes should articulate expectations for both interpreting and producing visual communication, and that the tools required for visual communication should be an explicit part of the curriculum. The article provides an overview of visual communication in technical communication curricula, discusses the relationship between visual literacy and technological fluency, and presents research that counters the notion that students are technologically fluent or comfortable developing such fluency on their own. Finally, the article addresses some approaches for teaching technological tools so that they complement the conceptual content in visual communication courses and support visual communication outcomes at the programmatic level.

Keywords. Technological literacy, technological fluency, visual communication, visual literacy, pedagogy


A Survey of Awareness about Technical Communication Programs on Campus

Trent Leslie, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Kathryn Northcut, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Abstract. This article reports on a study of Technical Communication program visibility at a small, STEM-intensive public university in the Midwest. Although Technical Communication Bachelor of Science (BS) and Master of Science (MS) degrees have been offered by this program since January 2005, the program has faced an uphill battle in recruiting majors (see Table 1), achieving externally-imposed graduation quotas, and filling courses to capacity. In 2012, we obtained Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and surveyed residential undergraduates to determine the degree to which the Technical Communication programs were known. The results of the survey suggest that at least among undergraduates, the program does not have good visibility, and students admit to not knowing about most aspects of the program’s components and quality.

Keywords. Program administration, recruitment, retention, visibility, marketing, undergraduate research.


To Do is to Learn: The Value of Hands-on Research in an Introductory Research Methods Course

Derek G. Ross, Auburn University

E. Jonathan Arnett, Kennesaw State University

Abstract. Introductory research methods courses in technical and professional communication play a vital role in preparing Master’s- and PhD-level students for their chosen specializations. Here, past participants of a “hands-on” introductory research methods course retrospectively analyze the class’s approach and discuss the benefits of a hands-on classroom. From our experiences, contextualized against literature, we argue that the most effective introductory research methods courses are those that mix both theory and practice in a hands-on classroom environment. We note important concepts we learned and conclude by providing a sample course schedule that should enable practitioners to readily try our suggestions.

Keywords. Writing Program Administration; Curriculum/Program Development; Empirical Qualitative Research; Empirical Quantitative Research; Pedagogy


Program Showcase

Texas Tech University’s Online PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric

Joyce Locke Carter, Texas Tech University

Abstract. Texas Tech has offered its PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric via distance education since 2004. Designed with the same requirements and expectations as its brick-and-mortar modality, the program has grown larger and more selective each year—our current rejection rate for applications stands at 85% and the number of students stands at approximately 55. The doctoral program (in both its modalities) emphasize five general areas: Rhetoric, Composition, and Technology; Technical Communication; Rhetorics of Science and Healthcare; Technology, Culture, and Rhetoric; and Visual Rhetoric, New Media, and User-Centered Design. In addition, the program has the most rigorous course requirements in research methods (4 courses) in the field of writing studies. The program made several institutional innovations in order to gain approval, and these innovations continue to benefit students, among them redefining “residency” to work better with both modalities and redefining “full-time” as 3 hours per semester. One of the most innovative aspects of the online program is its requirement that students attend a 2-week seminar in Lubbock—this “Nar” provides opportunities for dissertation defenses, professional development seminars, intensive graduate courses, lectures by outside scholars, doctoral annual reviews, and ample unscheduled time for students to meet with their committees.

Keywords. technical communication, rhetoric, doctoral program, curriculum, online PhD, program design, distance education.


Guest Editorial

Technical Communication and the Common Core: Explanatory and Informational Texts for College and Career Readiness

Kaye Adkins, Missouri Western State University

Abstract. Although the implementation of the Common Core Curriculum in K-12 education is still unsettled, it offers an opportunity for post-secondary technical communication programs to work with area school districts. The Common Core’s emphasis on explanatory writing, and the standards’ inclusion of graphics and digital publishing correspond well with the expertise found among technical communication faculty. This article suggests that the Common Core may offer a way for technical communication programs to promote the field and to recruit high school students into their programs.

Keywords. technical communication, Common Core, career readiness, K-12 education, curriculum.


Book Review

Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test! Carol M. Barnum, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2010. 382 pp.

Christopher Toth, Grand Valley State University