Tag Archives: analysis

Thomas & McShane: The Future of Undergraduate Technical Communication Programs

Thomas, Shelley, and Becky Jo McShane. “Skills and Literacies for the 21st Century: Assessing an Undergraduate Professional and Technical Writing Program.” Technical Communication 54, no. 4 (2007): 412-23.


Thomas and McShane take the outcome of a self-study of their academic department and apply their findings to the broader field of Technical Communication. Their findings have numerous conclusions that all Technical Communicators should note.

A part of many technical communication programs calls for students to develop portfolios, which they can use to secure job positions once they complete the program. With this key goal in mind, Weber State University analyzed their Professional and Technical Communication program to ensure that they were adequately equipping their students with the abilities needed to produce a compelling portfolio. Weber State academics believed that the portfolio indicated clear strengths and weaknesses for each student.

Weber State established a client-centered approach to their program. This approach took into consideration the professional and family background of many of the technical communication students and gave the institution the ability to maximize the community links the students bought with them. By encouraging students to continue to foster their professional relationships, it provided the academics with alternatives to purely academic standards. The interplay between academics, professionals, and students, encouraged the development of more nuanced grading rubrics, which helped to establish a holistic approach to technical communication education.

The result of this collaboration is better preparation of technical communication students and an improved relationship between academics and practitioners hiring graduates from the program, ensuring the viability of the course and the workplace success of the student.


Why is self-study and self-reflection necessary for program and teaching progress?

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Siegel & Etzkorn: Simplicity Rocks

Siegel, Alan, and Irene Etzkorn. “When Simplicity Is the Solution.” Wall St Journal 29 Mar. 2013, The Saturday Essay sec. Dow Jones Reprints. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324000704578386652879032748&gt;.


In their brief and illuminating article, Siegel and Etzkorn champion the rise of simplicity in technical communication. Starting with Henry David Thoreau’s charge to “simplify, simplify,” the authors highlight how technical communicators can lead designs, writing, and products towards a simpler, better, more understandable position.

Siegel and Etzkorn suggest that the key to creating simplicity in current products and services is the use of empathy, which is generated from feedback. By using the example of the Cleveland Clinic, which drastically changed the patient experience by acting like patients and responding to their feelings, the patient experience was simplified and encouraged better interactions between staff and patients, which led to better returns for the clinic. The authors argue that by using empathy and user feedback companies and technical communicators can contribute towards a better society. This principle is an offshoot of being “reader(audience)-centered” and one of the main principles that should guide technical communicators in whichever industry they work in.


Are there any other methods methods that can help technical communicators simplify their outputs? Would tools such as XML, single-sourcing, or modular-authoring help or hinder in the pursuit of simplicity?

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