Advocating for the Basic Course

Providing a rationale for the inclusion of the Basic Course in the General Education curriculum presents a significant challenge on many campuses.  This challenge often leaves Basic Course Directors wondering how best to advocate for the Basic Course to maintain its presence in the General Education curriculum.

The NCA has developed several documents focused on Basic Course advocacy.  Additionally, Communication scholars have highlighted how Basic Course Directors have successfully saved their Basic Courses by arguing the value that communication provides to students and employers, developing campus partnerships through committee service, and planning public relations efforts.

The links below provide resources for Basic Course Directors and instructors seeking information on advocating for the Basic Course, articles about best practices in the importance of Communication study, and best practices for advocating for the Basic Course.

What resources can be used to advocate for the Basic Course? 

This report highlights the work of the task force created as part of former NCA President Steven Beebe’s presidential initiative to strengthen the Basic Course. The primary goal of the task force was to strengthen the Basic Communication Course and, via the Basic Course, to enhance the profile of the Communication discipline in U.S. colleges and universities.

  • The State of the Basic Course 

This series of research articles highlights the state of the Basic Course across colleges and universities in the United States.

This article provides a strong rationale for the importance of communication instruction in the 21st Century. Morreale and Pearson’s thematic analysis illustrates the importance of communication instruction to students’ personal and professional development. 

This article offers compelling and insightful strategies for gathering and maintaining support of the Basic Course on campus.  Hess utilizes the example of a recent curricular reform that threatened to eliminate a required oral communication course to reflect on strategies departments can use to build widespread and lasting support for the course.

This essay discusses the proposed elimination of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Communication Studies in 1992 and describes how the department overcame this difficult challenge.

This report highlights selected findings from both research among employers and the survey of current college students. The objective of the survey was to identify the learning outcomes employers believe are most important to acquire to be able to succeed in today’s economy, report the preparedness of recent college graduates, and identify employers’ feelings about the importance of applied and project-based learning in college. The results of the study suggest that employers rank communication skills as the top desired employee ability.

How can programs advocate for the Basic Course on their campus? 

Scott Titsworth of Ohio University notes that universities are increasingly emphasizing entrepreneurship and innovation, which requires a constellation of soft skills emphasizing creativity, teamwork, group problem solving, and the ability to present persuasive arguments. The Basic Course serves as a foundational preparation for students who want to quickly become involved in these types of activities. Whether students are participating in a pitch competition, working as a team responding to an innovation challenge, or trying to launch an entrepreneurial project, skills in communication and presentations will be essential.

Marian L. Houser and Michael Burns of Texas State University propose that Communication programs can advocate for the Basic Course by promoting its centrality, relevance, visibility, and service to other courses, programs, departments, schools, and colleges at its university. At Texas State University, for example, they have worked to create partnerships with several academic and student affairs units to demonstrate how the skills taught in the Basic Course are valuable to students’ academic, professional, personal, and public lives. Listed below are four examples of how they have advocated for the Basic Course through partnerships with other departments:

  • Residence Life: Each semester, their Basic Course instructors and GTAs visit the residence halls and hold a “Speak Easy” event where students can receive help on their outlines and delivery. They have also partnered with Residence Life and their Living Learning Communities by being one of the co-enrolled course options for students in the Living Learning Communities.  
  • Honors College: An Honors section of the Basic Course was created to dive deeper into communication concepts with a strong research focus. This course enrolls fewer students and meets the criteria for honors curriculum so students can receive both general education and honors credit.  
  • Retention Management & Records: Because their Basic Course enrolls over 90 percent of first-year students, they have partnered with their retention office to conduct research based on the retention messages now integrated into the course. This partnership also allows them to track students over four years and measure how the communication skills students learned in the Basic Course are used throughout college.  
  • University College: They have partnered with the University College 1100 class to co-enroll the same students in both courses to form Freshmen Interest Groups. University College has recognized the importance communication skills serve in the college socialization process, and having complementary communication messages in both classes helps students develop specific communication skills that can assist them during their college transition.  

Lynn Disbrow of Huntingdon College argues that the need for communication expertise resonates with various stakeholder groups on a practical level. Students, parents, and potential employers understand the need for basic communication skills across professional fields. Professional organizations in Accounting and Medicine call for students to complete communication courses before attempting board certification. Some universities have created degree programs combining communication and engineering, and communication of science and technology, to ensure their graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the requisite knowledge for success. Communication skills allow professionals to demonstrate their technical expertise effectively, as without effective communication, that expertise becomes useless.  

 

* This manuscript is available through The Basic Communication Course Annual and can be accessed at http://ecommons.udayton.edu/bcca/