Developing the Basic Course

The Basic Course is customized to fit the needs of the students and General Education requirements of each institution, so there is no single course that functions as a one-size-fits all course across all universities.  However, there are some core competencies that should be considered in the Basic Course alongside institution-specific requirements, regardless of the context in which the course is taught.

When designing the Basic Course, instructors should begin by considering the learning outcomes, and then design the curriculum and assignments in order to scaffold student development and achieve those outcomes.  Concomitantly, a textbook should be selected that will best support the course.

The links below provide an overview of NCA’s Core Communication Competencies, discuss aligning the course objectives with General Education requirements, highlight exemplars of how the Basic Course has been designed at several universities, describe textbook selection options, and explain some common modes of delivery for the Basic Course.

What core communication competencies should the Basic Course address? 

The 2013 NCA Task Force on Core Communication Competencies identified seven competencies that students enrolled in any Basic Course should be able to achieve. These seven core communication competencies are Monitoring and Presenting Your Self, Practicing Communication Ethics, Adapting to Others, Practicing Effective Listening, Expressing Messages, Identifying and Expressing Fundamental Communication Processes, and Creating and Analyzing Message Strategies.

How can course objectives be aligned with General Education requirements? 

As Professor Emeritus Isa N. Engleberg of Prince George’s Community College notes, introductory communication course objectives effectively align with General Education requirements when: (1) the institution’s General Education goals are generic (e.g., inquiry and critical thinking; communication, teamwork, and problem solving; intercultural awareness; information literacy) and (2) the introductory communication course’s objective are applicable across contexts.  For example, the objective Demonstrate critical thinking in researching, developing, presenting, and responding to argument in persuasive speeches may be more effective and applicable without the phrase persuasive speeches in it.  Objectives such as Demonstrate effective listening strategies and skills in various communication contexts and Use critical thinking skills to develop, analyze, and evaluate messages apply to all types of introductory courses and also dispel misperceptions by other faculty members and administrators that all we do is study and teach public speaking or offer simplistic, unrelated, context-limited courses.  To align objectives with General Education requirements, it is necessary to ensure that course objectives reflect the expressed core competencies needed and/or advocated by higher education associations, employers, and the complex cultures in which students live and work. 

How has the Basic Course been designed? 

Historically, the Basic Course has been designed to focus on one of four content areas: public speaking; foundations of oral communication, which can include interpersonal communication, small group communication, and public speaking units; interpersonal communication; and small group communication.

This course introduces students to the study of speech fundamentals and critical thinking through frequent public speaking practice, including setting, purpose, audience and subject.
For additional syllabi, click here.

This course examines various principles underlying effective communication in the interpersonal, public speaking, and small group contexts. This course presents principles to help students develop appropriate and effective communication strategies in one-to-one and small group communication settings. This course places emphasis on analyzing and assessing the communication skills necessary to create and sustain effective communication in personal and professional relationships.
For additional syllabi, click here.

This course introduces students to the relationship between communication and democratic life in contemporary and historical contexts.  Specifically, it will define and discuss the importance of communication skills in achieving mutual understanding, not necessarily agreement.  This course will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate effective and ethical dialogic communication, structure messages that deliver complex information to non-experts, effectively advocate a position, and critique the messages of others.  These skills are important for developing and being an active participant in a diverse and democratic community.

This course introduces student to topics such as the development of the self-concept, perception, language, nonverbal communication, and conflict management. Students participate in various graded and ungraded communication exercises designed to increase students’ interpersonal communication competency in family, social, and work environments.
For additional syllabi, click here.

This course introduces students to the small group communication process through service learning.  Through lecture, group projects and presentations, and individual assignments, students develop an understanding of the small group communication process and learn how to communicate effectively when working in a small group.
For additional syllabi, click here.

How do I select a textbook for the Basic Course? 

Textbook selection can be an individual decision or a committee decision; it also can be made by a Basic Course Director or Department Chair. Regardless of who selects the Basic Course textbook, it is important to consider the options available, as well as the protocol that can be used to guide textbook selection.

  •  Options for textbooks  

Several options exist for textbook selection. One option is to select a textbook that has been written by an expert or team of experts in the content area, published by a nationally known publishing house, and used at colleges and universities across the United States.  A second option is to select the same textbook as described in the first option, but to modify it.  That is, instead of using the textbook as it has been published, some textbook content is retained while other textbook content is deleted, replaced with material from another source, or revised for a particular student population.  A third option is for an author or group of authors to write a textbook that contains content targeted specifically toward a student population.  Labeled as a custom textbook, this practice of textbook selection is becoming increasingly popular as it allows instructors to select the specific content that they want their students to learn. Consider that while many instructors require their students to purchase or rent a hard copy of the course textbook, it is not uncommon for some instructors to ask their students to purchase an e-copy of the textbook.

Selecting a textbook can be an arduous process for those individuals who have yet to do so. To facilitate textbook selection, consider the protocol for textbook selection written by Joseph M. Valenzano III of the University of Dayton and adapted by Melissa Broeckelman-Post of George Mason University.

What are some common modes of delivery for the Basic Course? 

There are four common modes of delivery for the Basic Course.  The first mode is face-to-face, which is the traditional mode used to teach the Basic Course.  In this mode, classroom instruction is delivered by instructors who meet with their students in a classroom for a pre-determined amount of time.  The second mode is lecture-lab, where students first attend a mass lecture delivered by their instructor, after which they are assigned to a small group (typically anywhere between 20-25 students) led by an instructor (often times a graduate teaching assistant, or GTA) who engages in more individualized instruction.  The third mode is a hybrid that incorporates face-to-face instruction with some element of online instruction.  The fourth mode is a fully online course, where all classroom instruction occurs asynchronously between instructors and students.