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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Application For Course Approval

for General Education Program

Course Number: WRT 227
Course Title: Business Communications

Check the general education core area for this course:*

  • _X_ English Communication

Department(s) in which course will be taught: WRT
Faculty Member(s) responsible for course: Miles, Schwegler
Office: Miles, 13A Independance Hall; Schwegler, 19 Independance Hall;
Office Phone: Miles 401.874.7417; Schwegler 401.874.2979
Will non-tenure track faculty teach this course?
   _X_ Yes

If yes, approximately what percentage of sections will be taught by non tenure-track faculty?
Advanced graduate students and per-course instructors teach approximately 75% of our Business Writing sections.

The integrated skills** that this course will focus on are:

  • _X*_ Speak Effectively
  • _X_ Use of qualitative data
  • _X*_ Use of information technology
  • _X*_ Write Effectively

Note: At least three integrated skills are required. Please note: The three skills with asterisks (*) - speaking effectively, use of information technology, and write effectively - will be integrated in all sections, and are listed in the catalog course description; the other (use of qualitative data) is optional but highly recommended, and well-supported by commercially-available textbook materials.

Course description (as would be found in catalog): Basic business communications forms, group reports and presentations, effective use of electronic mail systems, and design of graphic aids for successful visual communication. (Lec. 3) Open to business majors only. (Cw)

Faculty Member's Signature: __________________________________________

Chairperson's Signature: _____________________________________________

Dean's Signature: ____________________________________________________

Part I

1. If not stated in your syllabus, please indicate the primary learning objective(s) of your course.

This 200-level writing course encourages students to write informed and rhetorically effective documents in a range of situations appropriate to business and professional settings. The primary learning objectives, then, are to

  • Provide students guided practice in solving complex problems through research and writing
  • Offer a rhetorical framework for understanding relations between writers and readers, as well as among different social organizations, all within the larger global community
  • Build an approach to writing that is situational and responsive, allowing students to transfer skills learned in this class to workplace and lifelong writing opportunities
  • Allow students to practice and grow more comfortable with the often difficult processes of collaboration and respectful negotiation necessary in the workplace
  • foster decision-making ability through open-ended projects culminating in written documents.

WRT 227 focuses on types of writing often found in the workplace, and upon the conventions of the genres they will most likely encounter. Students are expected to learn how to read a situation, how to research appropriate responses, how to select the genre most applicable to the task, how to compose and revise their document, how to design it for maximum visual effectiveness, and how to distribute it using paper, electronic forums, or in an oral presentation. In the end, they are expected to demonstrate their ability to produce several documents at a high level of quality, completeness, correctness, and overall rhetorical appropriateness.

2. How does the proposed course meet the goals established for the general education program?

WRT 227 emphasizes making rhetorical decisions in a range of writing situations, thus requiring students to use their critical thinking skills to solve workplace problems. In some cases, the problems are caused by authority figures within the organizational hierarchy, encouraging students not only to question received authority, but also to deal with disagreement and constructive criticism sensitively. In doing so, they learn basic rhetorical theory: relationships between writers and readers, and within larger social, political, economic, and geographic contexts. Because the course emphasizes situations rather than the memorization of particular forms, it offers students a heuristic for approaching any rhetorical situation, including those not covered in one semester; in other words, it helps students learn how to learn, and how to assess an appropriate written response. Much of this work happens collaboratively, as students work through their projects in groups and as a class, so writers must learn to participate in a collaborative writing environment and to develop the social skills necessary to help a team of writers to be both inclusive and productive. Finally, however, each student is responsible for his or her own written response, and must demonstrate the ability to produce an effective final product.

3. How is the course suitable for the general education area you have requested it be classified? Please refer to the criteria for the relevant division as described in Appendix A as well as to your course materials appended to this form.

"C" courses offer procedural knowledge for developing and extending written and oral interactions, and they provide extensive guided practice throughout the semester. In many "Cw" courses, and in WRT 227 specifically, designated class time is spent analyzing various writing situations, brainstorming possible responses, learning new technologies appropriate to the writing situation, drafting and revising different types of responses, critiquing student works in progress, analyzing model texts, and engaging in hands-on editing workshops. Thus, class sessions are designed to provide the time, space, and materials for guided practice in different writing situations.

More specifically, WRT 227 demands that students become familiar with the elements and conditions of effective writing in workplace situations. Beyond the critical skills necessary in problem-based learning, the course textbooks emphasize the elements of rhetorical understanding: situation, audience, purpose, genre, design. Throughout the semester, students will engage in five to eight scenarios, allowing them to practice a range of different responses. For example, in one case students might respond to a recent incident by collaboratively drafting a sexual harassment policy for their company; in another, they might need to draft a series of letter templates for addressing common inquiries or complaints a third project might include teaching a necessary software program to the rest of the class, along with the design of a one-page quick-start sheet. Assignments will be sequenced by progressive levels of sophistication, integrating collaborative work with individual projects. Students will revise their work based on feedback from the instructor, their peers, and the Writing Consultant when applicable. This feedback occurs throughout the process of the project: from the earliest idea formation, to organizational suggestions, to style and editing choices, to reader response. Continuous and sustained feedback from a variety of audiences is crucial to student success in this course.

4. Explain how this course provides opportunities for practice in each of the integrated skills you have listed on the coversheet.

In order to assure continuity of integrated skills across multiple sections, the following are the five skills that are most often integrated. The three with asterisks (*) are implied in the course bulletin, and are thus required of all sections; the other two are optional but highly recommended, and well-supported by commercially-available textbook materials.

* Speak effectively: Students communicate orally in three ways: with formal oral/visual presentations, through substantial group work (including co-authoring documents), and through one-to-one interaction with one another. Several formal oral presentations are integrated throughout the course, and have long been a requirement of all sections. As en example, student groups create and present a training session on a software package they feel they will need to use. During the training session, they conduct a usability study on their own training documents, watching and listening as other students try to use their quick-reference handouts, thus gauging the effectiveness of their written and their spoken texts. Following the presentations, they revise their texts accordingly. Later, students individually present their design for a hypothetical campus Touchpad Information Kiosk.

In addition to speaking in front of the class, students speak with one another in small groups every single class session, with no exceptions. Much of the learning happens through small group interaction, and its demands on the oral communication skills of each student in the class. Students are graded on this participation.

Use of qualitative data: For those sections emphasizing the case approach, each case is rich with qualitative data - policy documents, legal proceedings, in-house memoranda, as well as additional anecdotal, observational, and contextual information. Some projects demand students immerse themselves in the details of the case, researching more, and ultimately completing an action plan with appropriate documents. Thus, they are called throughout the semester to analyze, interpret, and use qualitative data to discern patterns and compel a written response.

* Use of information technology: Just as available textbook materials have integrated globalization issues into the market, so too have they integrated information technologies. Business communication cannot be done without information technologies, and the course catalog description promises students that electronic discourse will be a component of the course. Common assignments include: power point presentations, software documentation and training tools, hypertextual compositions (such as a website, or the "Touchpad Kiosk" project mentioned above), and extensive email. Additionally, much of the research needed to find the qualitative data informing many of the cases is found using electronic databases and other resources, primarily emanating from the URI Libraries site. By the end of the semester, most students will have completed projects using Word (or an equally powerful word processor), Power Point, Excel, PhotoShop, a web browser, and other planning software tools.

* Write effectively: As a WRT class, writing pervades the course, every class session. WRT 227 provides multiple opportunities for writing in different genres for varying audiences, purposes, and contexts. Earning credit for WRT 227 requires the equivalent of five or more major projects. Each project has the following component, assuring ample mechanisms for feedback and revision: process-related texts and drafts as students research and consider different solutions; the documents themselves (ranging from letters to memos to reports to presentations to handouts to press kits); revision advice from peers; a reflective "project assessment memo" analyzing the rhetorical situation and justifying the student's response; and a revised version, perhaps several revisions. The class often culminates with an Employment Portfolio, including a resumé, application letter, follow-up letter, and portfolio of business writing samples the student produced throughout the semester. More informal writing is done online, as students work with another on co-authored projects, and offering peer evaluations of one another's work.

5. Will your course sometimes be taught to groups of students larger than 60? If so, please explain what you will do to insure that each of the integrative skills will be achieved. Please explain how each integrative skill will be achieved.


6. If other instructors (including per course faculty or teaching assistants) teach the course, what will be done to ensure that the proposed content and skills will be maintained across sections and instructors?(To be completed by department chair.)

The College Writing Program depends on advanced teaching assistants and per course faculty with business experience to teach a significant percentage of its offerings; therefore, several practices are already in place to ensure that the proposed content and skills of WRT 227 will be maintained across sections. The course description itself demands particular curricular aims relevant to three of the five integrated skills we are proposing: writing effectively, speaking effectively, and using information technology.

In addition, the CWP maintains a library of textbooks, ancillary materials, and scholarship that the full-time faculty have determined satisfy and support the goals of the course; teaching assistants and per course faculty can select their materials from those approved, or request approval of other material not yet reviewed by the full-time faculty. Additionally, prior to each semester there will be a combined meeting for anyone teaching Business Communications (WRT 227) and/or Scientific and Technical Writing (WRT 333) to refresh policies, introduce new technology, showcase instructional materials, and review syllabi.

Finally, the CWP sponsors two or three events each semester to bring all instructors together to address policies, pedagogies, or problems. In the Fall of 2002, for example, three faculty development opportunities have been offered for all instructors; first, a welcome luncheon included a review of procedures and small group sessions for each different writing course; instructors had the chance to fine-tune their syllabi or assignments after talking with others who also teach the course. Second was a "Responding to Student Writing" workshop, three hours on a Friday afternoon, where student writing samples informed a discussion of giving both directive and facilitative commentary on student drafts. Finally, instructors were invited to a lunchtime demonstration of software for teaching writing, supplemental instruction for students with particular needs.

Part II

Please provide documentation of the means by which your course attempts to reach the goals of the general education program courses described above. Please attach a syllabus(mandatory) and all relevant course materials (e.g., exams, homework and laboratory assignments, classroom exercises) that will demonstrate how your course does this. In addition, please feel free to include any explanation(s) necessary showing how the course materials are linked to both the goals of general education program and specifically to the integrated skills.

See attached documents:

  • Syllabus and Policy Sheet
  • Overview of course assignments, with integrated skills
  • Project Assessment Memo (post-writing reflection)
  • Handout and timeline for Software Learning Initiative
  • Handout and timeline for United Drill Harassment Case
  • Handout and timeline for Lester Crane International Case
  • Groupwork evaluation forms



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