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The Evolution Of An Advanced Communication Skills Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1001.1 - 6.1001.9



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Paper Authors

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Michael McGeen

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James Friauf

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session ---- Division 06

The Evolution of an Advanced Communication Skills Course

James Friauf, Michael McGeen Milwaukee School of Engineering

Abstract With industry leaders constantly citing the need for and importance of effective communication skills, educators must ensure our engineering curriculum does meet this end. Is a single, mandatory public speaking course sufficient to prepare students for the expectations and demands of the workplace? Is the traditional speech course, with speeches typically delivered from behind a podium, an adequate preparation for the communication requirements of the professional engineer?

An effective alternative is to use the basic speech course as a prerequisite for an advanced, upper level communication skills course. This upper level course focuses on effective communication practices with the expectations of a technical audience and setting. The course is taught by a team of technical communication and architectural engineering faculty and coordinated with a capstone design course.

Students are organized into small groups to present to their technical design solutions in a setting that attempts to simulate professional/client interaction.

I. Introduction

Providing a rationale for a college speech class is easy. Survey after survey of business leaders reinforces the opinion that effective communication skills are imperative for professional success and promotion. Ask managers to identify the top five skills they look for in new hires and communication skills is a given for that list. Often, it is number one. As educators we reinforce this idea, telling our students how important communication skills are in terms of getting a job. And we are right. What we may fail to do, however, is really explain why those communication skills are so important in the professional setting, why those skills are important to the day-to- day functioning of an engineer.

Why is the engineer with strong communication skills more effective, and thus more important to his/her company, than the engineer with weaker communication skills? Simply put, business is communication. Strong communication skills are necessary to do one’s job. New project ideas are offered to a department manager. Information is shared among professional colleagues. Customers are persuaded to buy your product or service. Work teams negotiate job responsibilities and roles. Preliminary and final designs are presented to a client. While multiple mediums exist to present information, engineers must, at some time, still meet face to face with a client, a colleague, a subordinate, or a superior and explain their ideas. The competent engineer or business professional must effectively communicate with both internal and external customers.

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

McGeen, M., & Friauf, J. (2001, June), The Evolution Of An Advanced Communication Skills Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9242

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