I wrote this little piece to respond to some concerns voiced on the Basic Course List and I thought it might be relevant more generally.
The recent posts about increasing class size and the new student learning objectives/outcomes are alarming. And, as the economic pressure on colleges continues, it only looks like it’s going to get worse. Now may be the time to reconsider and reconceptualize the basic course.
Traditionally, the basic course in communication has been a course designed to teach the skills of public speaking. Then in the early 70’s courses in interpersonal communication were developed, again to teach basic skills. For those who wanted a broader spectrum of skills, there was the hybrid course, designed to teach the skills of interpersonal communication, interviewing, small group and leadership, and public speaking—with varied emphases.
These skills courses are most departments’ “bread and butter.” Consequently, it’s not an easy sell to argue against courses that at least in many instances sustain a department by supporting additional, more advanced, courses and, in many ways, make a graduate program possible by providing teaching assistantships.
But, there are several built-in difficulties with the basic skills-focused course and this has subjected communication departments to problems and criticism from a number of sides.