CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT ACROSS CULTURES: CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR A TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION PROGRAM BETWEEN NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY AND NANJING NORMAL UNIVERSITY
Technical communication, as both an academic discipline and a career path, has been significantly impacted by globalization. As a result, partnerships between universities or universities and organizations are increasingly common. As the opportunities increase, however, so do the responsibilities for creating culturally sensitive learning environments. NC State University provides opportunities for instructors to teach their core subjects to students from other countries and cultures through its Global Training Initiative (GTI). Through a partnership among the English Department at NC State, GTI, and Nanjing Normal University (NNJU), a technical writing certificate program was developed that equips students from NNJU to acquire specifically targeted communication skills to enhance career options of translation and language majors. During the 2-week program, students benefit not only from the intense workshops focusing on technical writing but also from site visits to multinational companies with offices in China, like SAS and IBM, and activities/field trips for cultural enrichment.
Preparation for the program began in Fall 2015 with a visit by 2 instructors from the English Department’s Professional Writing Program to NNJU. The purpose of the visit was to exchange information about the goals that NNJU envisioned its students achieving and the resources that NC State could offer for achieving those goals. Upon their return to NC State, instructors developed a 2-week program for about 15 students in Summer 2016, the program continued in Summer 2017, and plans are underway for Summer 2018. Each year, instructors strive to enhance the learning environment and course activities for students by educating themselves more fully about the cultural, professional, and historical diversity represented in the classroom.
Learning outcomes include:
1) writing documents that address purposes, audiences, and conventions of industry, government, and research;
2) applying principles of document design and visual elements;
3) working collaboratively; and
4) preparing a presentation.
Instructors developed a case study that required deliverables such as a proposal, a presentation, a set of instructions, and an informative document. To provide additional insight, industry speakers came to class, students learned basic 3D printing skills, and students visited multinational companies to learn about skills required of technical writing professionals.
Lessons Learned include the importance of:
1) incorporating cultural experiences into the curriculum;
2) tailoring the program to meet specific goals of the home university yet making the program sustainable and scalable;
3) optimizing the students’ experience through continuous efforts to learn more about their needs; and
4) gathering feedback from each group of students.
Plans for the future include follow-up surveys and interviews with each cohort to determine the impact of the workshop on career plans and advancement.