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Winning Opportunities for Work-Based Learning

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Opportunities to Improve Communication Skills in Business and CIS Courses Interactive Paper #2


This lesson is made up some 23 sites for you to visit and a number of interactive exercises for you to try. The idea behind the lesson is to increase your understanding about the workplace demand for employees with better communications skills and to provide you with some resources, ideas and guidance in building these skills into your courses. Student lessons could be easily built from almost every site. It is hoped that this content will help enrich your courses by providing more work-based learning applications.

Just how important are communication skills? Take a look at this article and see if you agree. The author contends that if employees or future employees do not have good communication skills, they could risk losing out on advancement or even their job. Read more in "Failure to Communicate."† In a study completed in Australia the lack of communication skills topped the list (skim the executive summary) when employers were interviewed about recent university graduates.† For some quick tips to help sharpen communication skills check out this resource.† How many of these communication tips do you think your students follow?† How would you rate your studentís ability to communicate?

Strengthening the Communication Process

It is clear that employers want employees who can effectively communicate. That includes an ability to listen, speak, read and write. If you want to understand more about the communication process, check out these two resources for a quick review. The Importance of Effective Communication is clearly defined at this Northeastern University site. It is a lengthy article, so if your time is short focus on image"The Barriers to Effective Communication" and "Reading Non Verbal Communication Cues." How do the workplace and classroom communications differ? How are they the same? Professor Gemmy Allen facilitates this Mountain View College Business Management Course. Here you can see how she emphasizes the importance of communications in business. Check out the Communication Process Chart at her site.†

Finally, here is an on-line communications skills assessment that provides good feedback. Try this out and see if you find your test response helpful in assessing your communication skills. How could your students utilize this assessment?† Could you create an assignment using this as a resource?

Listening with Your Face

Did you know that an employee and probably a student too, spends more time listening than speaking, writing or reading? But how many classes teach one how to listen? The ability to listen well is paramount to workplace success. This is certainly one skill instructors can incorporate into their instruction regardless of the content they teach. Just being aware of the importance of listening will help improve ones ability. Review this short article on Listening Skills. Note the 4 effective keys to effective listening. It is sometimes hard for us to grasp the idea that listening is an active not a passive activity. Have you ever tried listening with your face?† How many of your students listen with their faces during your lectures?

How are your listening skills? Here is a site that will get you started by measuring your ability to listen. By going to this site you can take a quick, 4 minute assessment and receive a personal profile of your listening skills. Before you begin, how do you think you listen to others? Are you too quick to respond? Are you empathetic? After taking the assessment be sure to print your profile. If you find this useful, you may want to assign this self-assessment to your students, it will surely get them thinking about listening.

Tony Alessandra has a creative approach to listening. He suggests that if you want to listen more effectively you need to caress those you are listening to. Here is his technique.† It is a good idea for students to practice and develop good listening techniques because in the workplace employees will spend about 55% of their time listening.

Suffering from Glossophobia?

imageGlossophobia! As an instructor it is highly unlikely that you have this fear, but chances are many of the students you teach do. So here is yet another way you can help students build a work-place skill right in your classroom by giving them opportunities and activities that help develop their subject matter knowledge and also enhance their ability to speak.

Here is an unbelievable site with lots of resources for building or improving presentation skills. There are about 8 documents here that are interesting and thought provoking for both instructor and student. As you scroll down the page you will find an annotated list of the documents. Check out "Up Close and Personal" to learn more about power seating!

Students may not have considered joining a professional business club or organization, but one of the best ways to network and develop business contacts is to become a part of one. This can help in a number of ways. In Patrick Combís, Major in Success, he contends that joining professional organizations is part of the unassigned homework that leads to finding a really cool job. If students are looking to improve their presentation and speaking skills, as well as do some networking, Toastmasters International is an organization that provides great support. Students are encouraged to join, and there are many local chapters. Why not give extra credit for participating in an organization like this?

Presentersí University has a wealth of information. Check out the courses and the tutorials, as well as, Ask the Professor (at the top of the page). The topics are timely and there are obviously a great number of people using this bulletin board. Note the hundreds of recent requests, ideas and suggestions. Keep this in your favorites if you want more "WOW" in your presentations.

Reading More Selectively

In the Information Age we are overloaded with information. There is so much to read most people donít know where to begin. Many of your students probably have good reading skills because in college you must do so much reading. But workplace reading can be different. Look at this article on reading strategies and check out the section on reading technical information. Note the idea of mind mapping. This is a great strategy to teach students and one they can employ for reading and listening at school or in the workplace.

With more information to read, you may have students who want to improve their reading skills. A good place to start is at this Brain Dancing site where they offer some explanations about the reading process and exercises that will help increase speed.† Check out the ďEye Movement Optimization Exercise,Ē in the article Reading Groups of Words at a Glance, and the Tony Buzan exercise found on this page.† Reading like other skills only improves with practice.†

Writing for Your Audience


ďTo Whom It May ConcernĒ written by Dianna Booher offers some good advice in her article. Review this information and see if you agree. Analyzing your audience whether you are writing or speaking can lead to better communications. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing site offers a variety of strategies for better writing. Whether its style, structure or mechanics that your students need to review, it is likely this site will provide quick information.

While in school most students are required to write lengthy papers, and they get the idea that more is better. However, in business less is more. In other words, clear concise writing is the key. In addition, the most common business correspondence is e-mail. It is not unusual in a business setting to have to make between 20 and 100 e-mail responses a day. Students often donít realize that a poorly constructed e-mail is a reflection on them and their abilities Therefore, it is absolutely essential that students develop the skills for quick, clear and concise writing.

It may take a few minutes longer to compose tightly crafted messages, the quality does shine through. After all isnít clear writing a sign of clear thinking? If your students are struggling with this skill have them review the sites and suggestions below and then practice these strategies in their correspondence. To start, here are 7 quick tips for writing effective e-mail. Then go to this site and E-Mail Tips. While a number of good tips reside here, check out Bob Brandís E-Mail Pet Peeves.

Your Body Language Tells It All

Itís hard to believe, but itís true that 90% of face-to-face communication is conveyed through nonverbal language! Many people are not aware of this and send mixed messages because what they say is in conflict with the nonverbal communications. Check out this list of nonverbal behaviors and see if you agree with the interpretations. Here is a short article you could have assign your students as it relates to nonverbal communications in an interview. Finally, Julius Fast author of that famous book Body Language now has a more current read. If you are your students want more this is an excellent place to begin.

imageIncluding components to grow communication skills into your courses can give students an added advantage in the highly competitive job market.

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