Business Communication in the 21st Century

Spoke with Business Communication class (20 students?) last night. I was channeling Jack Black (School of Rock) with a splash of Robin Williams (the English/Vietnamese class in Good Morning Vietnam). Which is to say I knew I’d never be invited back. I almost always learn more from these little talks than the people I’m speaking to. And I’m usually surprised.

  • only a couple of smartphones in the class, although everyone had a mobile
  • very little engagement with social media. Maybe half the class had Facebook account; a few had heard of Twitter but weren’t sure what it was; only experience with YouTube was watching a video forwarded by email; no bloggers
  • Only one hand went up when I asked who had read a book in the past year. This set me off on a short rant about reading and vocabulary and the obvious –to me– relationship to communication (business or otherwise)

I’m pretty sure this was their first encounter with the idea that social media might be an important part of business communication. When the subject of the iPad came up, the first question was “Can I run Word on the iPad?” followed by “How do we print?”

I was reminded how ingrained MS Word has become in our business culture. Most folks don’t know there are other word processors.

I responded to the print question with, “What do you want to print?”
“Uh, a report for this class?”
“Why not save it as a PDF and email it to the instructor?”

It was clear from the look on the instructor’s face this might not be an option.I suspect college business communication courses still involve a lot of paper. Maybe even mail merge (shudder).

My final transgression was telling them to watch Office Space, any season of The Office, and to read Scott Adam’s The Dilbert Principal. And forget everything else.

9 thoughts on “Business Communication in the 21st Century

  1. Google Docs will do everything you need. Assuming I know all that you need. I just gave you edit privileges to one of my docs.

  2. Yes, they are Word docs. I loathe Word, but that’s what everyone uses. For the next time I teach this class, I’m going to make sure that the students know how to use applications that make it easier to peer edit electronically. Of course, I have to learn to do it myself first.

  3. Couldn’t believe I used the phrase “deer in the headlights.” Had to go back and check. Whew.
    When you say you “take papers in electronic format” … I’m guessing these are Word docs?
    I know MS Office has been the standard for many years but I think cloud computing is changing that quickly.

  4. Just a note of clarification–I do take papers in electronic format all the time. I can’t remember anyone having sent me a PDF file, though, so my “deer in the headlights” facial expression was mostly that. And, you were invited precisely because the textbook was almost devoid of references to social media, so you fulfilled your function nicely.

  5. Well for this short time of my life yes. But after I’m done with school that’s different.

  6. Okay, you win. I no longer expect you to read books. Your reasons for not doing so are all valid.

  7. Small example of my workload:

    4 chapters in one class
    3 chapters in other class

    3- 2 page papers due Monday
    1 – 5 page paper due Monday
    Finals Wednesday

    Anytime I do something other than homework I feel like I’m wasting valuable time.

    8 week classes you’re so busy you don’t know if you’re coming or going.

  8. Thank for pointing out the obvious, Andy. I should not generalize form one class on one night. As for “don’t have time to read a book,” I’m not sure I can buy in. I’d love to get comments here from those in last night’s class.

  9. I’ve had a diffrent experience in the same school. Odd how that sort of thing works.

    In Business and General Ed. classes. Not Computer classes:

    – More than 50% of both of my classes has a smart phone (most iPhones but some Androids). You can tell when the class is getting boring because the phones come out and people start playing on them.

    -In at least one class we have a fellow student who takes notes on his iPad

    -When doing a small presentation in the class and I talked about the diffrences in the culture at Apple and Microsoft we had a real discussion on the matter

    -Most teachers will allow you to email assingment to them, some still don’t but the I’ve found most of the teachers who have a day job will allow it. They might print it out but they will take it in Digital form.

    -Social Media is a 50/50 deal. When talking about Facebook half know what’s going on. 25% think they know what’s going on and 25% don’t have a Facebook. Twitter, well that’s more like 90/10.

    I will agree that most adult students don’t read but I think it’s a multitude of factors up to and including the fact that as full time students and full time employees we don’t have time to read a book that’s not related to school. Some of us still try to carve out time but if I had kids and tried to goto school and work full time I wouldn’t be able to read anything.

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