State of Education in TC—Panel

Presentation Abstract

Panel members, who come from industry and academia, will discuss what it means to be a technical communicator today, how roles and hiring needs are changing, and what strengths and deficiencies new college graduates are bringing to the profession. Members will then discuss implications of these changing roles and hiring needs for TC education and what curriculum modifications are possible and warranted given diverse program constraints and goals. Part of this discussion will include a brief history and overview of the current state of education in TC, including ongoing debates about TC as an academic discipline versus profession and as a tactical versus strategic practice.

Two panel members will show specific ways in which some programs are preparing students to practice and research at the “engineering level” of the profession, a level which requires skills in abstraction, systems thinking, computational thinking, and business analysis in addition to more traditional humanities-based skills in rhetorical analysis, writing, and information design.

What can attendees expect to learn?

Participants will learn about the state of education in technical communication, and they will have the opportunity to contribute ideas for how programs and curricula might be re-envisioned so to better prepare students for entry-level jobs and future leadership roles. Understanding the state of education will help participants know better where to look for students graduating with degrees in technical communication and related fields, what to expect from new graduates, and how to better train new graduates for particular organizational and team roles.

Meet the Presenters

Rebekka Andersen is an associate professor in the University Writing Program at the University of California, Davis, where she teaches courses in professional and technical communication and digital literacy. She serves on the CIDM Advisory Council, on the editorial board of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, and on the review board of several journals in the field of technical communication. Her research focuses on the diffusion of content management methodologies and technologies in information development teams and on building stronger connections between academia and industry.

Carlos Evia is an associate professor and director of Professional and Technical Writing at Virginia Tech, where he also conducts research for the Centers in Human-Computer Interaction and Occupational Safety and Health. He is also a member of the DITA Technical Committee and co-chair (with Michael Priestley) of the Lightweight DITA subcommittee.

Stan Doherty lives in the Boston area and works as a technical publications manager at SimpliVity Corporation, a networking start-up. He participates as a voting member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, serves as secretary for the OASIS DITA Adoption Technical Committee, and supports companies in New England considering DITA. Feel free to contact Stan if you are considering DITA, DITA tools, and DITA-aware CCMSs.

Scott Runstrom is a Principal Technical Writer and Content Architect at MathWorks in Natick, MA, where he is fortunate to work on an interesting variety of information architecture and content strategy projects. Scott is a strong advocate of customer-focused content. Along with developing XML templates and training for structured information types, he provides coaching and supervision for writers on customer requirements, information design, and topic-based writing. Scott also teaches Technical Writing in the Professional Writing program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.