Many features of present-day Distance Education (DE) writing instruction would have been inconceivable when DE was first undertaken: On-demand instruction, nearly instantaneous content delivery, and virtual classrooms capable of facilitating real-time conversations between students on different continents about events that may have taken place only minutes ago, a half a world away. All of these things would have seemed as unlikely to early DE practitioners as holding classes on the moon, yet the many of the primary issues and concerns of twenty-first century DE, particularly with respect to the significance and effects of technology, have persisted throughout the many years of its existence. Now, as DE courses are being developed and carried out by an unprecedented number of university-level educators, it is time to reexamine the long history of DE in hopes of better understanding the ways in which seemingly revolutionary developments such as virtual classroom and e-mail collaborations have more in common conceptually with early iterations of DE than might be supposed. This work represents an attempt to identify some of those commonalities, with respect to both the ways in which DE technology has functioned in particular historical contexts and to their significance to the field of DE in a more global sense. It is hoped that through such investigations we will become better able to shape DE courses so as to take advantage of the functionalities of new technologies without losing the benefits of DE that have traditionally drawn students and teachers to it.
Since 1992, Steven Katz's "The Ethic of Expediency" on the rhetoric of technical communication during the Holocaust has become a reference point for discussions of ethics. But how does his thesis compare to current understandings of the Holocaust? As this article describes, Katz was in step with the trend two decades ago to universalize the lessons of the genocide but his thesis presents key problems for Holocaust scholars today. Against his assertion that pure technological expediency was the ethos of Nazi Germany, current scholarship emphasizes the role of ideology. Does that invalidate his thesis? Katz's analysis of rhetoric and his universalizing application to the Holocaust are two claims that may be considered separately. Yet even if one does not agree that "expediency" is inherent in Western rhetoric, Katz has raised awareness that phronesis is socially constructed so that rhetoric can be unethically employed. Thus, rather than remain an uncritically accepted heuristic for technical communicators, "The Ethic of Expediency" can be a starting point for ongoing exploration into the ethical and rhetorical dimensions of the genre.
Building on the 1996 retrospective by Pearsall and Warren, the authors examine the decade that followed for the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC). As the world became more closely knitted together through trade agreements and advancements in communication technology, CPTSC took up its mission in response as it helped promote program growth internationally. During this period, the organization added many more members beyond the United States, as it hosted a series of roundtables in Europe and Canada, working to diversify the ethnic make-up of its membership through scholarships.
The majority of technical writing service courses are offered by English Departments. Commonly, literature departments simply continued on in the money- and time-saving practice of hiring adjunct lecturers to teach technical writing, thus playing a starring role in some of the most common problems in technical writing service courses today.
This article traces the history of technical writing instruction in American colleges, concentrating on the major figures in technical writing instruction, the most important textbooks, the forces that shaped courses in technical writing during the period 1900-1980, and the refinements and improvements in teaching and materials that led to the current growth and success of technical writing courses.
Historical study within academic disciplines is often used to invest students in their own futures and to create a sense of community among practitioners. As technical communication programs continue to develop, program designers must make decisions about how much historical study should be included. The current study examines information about how much value teachers of technical communication place upon historical study and the reasons for its inclusion in or exclusion from academic programs. Survey results show that attention given to historical study varies by program but that a few resources dominate study within many programs. The authors make recommendations for integrating historical study into technical communication curricula and offer an outline for a technical communication history course.
The first part of this article shows that research in the history of technical communication has increased in quantity and sophistication over the last 20 years. Scholarship that describes how to teach with that information, however, has not followed, even though teaching the history of the field is a need recognized by several scholars. The article provides and defends four guidelines as a foundation to study ways to incorporate history into classroom lessons: 1) maintain a continued research interest in teaching history; 2) limit to technical rather than scientific discourse; 3) focus on English-language texts; and 4) focus on American texts, authors, and practices. The second part of the essay works within the guidelines to show a lesson that contrasts technical texts by Benjamin Franklin and Herbert Hoover. The lesson can help students see the difference in technical writing before and after the Industrial Revolution, a difference that mirrors their own transition from the university to the workforce.
As the discipline of technical communication undergoes increasing scrutiny by scholars and teachers and as the discipline continues to evolve with advancements in technology, we should pause to consider some foundational, historical issues that led to the formation of a technical communication pedagogy in the first place. This piece evaluates shifts in an engineering curriculum from roughly 1850 to 1960 that made possible the development of a technical communication curriculum.
An analysis of overall spending on training in the U.S. between 1986 and 2008, based on the Training Annual Industry Survey, indicates that, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spending on training only differed by 1.5 percent—despite a 38 percent increase in workers.
The purpose of this article is to reflect upon the emergence of programs in rhetoric, technical, professional, and scientific communication (RTPSC) during the past twenty years through a personal narrative of experiences from graduate study to the present. Using a method of inquiry based in rhetorical meditation, the article presents a story of these experiences at Purdue University, Miami University-Ohio, and Michigan Tech University and then moves outward toward national concerns and, finally, suggests a selected “inventory” of challenges the RTPSC field faces in the coming years.