New class combines composition, social media as part of general education reform

By Melody Bailiff

The College of Arts and Sciences has teamed up with the College of Communications to bring a new, cutting-edge class to UK.

Over the past several years, a team of faculty has worked together to revamp the way English and communications are taught at the university.

The team has decided to combine English composition with oral speech and digital media to help students acquire the social media skills necessary to function in today’s workplace.

“I think students at UK will be excited about the way we teach these courses. Everything from how to compose e-mails and text messages to how to interact with your roommate and manipulate photos for visuals will be discussed,” said Roxanne Mountford, director of the Division of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media.

The colleges have essentially combined English 104 and Communications 181 to create a two-sequence course that all fall 2011 freshmen will be required to take.

The change in classes comes from a university-wide general education reform that is revamping the current University Studies Program, which has not been changed in decades. Starting fall 2011, USP will no longer exist and general education requirements will be put in place.

In order to prepare for the change in classes, a pilot course will open in fall 2010 under Arts and Sciences 100. This will allow different versions of the class to be tested before going live in fall 2011.

“It will certainly be a challenge for two colleges to come together and a new class to take place,” said Anna Bosch, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs. “But it is a great tribute to the faculty involved, who decided on shared goals and worked together to integrate communication.”

There are also challenges of hiring new staff and making sure UK has the technology in place for the media component of the class. The College of Arts and Sciences has hired 31 new faculty members, and the media component has funding but is still being worked out.

Mountford believes incorporating social media skills into the classroom will help UK reach its goal to become a top-20 university by 2020.

“I think teaching writing, speaking and design is the way of the future,” Mountford said. “Communication is not based one way — there’s Facebook and YouTube videos now, it’s becoming easier and faster. There’s a broad integration of skills and I think it’s high time to teach this way. This is a 2020 future.”