Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR Strategic Plan White Paper

Department of Rhetoric and Writing

at UALR

Strategic Plan White Paper

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

December 7, 2018


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION        2

MARKET ANALYSIS        3

ONLINE PRESENCE        3

Department Website        3

Social Media        5

MAIN COMPETITORS        5

Internal Competitors (University of Arkansas System)        6

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UARK)        6

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS)        6

External Competitors        6

Arkansas State University (ASU)        6

Virginia Tech University (VT)        7

Missouri State University (MSU)        7

MARKETING PLAN        8

CURRENT MARKETING        8

Online Advertising        8

IDEAS FOR IMPROVEMENT        9

Website        9

FROM IDEAS TO IMPLEMENTATION        12

Timeline        14

Table 1: Implementation Timeline        14

CONCLUSION        15

REFERENCES AND MAJOR WORKS CITED        16

APPENDIX        17

SWOT ANALYSIS        18

SWOT Analysis Notes        19

Table 2: On-Campus/Online Professional and Technical Writing Programs        21

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH        22

Table 3: The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs        22

Table 4: Examples of Engaging Advertising        23


INTRODUCTION

There is a downward trend in enrollment across the nation to which all academic institutions must adjust. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s latest funding formula makes this downward trend particularly challenging for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing  (hereinafter, the “RW department”).[1]

Another challenge all universities face is growing competition: More institutions are offering writing programs in response to the demand for qualified professional and technical writers.[2] Moreover, students now have expanded access to educational offerings;[3] What this means for the RW department is its writing programs must stand out from their competitors.

This investigation looks at the current state of the department’s professional and technical writing programs and aims to provide insights and suggestions to help the program continue to succeed. It begins with a market analysis which compares the department’s writing programs to those of its main competitors. It suggests changes to the programs to ensure they remain competitive. A review of how the department’s programs are currently advertised is included, along with ideas on how the department can make better use of print and digital media to ensure its programs are appealing to key student demographics. The paper concludes with a suggested plan to implement changes to the program.


MARKET ANALYSIS

A S.W.O.T. Analysis revealed the department’s major strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats: Major threats include increasing competition,[4] [5] a downward enrollment trend across the U.S., and a new funding metric in Arkansas that negatively impacts the department’s budget.[6] This section comments on a survey of the department’s current online presence, to include its website and social media platforms. It includes an investigation of the program’s main competitors, noting similarities and differences between the programs.

Several areas have been identified that are problematic and weaken the department; these include:

 

ONLINE PRESENCE 

The department’s online presence is primarily through a website and social media.

Department Website

For two reasons this investigation assumes the department’s official website is located at the URL, ualr.edu/rhetoric: 1) There is a link to ualr.edu/rhetoric on the Rhetoric and Writing at UA Little Rock Facebook page; and 2) no alternative URL could be determined.

The department’s website consists of eight sections: About, Composition, Undergraduate, Graduate, Online, People, Community, and News. Each section seems to be a continuation of an About section: This is because each section continues to offer explanations about the program and the department.

  1. Landing/About page: This page offers two stock photos and several news headlines directed at audiences already familiar with the department and the program. There is no About page. When a visitor clicks on the About link, they are returned to the landing page. This seems to support the observation that each of the eight sections seem to be subsections of an About page.

  1. Composition page: Much of this page is written for faculty and academia as a whole and seems to be part of an About section.

  1. Undergraduate page: This page provides an explanation of the undergraduate program.

  1. Graduate page: This page provides an explanation of the graduate program.

  1. Online page: This page consists of a small amount of prose followed by a video. The prose directs visitors to watch the video to determine if the online program is right for them. It also directs visitors to click on links in the left column to learn more about the programs on offer, or to apply for one of the programs. Clicking on a link takes the visitor to additional information specific to one of the online programs: The links include Online BA in PTW, Online MA in PTW, and the Certificate in Online Writing Instruction.

Note: The M.A. Course Profiles link on the Online MA in PTW webpage is broken.

  1. People page: The people page includes a video that introduces faculty members, along with two graduate students.  The information on this page appears to be an extension of an About section.

Note: Because the video resides on YouTube, when the video completes the screen is populated with advertisements unrelated to the program. It would be better if unrelated videos did not populate the screen.

  1. Community page: The prose describes how the department is involved in the Little Rock community. The information on this page appears to be an extension of an About section.

  1. News page: The news headlines on this page are directed at current students, faculty, the media, and academia as a whole.

Social Media

The department’s social media accounts include:

MAIN COMPETITORS

In an online discussion forum, Dr. Barbara L'Eplattenier notes that all campuses and units in the University of Arkansas System (UAS) compete against one another in the arena of student enrollment.[7] How or whether the UAS’s efforts “to bring together all of its campuses under one data exchange system”[8] will affect competition between campuses cannot be determined for the purposes of this analysis; consequently, this study assumes all campuses within the UAS continue to be competitors of UALR.

It should be noted that the mission of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) is to have all major colleges and universities across the U.S. and its territories signed up for, what is in essence, an electronic campus - a “searchable database of academic programs offered at a distance by SARA institutions.”[9] For students, this "voluntary agreement”[10] means “expanded access to educational offerings.[11] For the department, this means ever-increasing pressure to compete with rival universities.

In light of the SARA initiative, it is not possible to determine with confidence which universities are the true main competitors to the department’s online programs. However, the following analysis attempts to compare the department’s writing programs to those of at least some of the competition.

Internal Competitors (University of Arkansas System)

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UARK)

A UARK blurb reads, “In addition, since the certificate program is fully online, you pay in-state tuition for the courses regardless of where you're currently living.”[12]

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS)

It is noted on the UAFS website that “Effective communication and analytical skills are a necessity in almost every career pursuit. Every field requires competent communication specialists who understand the basics of formulating an idea, structuring it in a logical format, and delivering it in a way that informs, persuades, and enlightens. The degree in Rhetoric and Writing focuses specifically on effective communication skills through intensive writing and editing classes.”[13]

External Competitors

Arkansas State University (ASU)

The ASU website maintains it is the “second largest university in the state with more than 13,000 students and 160+ fields of study. In the past few years.” ASU claims that it “has not only increased its enrollment, but it has also increased its standards for enrollment.”[14] ASU offers a writing studies BSE with a Professional Writing Track with a number of courses similar to the department’s PTW BA. These include:

Virginia Tech University (VT)

On their website, VT explains a professional and technical writing degree combines “coursework on the methods, forms, technologies, and issues of workplace writing with practical experience, and that the major “emphasizes the role of online writing skills and electronic content strategy in 21st century professional and technical communication.” VT offers a Professional and Technical Writing BA with many courses similar to the department’s BA. These include:

Missouri State University (MSU)

On its website, MSU explains Professional Writing BA how its program allows one to “adapt specialized information accurately to help people make decisions, perform tasks or solve problems.” MSU claims its program will help students develop “superior writing and computer skills” preparing them for “a career in writing, editing, publication production and project management.” Coursework similar to the department’s PTW BA include:

For more external competitors see Table 2: On-Campus/Online Professional and Technical Writing Programs, in the appendix.


MARKETING PLAN

This section investigates the department’s current marketing strategies and offers ideas on how the department can make better use of print and digital media to make its programs more appealing to key student demographics.

CURRENT MARKETING

The primary means of marketing seems to be by way of the department’s website and social media platforms. There is some indirect marketing resulting from third-party harvesting of the university’s details; for example, online data aggregators.

Online Advertising

The following table represents a review of how the department’s programs are currently advertised online.

Table 1: Current advertising discovered via Google search

Advertisement

Source

Search Notes

15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs

BestSchools.org

Ranks UALR’s writing program #5 in a list of 15. See The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing

Peterson’s

Search parameter: [ualr rhetoric and writing twitter]. Advertises cost per hour ($383), hours required (36), and estimated cost ($13,788) of an online PTW MA degree.

Write Your Story

UALR

Search parameter: [ualr rhetoric and writing twitter]. There is a 404 error message when this Google search result is clicked; however, the cached version links to an old page.


IDEAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

One of the most important strengths of the department is the faculty who are dedicated to the program and to students. There is an opportunity to capture the results of this dedication in student testimonials, placing them strategically through out the department’s website.

Website

The department can make better use of both print and digital media to market its programs. This section discusses how the department can make its website more appealing to prospective students. The suggestions made for website changes rest on the fact that people have short attention spans; especially when reading online.

The department website directly represents to prospective students the essence of the program. There is an opportunity to update the site in ways that will make it more appealing to prospective students. Although the individual sections are well-written and provide useful information, the rhetoric is primarily directed at audiences already familiar with the department; this includes current students and faculty. There are no creative marketing strategies in place to engage with, specifically, prospective students. Each of the eight sections could easily be subsections of an About page, providing explanations and information to current students, faculty, and academia as a whole. As it is currently designed, the department’s website is an echo chamber in that it is selling the department and its programs back to itself.

  1. Landing page:  The department’s main page, the landing page, is its storefront window. From the moment prospective students arrive on this page, they should have a good sense that they are in the right place and be immediately engaged with, and excited about, the content displayed and the message being communicated. Prospective students should feel included in the conversation.

There is no marketing in place that attempts to engage directly with prospective students. The page includes news headlines that, by today’s standards, are dated. Moreover, these news items are for the benefit of current students and faculty and should be placed on a dedicated news page for these audiences. Relocating news frees up the landing page to serve its primary function, to engage prospective students with content that compels them to want to know more about the program.

A link on the left column of the landing page invites prospective students to “Join Our Department.” As worded, this information is vague and there is great potential for the message to be lost on the uninitiated.[15]  A prospective student is not likely to be thinking in terms of joining a department and may even find the information off-putting. Another link invites prospective students to “Get Involved.” This message is also for the benefit of current students and not prospective students: Prospective students cannot get involved in any of the ways suggested in the list.

The landing page also includes what appears to be two stock photos: a photo of an individual, perhaps in a park setting, writing by hand in what appears to be a journal; and another photo of an individual writing on a laptop. What these photos are communicating to prospective students is not clear.

  1. About page: There is no About page. When visitors click on the About link, they are returned to the Landing page. This seems to support the observation that each of the eight sections seem to be subsections of an About page. A dedicated About page could provide further information on the various programs on offer.

  1. Composition page: The current prose on this page includes jargon-filled phrases such as “core curriculum” and “concurrent credit.” For the uninitiated, these phrases may require research to understand. Much of this page is written for academia and should be included in an About section targeting at this audience and not prospective students.

  1. People page: Phrases such as “Faculty Emeritus” and “Alumni Profiles” in the left-hand column of the People webpage have the potential to be off-putting to the uninitiated as they are exclusive to this discourse community. These links are not entirely for the benefit of the prospective students. Perhaps, Faculty Emeritus might belong as a subsection of a dedicated About section, similar to UALR’s Community Education and Outreach's CCEE Staff page. Alumni Profiles, on the other hand, is on the right track, in that it aims to answer the question, what can I do with this degree? However, the phrase “Alumni Profiles” may not mean much to the prospective student; as such, it should be changed to something more engaging to allow for the largest number of prospective students to feel welcomed and included in the conversation. Along with the parent ‘People’ page, I suggest Alumni Profiles be laid out more like UALR’s Student Success Stories webpage, as these feel more inclusive to audiences new to university life and offer more in terms of sensory expression. Moreover, the multi-modal experience provides visitors with something to latch on to that flat prose does not provide.

 

The People webpage should begin with student success stories similar to that of Wendy Kay McCloud. There is an opportunity here for prospective students to engage with content they will find immediately relatable to themselves; in other words, they are more likely to see their future in Wendy’s and similar stories. For this same reason, consider placing the People content on the department’s landing page; because it is immediately engaging and relatable to prospective students. Relatable content is more likely to compel visitors to want to know more about the program.

  1. Community webpage:  The Community page should be about people (i.e., current students) and not about a department. When a prospective student clicks on Community, it should be a sensory experience rather than a bullet-point explanation. The visitor should feel a sense of community; one that is relatable and one to which he or she can imagine being a member. The current prose on this page explains what people do in a community, not who they are. See UALR’s MyFuture@Work as an example of an effective page: MyFuture@Work makes use of images so visitors have an experience from the moment they land on the page. Community can be seen and not just read about. Compare UALR’s community page. [See also, Examples of Engaging Advertising in the appendix.]

  1. News webpage: Any news for current students and/or faculty should be located on a page separate from the landing page. This frees up the landing page to serve its primary function, to engage prospective students with content that compels them to want to know more.

Fortunately, the S.W.O.T. Analysis highlights several important areas where the department and its programs are strong. Strengths include faculty who are dedicated to both the program and its students, program quality, and social media presence. These strengths will be advantageous to the department as it transitions from challenging problems to the solutions outlined in the next section.


FROM IDEAS TO IMPLEMENTATION

This section provides an overview of recommended changes and suggests a timeline for implementing the various elements of a marketing plan. It also provides a brief description of how the various components of the marketing plan should be executed. The plan suggests changes in seven key areas:

  1. Service course administration
  2. Instructor online social presence
  3. Department website
  4. Program/department image
  5. Ad campaigns
  6. Job finding tools
  7. Graduate numbers[16]

The success of this plan depends on two important changes being made in the department. First, the two composition service courses must be transitioned out of the department. Secondly, improvements need to be made in the quality of an instructor’s online social presence.

Service courses: Since the department serves more students overall, but with fewer declared majors, and neither service course enrollment or completion impact department funding, it is recommended that the two service courses, Comp I (1311) and Comp II (1312), be transitioned back to the English department. Writing in the Workplace should continue to be administered by the rhetoric and writing department. This action will allow the department to take on more PTW majors without the immediate need to hire more faculty.

Instructor social presence: Studies suggest “convenience, flexibility, and the ability to fit courses into a current work schedule”[17] are primary motivating factors for enrolling on online programs. Online program success is linked to socially present instructors.[18] A 2015 paper by Dr. Heidi Skurat Harris and Wendy McCloud support this observation noting that, “[f]ledgling writers, by their very nature, are hungry for knowledge in any form” and “will flourish the most when . . . professors actively, attentively, and articulately feed that hunger. The delivery method is not as important as the message.”[19] 

Service courses water-down instructor reserves; therefore, transitioning service courses out of the department will allow current instructors to give more of their time to students on a declared PTW major. This will improve the quality of an instructor’s online social presence, and this, in turn, will increase the likelihood of graduation. All of these measures will have a positive impact on the department’s budget.


Timeline

Following is a suggested timeline for implementing changes to the program.

Table 1: Implementation Timeline

STEP

TIME/PERIOD

COMPONENT

ACTION

1

Summer 2019

Service courses

Transition Comp I and II service courses out of department and back to English department.

2

 Summer 2019

Instructor social presence

Improve instructor social presence - in particular, online social presence. Focus groups should be established to determine how to best facilitate faculty development in this area.

3

 Fall 2019

Department website

Update to target and engage prospective students. See Website section of this white paper..

4

 Fall 2019

Program/department image

Accomplish via website, social media, and better use of print and digital media. Advertising should reflect a robust, cutting-edge program with switched-on instructors who are socially present.

5

 Spring 2020

Ad campaigns

Design to target specific demographic groups.

6

 Ongoing

Job finding tools

Provide tools to help students get in to jobs and/or internships.

7

 Ongoing

Graduation numbers

Increase by actioning the component parts of this implementation plan.


CONCLUSION

The results of this investigation indicate the major challenges faced by all universities are declining enrollment and growing competition: More institutions are offering professional and technical writing programs in response to demand and students have expanded access to educational offerings. The study presented in this white paper identified several changes that should be put in place to ensure the department continues to provide robust programs that can withstand increasing competition.

The S.W.O.T. Analysis revealed the department’s areas of strength that can be used to its advantage; for example, having faculty dedicated to its programs and its students. However, this is not enough to continue to compete in the marketplace: In order to continue to thrive, the department must be aggressive in marketing its image and promoting its programs, ensuring programs stand out among the competition.

Given the accelerated growth of the professional and technical writing industry and initiatives such as SARA, the department should put its greatest efforts into improving the one aspect of its programs that has the potential to set them apart from competitors; that is,its quality instructors and their social presence. It will take such a unique offering to ensure the survival of, in particular, the online program.[20]

The department must implementation a plan to make key changes. To that end, this paper has offered a suggested timeline to effect these changes. First steps include transitioning the composition service courses back to the English department and setting up a focus group to develop the department’s key asset: its instructors.


REFERENCES AND MAJOR WORKS CITED

Harris, Heidi S., and Elwyn W. Martin, "Student Motivations for Choosing Online Classes," International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 6: No. 2, Article 11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2012.060211.

Harris, Heidi Skurat, and Wendy McCloud, “If You Build Online Classes (And Empower Faculty to Teach Them), Non-Traditional Students Will Come: One Student’s Journey through the Professional and Technical Writing Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Composition Studies 43.2 (2015): 182-185.

L'Eplattenier, Barbara, and George H. Jensen, “Reshaping the BA in Professional and Technical Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Writing Majors: Eighteen Program Profiles, DOI: 10.7330/9780874219722.c002, pp. 22-35.

Maid, Barry M., “Non-Tenure-Track Instructors at UALR: Breaking Rules, Splitting Departments,” in “Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education,” eds. Eileen E. Schell and Patricia Lambert Stock, book, National Council of Teachers of English (2001): 76-90. https://eric.ed.gov/?q=ED447500.

Whiteside, Aimee L., Amy Garrett Dikkers, and Karen Swan, eds. Social Presence in Online Learning: Multiple Perspectives on Practice and Research. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2017.

Title page image attribution: Pixabay (CC0 1.0).


APPENDIX

SWOT ANALYSIS

SWOT Analysis Notes

Table 2: On-Campus/Online Professional and Technical Writing Programs 

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Table 3: The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs

Table 4: Examples of Engaging Advertising

 

 


SWOT ANALYSIS

Strengths

Weaknesses

Positive

Negative

I

N

T

E

R

N

A

L

Quality of faculty: Dedicated to both the program and students.1

Quality of program:2

Social media presence: Online engagement with and support of current students.3

Part of UA system: Benefits from a shared history of excellence in education.4

State funding: Department is not completely reliant on private funding.

Reliance on state funding: Changes in funding metrics makes department vulnerable and in reaction mode.5

Enrollment demographics fluctuations: Likely enrollment with largest demographic fluctuates with economy.6

Opportunities

Threats

E

X

T

E

R

N

A

L

Department website: Update to immediately engage prospective students.7

Social media presence: Keep active and keep interesting.8

Enrollment demographics: Use data to created targeted ad campaign.9 10

Military-Friendly designation: Use in targeted ad campaign.11

Carnegie classification: Use in targeted ad campaign.12

Rankings: Use in targeted ad campaign.13

UALR Handshake: Use in targeted ad campaign.14

Enrollment trends: The trend is currently downward across U.S.15

Federal/state funding metrics: Latest Arkansas funding metrics having a negative impact on rhetoric department.16

Competition: Bureau of Labor Statistics data will motivate more institutions to offer writing programs and/or to improve programs.17


SWOT Analysis Notes

1. Faculty dedicated to the program and to students are a strength. This fact could be captured in student testimonials and strategically placed on department landing page.

2. It is also the only Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) in the state of Arkansas. See “Undergraduate” on UALR official website, accessed November 14, 2018, https://ualr.edu/rhetoric/up/.

3. See the Facebook Rhetoric and Writing at UALR group; Facebook Rhetoric and Writing at UA Little Rock page; and RhetoricWritingUALR on Twitter.

4. See also University of Arkansas System: UA System Project One at https://www.uasys.edu/system-office/ua-system-erp-project/. Project One is the “new hub for all information, timelines and progress about the UA System’s effort to bring together all of its campuses under one data exchange system. Functional scope will include human capital and student administration.”

5. Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Two things: UALR and 12.1 grades/comments,” announcement, Blackboard, November 18, 2018 2:53 p.m. Since the non-traditional student demographic is an important market, but is also sensitive to fluctuations in the economy, it is a weakness. If, “[w]hen the economy is good . . . enrollment drops; when the economy is bad, . . . enrollment booms,” the department needs to address getting ahead of this. See also note 7.

6. Ibid.

7. The department website directly represents to prospective students the essence of the program. There is an opportunity to update the site in ways that will make it more appealing to prospective students.

8. For example, the latest post on the department’s Twitter account is July 17.

9. Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Two things: UALR and 12.1 grades/comments,” announcement, Blackboard, November 18, 2018 2:53 p.m. There is an opportunity to increase efforts to target non-traditionally-aged college students in advertising campaigns during periods when the economy is booming and non-traditional numbers are normally down. See also note 4.

10. See also UALR’s webpage “Non-Traditional Students,” accessed November 27, 2018, https://ualr.edu/campuslife/ntsp/. There is an opportunity to incorporate this rhetoric in targeted advertising, making it more engaging to its audiences.

11. “Quick Facts,” on the UALR official website, accessed November 14, 2018, https://ualr.edu/administration/fast-facts/. UALR has maintained a Military-Friendly designation for the past 7 years. According to Military.com, Little Rock Air Force Base has “a population of approximately 30,000.” Since the base sits just 17 miles northeast of Little Rock, there is an opportunity to direct targeted marketing at this demographic. See “Little Rock Air Force Base Guide” at https://www.military.com/base-guide/little-rock-air-force-base.

12. “Quick Facts,” on UALR official website, accessed November 14, 2018, https://ualr.edu/administration/fast-facts/. “UA Little Rock is one of 361 U.S. colleges and universities with Carnegie Community Engagement Classification and the only university in Arkansas with this designation.” There is an opportunity to incorporate this quality-control standard in advertising.

13. “Rankings” on Quick Facts on UALR official website, accessed November 14, 2017, https://ualr.edu/administration/fast-facts/. Rankings are for UALR as a whole and include the ranking, “Top Online Colleges for 2018 (ranked 11th) by SR Education Group.”

14. “UA Little Rock to Launch New Online Career Network for Students Dec. 4,” on UALR official website, accessed November 29, 2018, https://ualr.edu/news/2018/11/27/handshake/. There is an opportunity to use this “career network tailored to college students” in advertising. This will be attractive to students who must work while in school and also who are looking to change careers. Internships will also be appealing to prospective students.

15. Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Writing for Business and Government: Unit 5--Complex Projects: The Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR Strategic Plan” (handout, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR, November 12, 2018).  “While the department serves more students overall than any other department in our college, new funding metrics from the state of Arkansas will potentially assign funding not on SSCH but rather on degree completion (how many students complete a degree) and time to degree (how long students take to complete a degree). Because our department serves a wide range of students in our service courses but doesn’t have many majors, we run the risk of losing funding through the new funding metric.”

16. Ibid.

17. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Media and Communication: Technical Writers" on Bureau of Labor Statistics official website, accessed November 12, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm. According to the BLS, “Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” Median pay 2017 is $70,930 per year, $34.10 per hour. Job outlook 2016-26 11% growth (faster than average).


Table 2: On-Campus/Online Professional and Technical Writing Programs

Institution

Degree Title

Online

Offline

SARA*

Arizona State University

Technical Communication (BS)

BS, MS

BS, MS

Yes

Arkansas State University

Writing Studies: Professional Writing Track

BSE

Yes

Missouri State University

Professional Writing (BS), Technical Writing (Minor)

Minor, BS

MA[21]

Yes

Northeastern University

Technical Communication

 

Southern New Hampshire University

Communication-Professional Writing

MS

Yes

University of Arkansas at Fayetteville[22]

Technical Writing and Public Rhetorics

MA Cert

 

Yes

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

Rhetoric and Writing

BA, Minor

 

 Yes

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Professional and Technical Writing

BA, MA

BA, MA

 Yes

University of Central Florida

English/Technical Communications

BA, MA

BA

Yes

Virginia Tech

Professional and Technical Writing

BA

 

Yes


ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Other research conducted to help understand the nature of the program and the current state of the program included several Internet searches. The search parameter [online writing degrees] produced the web article, The 15 Best Online Bachelor's in Writing Programs from BestSchools.org. For convenience, this information is recreated in the table below.[23]

Table 3: The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs

Ranking

Institution

Location

1

University of Central Florida

Orlando, Florida

2

Indiana University–Bloomington

Bloomington, Indiana

3

Missouri State University

Springfield, Missouri

4

University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

5

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Little Rock, Arkansas

6

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

Denver, Colorado

7

West Virginia University

Morgantown, West Virginia

8

Indiana University East

Richmond, Indiana

9

Central Washington University

Ellensburg, Washington

10

Nicholls State University

Thibodaux, Louisiana

11

Robert Morris University–RMU Online

Moon, Pennsylvania

12

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire

13

National University

La Jolla, California

14

Point Park University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

15

West Virginia State University

Institute, West Virginia


Table 4: Examples of Engaging Advertising

Advertisement

Institution

Feedback

Best Online Programs[24]

UA Fayetteville

The U.S. News badge placement on this page are a good example of ‘tooting your own horn’ marketing. The rhetoric and writing department has good reason to boast; however, boasting does not leap off the landing or other pages on the department’s website.

MyFuture@Work

UA Little Rock

This example captures the essence of an engaging landing page. It represents a the specific community which prospective students will want to identify; other students, their peers. The current Rhetoric and Writing department landing page does not represent the spirit of the department or its programs.

Professional & Technical Writing Program: What Will You Gain?

UCCC

Scroll down and click on ‘Read More’ on the Professional & Technical Writing Program panel to start a digital narrative of the program. The narrative itself calls upon many of the skills acquired while on the PTW program. It ends with, “What Will You Showcase in Your Portfolio?” Alternatively, click on Adobe Spark.

Why Should You Consider a Career in Technical Writing

Northeastern

Here is a technical writer explaining in a conversational tone what she does and how it is different from other kinds of writing. This works because a person who is part of the community of prospective students can relate to this conversation better than a flat explanation with bullet points. Compare UA Fort Smith’s What can I do with a degree in Rhetoric and Writing?[25]


[1] Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Writing for Business and Government: Unit 5--Complex Projects: The Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR Strategic Plan” (handout, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR, November 12, 2018). L'Eplattenier notes, “While the department serves more students overall than any other department in our college, new funding metrics from the state of Arkansas will potentially assign funding not on SSCH but rather on degree completion (how many students complete a degree) and time to degree (how long students take to complete a degree). Because our department serves a wide range of students in our service courses but doesn’t have many majors, we run the risk of losing funding through the new funding metric.”

[2]  "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Media and Communication: Technical Writers" on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) official website, accessed November 12, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm. According to the BLS, “Employment of technical writers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” Median pay 2017 is $70,930 per year, $34.10 per hour.

[3] "What are my benefits as a student?" on the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) official website, accessed November 18, 2018, http://www.nc-sara.org/what-are-student-benefits.

[4] Ibid., "Occupational Outlook,” Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[5] See "Comments sought on proposed new SARA initiative" on the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements page of the NC-SARA official website, accessed November 18, 2018, http://www.nc-sara.org/content/comments-sought-proposed-new-sara-initiative. "The full description and recommendation that will be presented to the Board is available HERE."

[6] Ibid., L'Eplattenier, “Writing for Business and Government,” handout.

[7] Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Questions you have asked me,” announcement, Blackboard, November 15, 2018, 1:51 p.m.

[8] “Project One,” on the University of Arkansas System official website, accessed November 15, 2018,   https://www.uasys.edu/system-office/ua-system-erp-project/. Project One will be the “new hub for all information, timelines and progress about the UA System’s effort to bring together all of its campuses under one data exchange system.” Functional scope will include human capital and student administration.

[9] Ibid., "Comments sought on proposed new SARA initiative." See note 5.

[10] "About" on the official SARA website, accessed November 18, 2018, http://www.nc-sara.org/about.

[11] Ibid., "What are my benefits as a student?"

[12] “Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Public Rhetorics,” on the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences official website, accessed November 18, 2018, https://fulbright.uark.edu/departments/english/graduate/graduate-certificate-technical-writing-public-rhetorics/index.php.

[13] “Academics: Rhetoric and Writing,” on the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith official website, accessed November 18, 2018, https://academics.uafs.edu/majors-minors/rhetoric-and-writing.

[14] “Writing Program,” on the Arkansas State University official website, accessed November 18, 2018, https://www.astate.edu/college/liberal-arts/departments/english-and-philosophy/writing-guide/.

[15] Throughout this analysis, the phrase the uninitiated is applied to department website visitors (e.g., prospective students) who arrive unfamiliar with or without special knowledge or experience of department and/or higher education jargon.

[16] Barbara L'Eplattenier, “Writing for Business and Government: Unit 5--Complex Projects: The Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR Strategic Plan” (handout, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR, November 12, 2018).

[17] Heidi S. Harris and Elwyn W. Martin, "Student Motivations for Choosing Online Classes," International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 6, no. 2 (2012): 2, https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2012.060211. This study looks at "factors that motivate students to choose or not choose to take online courses at Eastern Oregon University (EOU)." Survey results suggest students "enroll in online programs and courses for reasons that are primarily related to access, convenience and flexibility."

[18] Aimee L. Whiteside, Amy Garrett Dikkers, and Karen Swan, eds., Social Presence in Online Learning: Multiple Perspectives on Practice and Research (Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2017). “Students who positively perceive online learning environments, which is potentially increased by their perception that they are part of a larger (social) learning community, are more likely to be retained” (84). The “CoI recognizes the importance of teacher presence . . .” (94). “Teachers should remain cognizant of the teacher immediacy behaviors in which they naturally engage in the face-to-face classroom and consciously apply these verbal and nonverbal cues in their online classes” (109).

[19] Heidi Skurat Harris and Wendy McCloud, “If You Build Online Classes (And Empower Faculty to Teach

Them), Non-Traditional Students Will Come: One Student’s Journey through the Professional and Technical Writing

Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Composition Studies 43.2 (2015): 182-185.

[20] Ibid., 5. In this survey, "a significant number of students indicated that they would like increased interaction with faculty and additional online tutoring services". The survey suggests "the personal aspect of education is as important online as it is in face-to-face classes. In particular, this data is relevant in decisions regarding staffing of online courses, development of student services targeted toward fully-online student populations, and the insistence that personal connections with students must be maintained in order to provide a quality education for all students at the university" (6).

[21] An accelerated MA is also offered at Missouri State University. See "Professional/Technical Writing Accelerated Master's," on the Missouri State official website, accessed November 18, 2018, https://english.missouristate.edu/ProfWriting/accelerated-masters.htm.

[22] “Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Public Rhetorics,” on the  J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences official website, accessed November 27, 2018, https://fulbright.uark.edu/departments/english/graduate/graduate-certificate-technical-writing-public-rhetorics/index.php.

[23] “The 15 Best Online Bachelor's in Writing Programs,” on The Best Schools (TBS) website, accessed November 15, 2018, https://thebestschools.org/rankings/best-online-bachelors-writing/.

[24] Has the Rhetoric and Writing department won any awards? If so, this fact should be incorporated in to advertising rhetoric. See “School Marketing Opportunities,” on the U.S. News official website, accessed November 27, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/marketing-opportunities.

[25] On a positive note, the UAFS Rhetoric and Writing page does attempt to address questions such as “What can I do with a degree in Rhetoric and Writing” and “Why should you choose to major in Rhetoric and Writing.” The page also provides links to career research websites; for example, Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online,[1] and What can I do with this major?