GIFTS: Fostering Professionalism in Applied Communication Courses: Making Sense of Dollars and Cents* – Project Details

*This work was presented at the Ohio Communication Association Conference, October, 2018

Background & Rationale

In applied communication courses such as graphic design or web development, students must balance many different types of learning. In addition to technical tools, students are also challenged to develop a deep understanding of design, information architecture, communication theory, and in some cases, history of the field or notable individuals. Despite the depth and rigor of postsecondary applied communication curricula, research suggests that students entering the workforce are not entirely prepared; a PayScale (2016) survey discovered that only half of the responding managers felt that newly hired college graduates were adequately prepared for their positions. Additionally, an increasing number of communication practitioners is forsaking the “traditional” career trajectory and opting instead to work independently. Edelman Intelligence (2017) found that 36% of the US workforce maintains a freelance practice. The same study projects that freelancers will be the majority by 2027, if current growth rates persist. As communication educators, then, it is important that we help students develop not only technical mastery, but in-demand soft skills as well as habits and professional practices that will give them an advantage in a competitive industry. The ‘Making Sense of Dollars and Cents’ project goes beyond classroom learning. It gives students the opportunity to research industry best-practices; understand foundational business processes; explore technological tools/systems; and develop good habits around tracking and reporting time and money. I’ve found that this project also gives students an incredible confidence boost as it attaches a quantifiable dollar amount to the work they’re doing in class. On average, the students in a recent Web Design III class invoiced more than $5700 during the course of the semester!

Continue reading