TCR Grad Blog

Graduate director's blog for the Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech University

Information Plan

Posted by Joyce on November 20, 2010

I have been asked by you, the grad students, to spend your money improving/consolidating/redesigning programmatic communication, and I’m curious where to begin.

In the fall surveys, several of you complained of seeing multiple (i.e. too many) channels of information this past year.

I’ve noticed that we use many tools to communicate, such as Twitter, Facebook, ListServ, Websites, WordPress…however, there is not one place where all information can be found. So, my suggestion is to set up one of the tools as the main contact tool and use it to push out the information to participants (btw, this would help with the registration and onboarding process too, wish suffers from the same malaise).

I hear what you’re saying, but I’m wondering if consolidating information into a single stream is realistic these days. The whole effort to publish deadlines, news, invitations, requirements, and observations via multiple channels was something I undertook as a way of keeping centralized “blasts” to a minimum. If the Twitter feed isn’t for you, don’t subscribe. Likewise, don’t read this grad advisor’s blog if you feel it pulls you away from a focused message. Isn’t the world of social networking and new media about the individual getting what she needs on her own terms?

Basic information about program changes, May seminar, etc. is sometimes difficult to find. The information is typically available, but in many different locations. Students often rely on each other to get information. One official, consistent, and up-to-date location for information would be preferable to multiple channels of info.

It is certainly possible that the totality of information I send out (regardless of its medium) is insufficient for your needs, and I am attempting this year to be more proactive and thorough in providing you with information.

Too much information in too many different places — consolidate it.

improve communication through consolidation we have the brains, the experience, and the “gravitas” to design the ULTIMATE course website…we should do so!

I understand the need for an ultimate course website, I guess. Before committing money and time to the killer program app, though, I would probably want to find out the purposes and uses and audience I’d be redesigning for.

The web communication (from the program’s web site to broadcast emails/tweets to the IRB process) needs to improve dramatically. How many usability/document design classes have to focus on the poor, poor TCR web presence before something is done about it? That seems to me to be the biggest disappointment and head-scratcher in this program, by far. The web presence of this program is frankly embarrassing. If I would have been evaluating TTU’s TCR program on its web presence alone, and not by personal recommendations, I never would have even considered joining the program. … And now that I am in the program, I still think the web environment appears to be back in the early 1990s. It is beyond just frustrating and inefficient. It is almost unusable. I feel like I’m ranting about an obvious concern (again, almost every usability class pitches this as the foremost idea on the students’ minds). A professional and expansive web site, reflecting the needs of the students, maybe bounced from the required TTU splash page, should be a priority in the program and would greatly improve the feelings at least this student has about the communication being practiced in a communication program.

Empirically speaking, we’re not having any difficulty recruiting applicants. If anything, our biggest challenge is managing growth. Which is not to say there’s room for information redesign at the program level, but simply to point out that the argument about losing recruits isn’t terribly compelling. If I could sit down with this respondent, I would willingly learn and attempt to implement these ideas, assuming I understood their priority among all the other programmatic priorities. First point is improving “drastically” our web communication, and I would ask just what needs to be improved. There’s really not much that changes from semester to semester except course offerings, and I try to get those published to you over a year in advance. As for everything else, it’s made up of policies and procedures. By using “inefficient” and “unusable,” you’re suggesting that these pages are “used” for some sort of transactions, but I don’t see transactional use as the main purpose for these communications. If our students are using the web pages for something, I’d like to know about it, and we’ll redesign accordingly.

I can certainly see applicants using the web pages to transact something, and that is an acceptance or rejection into the grad program, and this population certainly has highly variable needs, coming from a number of backgrounds, and being limited in their context as to what the program is about. As such, I email and speak to most of them. Whether I can write that advisor interaction into a web presence or not is a matter of debate.

Again, I’m happy to aim for a “professional and expansive” web presence, but I would appreciate the help in identifying what we’re aiming for? A certain look (which calls for graphic redesign)? A certain functionality (to achieve what, exactly)? A certain improvement in writing and conveying information (which really falls on me and my typing fingers, mostly, and not really on any web philosophy, CSS, or any other means of production).

I’m serious — what is the list of desired features you want to spend your money on? If a web redesign is the highest priority of this program, then we’ll make it happen. I’m skeptical, but open to being persuaded.

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