Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Make the Last Day of Class a Great One

[Instructors: This post was written before COVID-19 closed our campuses. Still, many of the activities listed below are still applicable.]

In the busy weeks at the end of a semester, it’s easy to overlook creating meaningful activities for the final day of class. However, the last meeting can provide an excellent teaching opportunity that also reinforces pedagogical objectives. Below are ideas for activities on the last day of a term.

Connect coursework to future careers. This activity is tailor-made to the business communication classroom. Discuss why effective writing and oral communication can help advance careers. Cite from surveys and studies that talk about employers’ most wanted qualities in new-hires—excellent communication skills always top the lists. Then have students work together to discuss how they foresee using what they have learned when they enter the workplace.

Review course objectives. Provide an overview of the course’s goals, touching on how the assignments and tests helped to teach and reinforce those goals. Then allow students to work in small groups to create informal presentations of their favorite assignment.

Ask the class to address future students. Having current class members write letters to future students forces critical thinking and reflection. Request that current students include what new students can expect to learn and to give advice for success (e.g. do the readings, go to office hours, and the like.) Note: Be sure to obtain permission from current students to distribute the letters in the future.)

Assign an in-class reflection about individual experiences. Give students a prompt to guide them through a written reflection about what they learned about course content.

Share projects. If students have worked on a major project, have them share their work. Allow students to move around the room to see what their classmates have achieved.

Have a potluck. Students love free food, and a celebratory potluck in the classroom (or outside on a nice day) is a fun way to end the semester. Provide a sign-up sheet so all students commit to bring something.  [COVID-19 take on this activity: Ask students to bring a favorite treat to the last session. Allow each student to explain the choice.]

Give a mini-quiz. Have students write three of the most important takeaways from the class. Give them 10 minutes to write, after which you can ask a few students to volunteer to read their responses and explain their reasoning. These “quizzes” can be added to the final grade or not.

Whatever you choose to do on your last day, The Guffey Team wishes you a wonderful summer! See you in the fall!

Cheers! How [Not] to Close an E-mail

It’s not uncommon for fingers to freeze over the keyboard at end of composing an e-mail. How to close? Yours? Best? Nothing at all?  Choosing the right close for an e-mail can be dicey, and the task seems to be a moving target—as technology evolves, so do the standards that guide its use, and e-mail is no exception.

The situation has become so fraught that two journalists, Will Schwalbe and David Shipley, have written a guidebook of sorts that discusses everything e-mail: Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better. The authors have dissected the implications of various closings, and below are some important takeaways to share with business communication students.

Pay attention to relationships. If someone sends you an e-mail with a signoff of Sincerely yours, or Regards,and you reply with xxoo, you ignore the status of the relationship. Consider the level of formality you have with the sender, the length of time you’ve known the individual, and whether the relationship is professional or friend based. Those facts should dictate the type of close to choose.

Audience first. Schwalbe and Shipley’s “platinum rule” is to “Do unto others as you’d think they’d want you to do unto them.” In other words, consider how the e-mail can be the most helpful to its reader.

End with your preferred name. Do your reader the favor of using a signature with the name you prefer to be known by and called. For example, if your full name is Benjamin and you want people to call you Ben, use Ben in the e-mail signature.

Use the right signoff. Unless you’re British, Schwalbe and Shipley advise against using Cheersto avoid sounding affected. If you do not know the individual, use Best.

Below are some of the most common signoffs and what they signify.

Best Seamless due to its ubiquity.
Best wishes Safe choice to indicate friendliness and degree of formality.
Regards Staid, professional, unremarkable.
Sincerely Best for formal correspondence; can sound stodgy in casual e-mails.

Here are some signoffs to avoid.

Have a blessed day Keep anything with religious overtones out of professional communication.
Love, Hugs, xo Only for friends and loved ones.
[Name] or [Initial] Okay for brief, informal e-mails, but should be avoided with first time communications because it can be seen as cold.
[Nothing] As an email chain progresses, leaving no signature is acceptable but can be seen as impersonal.
Respectfully For formal letters, not e-mail. Ever.
Sent from my iPhone Common and explains brevity and typos. But also connotes not caring enough to change the default.
Thx or Rgds For tweens only. E-mail is not a messaging app.

The subtleties of closing an e-mail will evolve as the uses and contexts for e-mail change. Keep posted for updates.

Preparing Students for the Job Search

Business communication instructors are in a perfect position to prepare students for the job search when they graduate. Below are ideas to bring into your classroom that will help students feel more able to tackle the onerous task of finding their first job.

Connect with your campus career resource center.Most campuses have dedicated staff to guide students about their future careers, offering testing services and other valuable resources. Ask a career counselor to visit your classroom to discuss finding internships, interviewing techniques, or networking.

Keep apprised of news items related to grads. Many media sources (including our own BizComBuzz) contain timely articles about what employers look for in new-hires, job statistics, or helpful hints for those actively seeking a job. Discussing these items with your students leads to active engagement with timely and relevant news that directly affects them.

Create a group project to clean up students’ social media. The importance of sanitizing social media is well documented, but students may not know how to attack the task. In a session similar to a peer edit, give students a list of items to remove from their social media accounts to guide them through the process. Working in small groups will help students see others’ accounts as models of what to eliminate and what to keep.

Practice networking techniques in class.Assign homework that requires researching the importance of networking. Then in class have students initiate conversations with one another in the “professional environment” of their classroom.

Share your stories. Students love to hear about their instructors’ life stories. Tell them about your job search, terrible interviews, or great work experiences. Then open up the conversation to the class so students can relate their own job search experiences.

Encourage participation in job fairs and professional organizations.Job fairs are a great experience whether or not the student lands a job—or even if the career fair does not focus on the student’s field. Just getting dressed for the part of looking for a job is beneficial. And professional organizations or clubs like Rotary are great spots for students to practice communication skills.

Emphasize the importance of research. Research is essential to the job search. Students should begin by researching fields of interest to them, learning about current and future opportunities in that arena. Once they have homed in on an industry, they should investigate specific companies for which they would like to work and become up-to-date on the firm’s latest developments.

The reality is that today’s students will likely be job searching for much of their lives. Giving them the tools they need to be successful in those searches can start right in your business communication classroom.