At the last meeting of the International University Network in Technical Communication (IUNTC), Birgit Fuhrman, head of Technical Communications at the ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics in Winterthur, delivered an enthusiastic and insightful presentation about a new curriculum, a specialization in Technical Communication and Information Design with a Bachelor´s degree in Multilingual Communication. She discussed in detail the program's achievements, challenges, and opportunities for improvement.
Background to the curriculum developments
In response to the ongoing paradigm shift towards digital documentation and communication, the program underwent significant overhauls. The main objective was twofold: firstly, to adapt the program to the changing demands of the technical communication field and; secondly, to expand the scope of applications to equip students for diverse career paths.
While maintaining a core focus on technical communication, the program aims to teach students the practical skills needed to succeed in their professional lives. The curriculum was recently revised to incorporate current industry trends and demands, focusing on hands-on technical communication training. New modules and workshops cover topics such as advanced translation techniques, technical writing for digital platforms, and the integration of multimedia in technical communication.
Overview of the changes
The curriculum revision is enhancing further practical experience through additional hands-on elements and fostering internships and project work, providing students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Partnerships and research-focused topics enable industry collaboration, ensuring students are exposed to current industry challenges and practices. The emphasis on practical applications and industry collaborations has assisted students entering the job market, with many securing employment through their involvement in industry projects.
The program emphasizes the importance of interacting with various technical texts, including those from technical journalists and laborers, thereby exposing students to a diverse range of communication styles. Additionally, the curriculum addresses the differentiation between expert-to-expert and expert-to-learner communication, highlighting the importance of adapting communication styles to suit the knowledge levels of the target audience. This approach aims to broaden the scope of the program beyond pure technical communication, allowing students to explore various fields of communication.
Furthermore, the program encourages multilingual and digital proficiency as well as integrating communication within specialized fields. Incorporating information design with a digital focus and interactive solutions aims to prepare students for the demands of the contemporary digitalized world.
The expertise domain-specific courses have undergone modifications aiming to strike a balance between technical depth and accessibility. Other adjustments within this group of courses include the introduction of practical elements and the fostering of an entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging students to develop their own products and engage in lab work. In a bid to further diversify the program, a new course focusing on medicine has been introduced. Taught by a practicing doctor, the module delves into technical communication in the field of healthcare, including the interpretation and visualization of medical data, as well as hands-on experience in a radiology setting.
In summary, the curriculum revisions aim to create well-rounded professionals equipped with technical communication skills, multilingual proficiency, and a deep understanding of user-centric design and digital communication. The emphasis on practical application, industry collaboration, and a comprehensive understanding of communication within various disciplines ensures graduates are well-prepared for the multifaceted challenges of the modern professional landscape.
Overall, the program's changes reflect a commitment to a balanced curriculum that not only equips students with technical communication skills but also encourages practical application, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a comprehensive understanding of the diverse aspects of technical communication.
The program's success is shown by the increasing demand for graduates across various sectors. By emphasizing real-world projects and internships, Birgit and her team encourage students to gain practical experience and foster professional relationships. The program's mix of practical application and theoretical knowledge ensures that graduates are well-prepared to tackle the dynamic challenges of the modern professional landscape.
About the presenter
Birgit Fuhrmann is currently associated with the School of Applied Linguistics at the ZHAW. She holds a position at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, specializing in technical communication. Before her academic engagement, Birgit accrued nearly eight years of industry experience as a technical writer, eventually progressing into a managerial role that amalgamated technical and marketing communications.