Section Name

Special Forum on Discourses of the Basic Course


As public higher education enters an era of increasing demand, shrinking resources, increased competition, and restructuring (Hebel, Schmidt, & Selingo, 2002; Schmidt, 2002), many colleges and universities will turn to measures of productivity and quality to decide what new efforts will be funded and what efforts will be discontinued. Because change will be necessary for public universities to thrive (Yudof, 2002), basic courses may be increasingly called upon to prove their efficacy and/or shift their focus to meet new demands.

The following case study describes the five-year process through which a two-semester first-year communication sequence was accepted into the general education curriculum of a major research institution as equivalent to the freshman composition sequence taught by the Department of English. The Communication Skills courses (COMM 1015-16) at Virginia Tech were developed in response to numerous institutional demands. The sequence, which integrates oral and written communication, satisfied many stakeholders within the university, but did not fit easily within traditional structures on campus.