Revised Workplace Communications Course

Funding helps Olds College update a class that’s applicable to all students after their graduation

Workplace communication skills encompass everything from written communications to interactions with people of all ages and backgrounds in the work environment. Effective communications skills help create a productive and enjoyable work environment. In fact, these skills are deemed so important that it is now mandatory that all post-secondary diploma level programs in Alberta include a workplace communications course.

Olds College has always offered its own Workplace Communications course, and recently realized the potential of creating open educational resources to support it, with the intention of sharing these resources with other institutions. The post-secondary institution received funding from the Open Educational Resources Initiative this spring, and as a result, was able to create and source new educational resources that will be accessible to anyone, free of charge.

The workplace communications textbook that Olds College students are currently using costs approximately $100. And since they have about 450 students taking the course, the new Open Educational Resource (OER) could potentially save students over $40,000 in textbook costs, according to Andrea Mix, Educational Technical Specialist. But more than that, the new resources will focus on issues of current relevance to students: including different communication styles, intergenerational communication, multi-culturalism, along with the use of technology and the role of social media in the workplace.

“We have hired two subject matter experts to work on this project,” says Mix. “They’re writing and sourcing the content and learning outcomes for these resources, covering a multitude of topics that other institutions might find applicable to their curriculums as well.”

The materials are created not just with Olds College students in mind, but with thought given to the broader institutions and how they will apply these materials to their classrooms. Curriculum developers will create lesson plans, assessment activities, as well as marking guides, discussion questions, and ideas on how to teach the topics to a variety of students. Next, instructional designers will ensure the resources are in a digital format and accessible for use in any online learning platform.

Mix says they are asking developers to create these materials as a resource, rather than a course, since institutions will be able to use whatever information best suits them and can choose and reorganize topics to suit their curriculums.

“It’s such a broad topic that institutions across the province might teach. Every institution’s curriculum could differ, so we want to have enough variety that they can pull out the pieces that are most applicable, and edit them as they need,” says Mix.

Ultimately, Mix is most excited about creating a free and open resource that will benefit students and instructors across the province. “It’s recognizing that we don’t really own information anymore, and trying to share what we have with the rest of the province. Anyone in the world will be able to find these resources and use them,” she says. She sees the process as one that’s been full of learning for those creating the resource at Olds College, and she hopes it will lead to future OERs.