Friday, March 1, 2013

Business Communication Courses and Strategies of the Top 50 Schools

What did you say? Today is the time of massive communication that spans the globe over. From presenting a concept to stakeholders to sending an email the ability to communicate effectively in business makes a huge difference in the successful completion of goals. To write and speak clearly is to use the medium of thought transference effectively so as to ensure that others both understand and process messages accurately. Such important communication concepts are becoming more important as business school graduates seek ways of influencing their environment and gain recognition.

Business schools are an important avenue of learning about communication and how to effectively communicate important concepts and principles. The majority of business communication courses were taught by the business department versus other departments (Wardrope and Bayless, 1999). It is through this content that students can learn about how, when and where to effectively communicate in the modern business context.

Times have changed. A hundred years ago people spoke face-to-face and didn’t move far away from their social networks. Once the telephone was offered on every desk it became easier to pick up the phone and call upstairs than to trek the staircase. Soon after email was introduced in the market transference of information grew at unprecedented rates. In today’s world we are using videos, text, and streaming to communicate. Such changes are forcing colleges to adjust the way they teach communication and the classes they offer.

Even if the medium has changed the essential elements of communication have not. A thought leads to images or pictures that are then transferred through some medium and these are decoded by the receiver who makes meaning out of the information. The sender-medium-receiver sequence stays the same regardless of the medium that is employed. As technology becomes more sophisticated, so does the amount of information transference and the vividness of the messages.

Helping students understand how to write and speak well is important for their career success. Likewise, it is important to help such students use communication principles and adapt them to modern communication mediums. Through effectively communication methodology such students can better influence their environment and improve upon the innovative abilities of their organizations. Research helps highlight how business communication courses are becoming more important at the top 50 business schools.

The study by Sharp and Broomberger (2013) was conducted as a repeat of Knights (1999) research on the business communication offerings of the top 50 undergraduate business schools. The study only used those courses that were listed as communication courses within business schools. All of the schools are AACSB accredited and maintained comprehensive websites and information. The schools were chosen because they were listed in Bloomberg Business rankings for 2011 (Bloomberg, 2011).


-102 business communication courses at 42 schools. 

-7 schools did not mention any communication courses. 

-For the 42 total schools that offered business communication courses 32 schools offered such courses within the business department when compared to English departments, media, etc…

-Out of the 102 business communication courses 76% were within the business department which indicates an increase from 69% found in Knight’s study.

-Out of the 42 schools that offered business communication 10 did not anchor their classes to a particular content area.

-27% of business communication courses offered was lower level courses.

-73% of business communication courses were upper division.

-Of the 44 courses required for a degree 29 were part of the business department.

-Out of 44 courses required 32 were optional and could be swapped out.

-Written and oral communication took precedence.


There was not much change between Knight’s 1999 study and Sharp and Broomberger’s 2013 study. Smaller changes were associated with an increase in business communication as part of curriculum. Some of the schools may have been inadvertently requiring duplication of similar content through different courses hosted in different departments. Greater preference appears to be on written communication which is growing in the Internet age as well as verbal communication needed to effectively work with others. 

Sharp, M. & Brumberger, E. (2013). Business communication curricula today: revisiting the top 50 undergraduate business schools. Business Communication Quarterly, 76 (1). 

Bloomberg. (2011). Best undergraduate business schools 2011. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from

Wardrope, W. J., & Bayless, M. L. (1999). Content of the business communication course: An analysis of coverage. Business Communication Quarterly, 62(1), 33-40.

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