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Higher education business writing practices in office management and technology programmes and in related workplaces
Hollis-Turner, Shairn Lorena
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The impact of globalisation on the workplace demands that individuals must be prepared to respond to rapid technological and knowledge changes. While the courses offered by the various Universities of Technology take into account the role of the workplace, very little research exists on the impact of career-focussed programmes and how these meet or do not meet workplace requirements. This thesis discusses a research project conducted with Office Management and Technology students and compares the writing practices of higher education with those of related workplaces. The research problem that is investigated is this thesis is how students transfer knowledge, skills and attitudes learned in higher education to workplaces. In order to address this problem, the research was guided by the questions: 1) what are the business writing practices of 1st and 2nd year Communication students? 2) What are the business writing practices of office managers? 3) What are the ‘gaps’ in the business writing practices between higher education Office Management and Technology programmes and related workplaces? and 4) How can these gaps be addressed to ensure the adequate preparation of Office Management and Technology students for the workplaces of the future? This comparative study used both quantitative and qualitative methods and collected and produced documentary data, questionnaires, observations and interviews at both higher education and workplace sites. The findings show patterns of alignment and non-alignment across the writing practices of higher education and workplaces. Recommendations are made about the alignment of writing practices, for the mutual benefit of students and workplaces. The contribution of this research comprises a theoretical contribution to communication knowledge as well as a number of practical contributions to improve the way in which business writing is taught. A theoretical framework for the analysis and comparison of higher education and workplace communication data has been developed and a comparative study has shown the differences between higher education and workplace communication. Higher education and workplaces are different and their communication practices need to embody these significant differences. This study has shown where there can be constructive alignment between higher education and workplace communication practices to the benefit of both student learning and workplaces. The implementation of the recommendations should result in Office Management and Technology students being better prepared to face the demands and challenges of the different and complex world of the workplace into which they will enter on completion of their studies.