Sustaining the Basic Course Program

As the higher education landscape changes, Basic Course Directors often need to work to change and adapt the Basic Course so that it remains relevant to students, administrators, campus partners, and constituents. Thus, strengthening, supporting, and sustaining the Basic Course is integral to ensuring the future of Basic Course classes and programs, communication departments, and Basic Course Director and instructor positions.

Sustaining the Basic Course can involve participating in formal professional development opportunities such as the Basic Course Director’s Conference and the Basic Course Institute, connecting with Distinguished Faculty Award winners and leaders in the NCA Basic Course Division, replicating best practices from Program of Excellence and Program of Distinction Award programs, and providing appropriate training for graduate students who are interested in becoming future Basic Course Directors.

The links below provide resources for Basic Course Directors and instructors seeking information on sustaining the Basic Course, including professional development opportunities, best practices from expert Basic Course Directors and award-winning Basic Course Programs, and recommendations for preparing potential future Basic Course Directors.

What are some professional development opportunities for Basic Course Directors? 

Basic Course Directors and instructors have professional development opportunities that are appropriate for training and developing new and experienced Basic Course Directors and instructors. These opportunities provide a space for Basic Course Directors and instructors to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges on their campuses.

This conference started in 1962 as a meeting of the Big Eight schools (Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri, and Nebraska) plus the University of Iowa and Colorado State University.  Today, the Basic Course Directors Conference is an annual conference typically held in the spring that highlights what Basic Course Directors and Basic Courses do well and how Basic Courses and Basic Courses are constantly evolving and improving.

  • NCA Basic Course Director Summer Institute 

This institute addresses the need for developing quality administration of the basic course in communication departments around the country.  It is designed to appeal to current and future Basic Course Directors and help fill the “training gap” by developing skills for those faculty responsible for this important course in areas such as course design, assessment, supervision and training, campus and community advocacy, and other issues often encountered when directing the basic course.  The first Institute was held at the University of Dayton in 2014.

This conference is held in odd numbered years during the first day of the ECA Annual Convention.

Who are some expert Basic Course Directors? 

The Distinguished Faculty Award recognizes a current or former Basic Course Director or instructor who has demonstrated a commitment to the Basic Course in any format; made significant contributions to the development of a strong Basic Course program through research, training or assessment; or provided evidence of teaching excellence in the basic course over a prolonged period of time.

  • Distinguished Faculty Award Winners
    • William J. Seiler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
    • Cheri J. Simonds, Illinois State University 
    • Donald Yoder, University of Dayton 
    • Sam Wallace, University of Dayton 
    • Kristina Galyan, University of Cincinnati
    • Melissa L. Beall, University of Northern Iowa
    • Andrew D. Wolvin, University of Maryland

The NCA Basic Course Division promotes the teaching, study, research, assessment, and administration of communication in Basic Course settings.  Focusing on teaching fundamental communication skills and theory to undergraduate students, the Division is concerned with a broad spectrum of issues relevant to the maintenance and development of quality basic courses to benefit students, scholars, and the discipline.  The Division emphasizes both qualitative and quantitative approaches to scholarly work in basic course teaching and administration.

  • Recent NCA Basic Course Division Chairs
    • Joshua N. Westwick, South Dakota State University 
    • Tiffany R. Wang, University of Montevallo 
    • Joseph M. Valenzano, III, University of Dayton 
    • Angela M. Hosek, Ohio University 
    • Melissa A. Broeckelman-Post, George Mason University
    • Suzy Prentiss, University of Tennessee

What do outstanding Basic Course Programs look like? 

The NCA Basic Course Division awards an annual Program of Excellence and Program of Distinction Award. The purpose of the awards is to (1) recognize the distinctive excellence of basic course programs and (2) identify programs that can serve as best practice models for other programs across the country.

  • Program of Excellence Award
    • 2008 Recipient: Illinois State University  
    • 2009 Recipient: University of Nevada-Las Vegas  
    • 2010 Recipient: University of Nebraska-Omaha  
    • 2011 Recipient: Texas State University  
    • 2012 Recipient: Virginia Tech University  
    • 2013 Recipient: South Dakota State University  
    • 2014 Recipient: University of Dayton  
  • Program of Distinction Award
    • 2010 Recipient: Texas State University  
    • 2012 Recipient: University of Kentucky and Purdue University 
    • 2013 Recipient: Gustavus Adolphus University 
    • 2014 Recipient: University of Maryland
    • 2015 Recipient: University of Alabama, Colorado State University, and University of Kansas  

How can we prepare future Basic Course Directors? 

Hunt, Wright, and Simonds (2014)/Securing the future of Communication Education: Advancing an advocacy and research agenda for the 21st century 

This essay evaluates the progress, or lack thereof, that scholars in the discipline have made toward Cassandra Book’s call for those in our discipline to pursue research interests in communication pedagogy, and provides suggestions for advancing a communication pedagogy advocacy and research agenda for the 21st century.