We all know that COVID-19 has changed the way we all work and study. More and more employers are switching to permanent remote work after realizing productivity is the same as in the office. Virtual learning has also increased since the pandemic, and some of us technical communication students are still taking 100% online courses two years later. In their article “Developing Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Online Technical Communication Programs: Emerging Frameworks at University of Texas at El Paso,” Laura Gonzales and Isabel Baca mention that technical and professional communication (TPC), because of its technological nature, has been a part of the digital world for a long time. Because of this, instructors have incorporated online instruction in TPC training for students and professionals to adapt to this digital world. As we move to a more permanent digital environment, both educationally and professionally, this opens the door to more diverse participants across the country and the world as jobs and education programs become more accessible on the online platform. Participant diversity in the TPC field – or any field for that matter – calls for more diversity training as cultural and linguistic issues arise.
Gonzales and Baca offer a solution to these issues from an educational standpoint. Even before the pandemic there has been an increase in demand for virtual learning for TPC professionals. The authors explain that distance learning has enabled accessibility because we no longer must abide by a specific schedule and location. In addition to the benefits of time and location, their article states that an online environment accommodates learners with “physical disabilities, learning disabilities, multilingual backgrounds, and learning challenges related to socioeconomic issues.” For example, in the case of multilingual writers and students who are not completely confident in communicating through standard written English, practices such as providing links to online writing resources and allowing flexibility in assignment submissions address some of these learning issues. Multilingual learning does not necessarily need to be addressed as a challenge, but can be viewed as a strength when leveraging it to help TPC students and professionals be better prepared in the global workplace.
The above does not relate only to multilingual learners – this can apply to English speakers with a different linguistic repertoire such as the African American Language. In this article, TPC professionals can read about the importance of implementing training strategies for linguistically and culturally diverse online TPC programs. With successful diversity education and professional development technical communicators will be more capable of bridging foreign cultures, languages, and markets in order to reach new client audiences and communities.
Viewpoint Written by Christina E. Rendon, Texas State University
Edited by Elena Ofenstein, Texas State University