Using virtual stories to resolve workplace miscommunication
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www:workstories.ac.nz is an Auckland University of Technology, Faculty of Arts Learning and Teaching initiative. The aim of the site is to provide an online learning tool that is a flexible, interactive textbook/teaching resource. The key differentiating feature of the site is that authentic student experiences of communication breakdown in the workplace are valued, collected and posted online to create a rich, unfolding source of core site content and an online venue for AUT Communication students to share, discuss and resolve these experiences. Threaded through these stories is support and advice from peers and teachers. In semester 1, 2005 www.workstories.ac.nz has been piloted with level 4 students who are studying interpersonal communication as part of AUT’s Diploma of Information Technology. These students are from a diverse range of backgrounds, ages and ethnicities. Some are part-time students who are working while studying, some are recent school leavers, some are older learners who have had a range of experiences in the working world, and some are international students. Many of the students are hoping to staircase to degree courses. This paper describes the motivation, and pedagogical rationale, behind www.workstories.ac.nz. It examines the unique potential that the online medium offers for using true stories as the central tool for learning, and reports some of the feedback that has been collected from students in light of these claims. The site has been piloted as a teaching tool in semester 1, 2005 and will be the subject of research and evaluation in semester 2, 2005. The research will be based on student and teacher feedback and analysis of the site discourse, and will ask the question: what, if any, demonstrable value does www.workstories.ac.nz offer to students learning about workplace miscommunication? Until this research has been completed the benefits of using this approach to teach workplace communication skills are unproven.