New Capstone class created

St. Edward’s University is piloting a new version of the Capstone course that focuses less on writing and more on public speaking.

The course largely follows the curriculum of a traditional Capstone class, but there is a noticeable increase in the amount of oral presentation expected from students throughout the semester.

Professor Susan Loughran, currently standing in as director of Capstone while Assistant Professor Cory Lock is on leave, created the idea and has since gone on to pilot the class herself. Loughran served as director of Capstone for several years before Lock took over the position.

“It seemed to me that the students were doing a lot more writing than they really needed to in Capstone to really prove their competence in that area,” Loughran said. “On the other hand, there was not a lot of opportunity to improve their speaking skills.”

The standard Capstone course load typically requires one major paper to be be completed in multiple submissions, at least one civic engagement and one oral presentation covering the topic presented in the paper at the end of the semester.

The oral communication model currently being tested presents the same requirements, but in different quantities. There is still one large-scale paper that will be completed in multiple submissions, but it will come with a shorter length requirement.

While a traditional Capstone paper would clock in at about 30 pages, the oral communication model paper requires around 20.

The decrease in writing is made up for by additional oral presentations. Instead of one presentation at the end of the semester, students will be required to prepare several presentations throughout the semester.

Students in most standard Capstone courses only receive feedback on their presentational speaking one time, at the end of the course. The oral communication model will present students with the opportunity to receive feedback several times and give them a chance to revise their techniques and make improvements for each subsequent oral presentation.

The writing requirements will still outweigh the speaking requirements in the new model, but to a much lesser degree than its counterpart.  Traditional Capstone courses usually focus about 85 percent of the workload on writing, with the remaining 15 percent devoted to the single presentation. The oral class is closer to 60 percent writing and 40 percent speaking.

Loughran was surprised to find out that the majority of the students signing up for the class didn’t consider themselves top-notch public speakers in the first section of the pilot.

“It was less about their not liking writing and more about their not liking public speaking. They wanted to improve those skills,” Loughran said.

There will be three Capstone sections offering the oral communication model next semester, taught by Loughran, Lock and Professor Todd Onderdonk.

Loughran said that according to the extra evaluation that students fill out at the end of the semester, the reception to the class has been positive so far. The extra evaluation asks students specific questions aimed at finding out how the oral communication Capstone class worked out for them.

“It would be nice to have the class as an option,” senior David Bobb said. “The school only requires one public speaking class to graduate. This extra bit of practice could be a great opportunity.”