Course Spotlight: Business Communications

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right?
This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

― Jerry Seinfeld


In 2005, Sarah Clements graduated from UA Little Rock with a masters degree in interpersonal & organizational communication (now called applied communications) and started teaching within the College of Business. Her course, business communications, helps students with what many cite as a major fear: public speaking. 

What do you teach at UA Little Rock?

S: The course I teach right now is business communication. We cover business writing and business speaking – so it’s two of those things that are combined into a 16-week course …. We do correspondences, so we talk about all the different methods of writing. [The students] do short reports. They do presentations. They do an informal speech. They work on resumes [and] cover letters, and they have a mock interview at the end of the course.

How long have you been teaching online?

S: When I started I taught on campus. There might have been one or two courses offered online. Within a year or two of teaching, I was teaching both online and on campus. It was kind of 50/50, and it has always been 50/50 since then.

How does the online class differ from a physical classroom?

S: Online we use Collaborate (video-conferencing software through Blackboard), so students meet virtually to do their presentation that way. In class they do partner speeches. Online they do partner speeches … They still have to meet and figure out the best way to communicate for each pair, and they can either pick their own partner or if they don’t pick one, then I will assign them. But I will get them at least the chance to go through introductions and kind of see who is similar to them, so their schedules can align. They can meet face to face. I’ve had some say ‘Hey! You’re in my same town ….’

They can [still] do everything virtually online through Collaborate, because they can both go into a session together, record their presentations, and do it that way. They do a lot of Collaborate options, so they get used to being in front of a camera, because I think that’s probably sometimes more difficult than being in class.

Who would benefit from taking this class?

S: It’s professional communication, so anyone would benefit from it. I start with the formal tone, because I assume that students who understand the formal tone when they write a message can adapt it all the way down to being informal … We’re pretty good at being informal, but I want students to understand the formalness when you send an email to someone you don’t know.

How do you start it? You don’t just start it with ‘Hi, so and so’. You have that formal ‘Dear so and so’ with a colon, and start it out formal. Always adapt to the audience. How do they respond to you? And then adjust [from there].

It’s very interesting. The first assignment they have is to write a professional email to me. So it’s kind of funny to see who takes that lesson and continues to apply it and who takes that and never applies it. Start it with addressing the person by name at least and use proper capitalization and punctuation. It’s not a text message.

Why does how and what we write matter?

S: People read your post or your messages, and there’s a perception created by the words you’ve used or the words you didn’t use, and the lack punctuation, or the punctuation that is there … We’re creating a perception of ourselves, and there is a message communicated just by the way you’ve written something.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see students face?

S: They definitely don’t like speaking. And that’s not across the board, but that’s one of the things that most students do not look forward to. And their speeches are recorded for them to self evaluate. They are loaded in their Blackboard shell, and they can go in and self-evaluate, and kind of process what they need to work on, and … find the things they did really well and highlight those, and then also identify one or two things to continue to work on. But, speaking is not something that people enjoy a lot.

Actually, I have them on the first day get up and introduce themselves, because it gets it over with. You’ve done it now. You’ve spoken to your classmates. I continually try to make sure they know each other, because sometimes people are more comfortable speaking to people they know versus people they don’t know. Yeah, I would say speaking is one of the biggest challenges for them. Writing is a struggle for some of them, too.

What’s a “do not” for email communication?

S: Joking.

Joking doesn’t always come off in text messages or emails in the way you think they might, and so just being very careful with that. If your audience doesn’t know you and you’re sarcastic, but you’re joking about it, it may not translate, which can create more of a problem with communication. The miscommunication can happen, and there are troubles that can be caused by something that was not intended, so just be very careful with that.

And a “do”?

S: Positive communication.

Even if you’re trying to deliver something negative, how can you say it in a positive way? So trying to really remove “no” and “not” from your language and you know, instead of saying “you can’t do this,” instead tell them what they can do.

The one I always talk about in class is “Do not walk on the grass.” Well, if you don’t want me to walk on the grass, what do you want me to do? Walk on the sidewalk, right? So, “Please use sidewalk.” So it’s kind of shifting that negative thing and making people see the positive side of it.

Advice for students trying to communicate effectively?

S: Proofread. Really proofreading and making sure you’re sending the message you want to send and that.

Anytime you’re asked to speak, do it.

Even though you don’t want to do it, it’s going to make you better. So I try to even do that for myself. I teach speech, but it’s not something I want to do, right? And so anytime I’m asked to do a speech or presentation, I say “yes,” because I tell my students to do it [and] those things are what’s sharpening us and making us better at what it is that we want to do.

What’s our end goal? Well our end goal is to be the best at whatever it is we’ve set out to do, so even though my first reaction is “No, I don’t want to do that. No, you can find somebody else” … but because I tell my students, “Say yes, because it is gonna make you better,” I try to do the same thing.

20-30 minutes. That’s it. This does not define me. This will just refine me. But at the end of the day when I walk away from this, I will have learned from it … and for the most part, I’m sharing information with people, so they are interested in what I’m trying to share, so letting that be my focus instead of all my anxiety and nervousness.

For more info on Sarah’s business communication course, check out the course listing here.

Doors open for students with business management degrees

Dr. Susie Cox & the BBA in management online

The College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in management in multiple formats, including completely online. Students can choose whether they want to focus on human resource management, general business management, or innovation and entrepreneurship.

Maybe you’re already in a career field you love, but you’re looking for a way to expand your options in the workplace. Perhaps you haven’t chosen a career just yet, and you’re interested in a degree that’s as open and versatile as you are.

If gaining transferable skills and advancing your career are at the top of your wants list, you may be interested in seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in management.

Business administration covers a broad field of study, from marketing and information systems to management and human resources. Business students gain knowledge in all areas of modern business and across all industries. Students also reap the benefits of learning leadership skills that go beyond any specific field or workplace.

In addition to this, many courses emphasize communication skills, team-building abilities, and critical thinking skills, preparing students to be effective leaders. Students in a business degree program do not confine themselves to a particular field, leaving the door open for many possibilities. Business people at a meeting

The College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers the Bachelor of Business Administration in management in multiple formats, including completely online. Students can choose whether they want to focus on human resources management or general business management.

Dr. Susie Cox, professor and chair of the Department of Management, speaks to the variety of options for management degree holders, even for those who are unsure of where they are headed in their careers.

“When you get a management degree, you may not know exactly what you want to do, but you know you want to be in business, or you want to be in the management of a business,” Cox said. “So for many students the choice is, ‘What industry to I want to go into,’ rather than, ‘I want to be a manager.’ We see our students in a variety of industries, a variety of jobs, [and] levels within the organization. You determine your own destiny when you get a management degree.”

The management faculty offer the added benefit of experience within the online environment, Cox adds. “Specifically for [the College of Business], we were teaching this in an online environment for over a decade now. So we have professors that are very comfortable managing online classrooms.” She points out that nearly half of the students within the online business programs are considered “non-traditional” in the sense that they are working adults who study part time.

woman on laptop outside The flexible format of the online management program also makes it an excellent option for traveling students. “We have several students that began their programs here at UA Little Rock, and they chose to move out of state. They are able to continue their degree,” Cox said. “We have people in Louisiana, in California, [and] in Washington DC that are in our program because they have an attachment to UA Little Rock. They want to finish their degree with UA Little Rock, and we are offering that now with the online campus.”

The BBA in management is a 120-hour degree program that “prepares students for professional leadership positions in small businesses, corporations, and government,” according to the Department of Management website. Management majors gain the knowledge and skills to prepare them for positions such as general manager, project manager/specialist, employee relations manager, and training specialist.

The human resources emphasis “focuses on the development of knowledge and applied skills in managing people and solving people-related problems.” Students are prepared for entry-level careers in human resource management and for management roles in organizations of all sizes. Students explore topics such as the legal environment of employee relations, employee training and development, employee productivity improvement, and union-management relations.

Cox expresses genuine pride in the management faculty and department. “It’s the strength and experience and concern that our faculty have for students,” she said. “The online experience will be very valuable. Our faculty are very engaged in our online classes. We get great feedback… Our faculty are accustomed to teaching online and know how to engage students. It’s different.”

To explore the business degree programs available through UA Little Rock Online, including the BBA in management, please visit our “Business Programs” page at