Oral Presentations As Part Of The Curriculum At The University Of Trinidad And Tobago. Communication is the process by which information is transferred through various mediums such as speech, visuals, writing or behavior. In this information age, communication has become ever so important as persons are required to send, receive and process a vast amount of information. With the increase in information to be processed and transferred, effective communication speaks of understanding the emotion behind the information and also requires that the content is understood when received as is intended. This premise sustains the fact that the most effective mode of communication is oral as it allows for the presenter to solicit whether the information was received in the manner it was intended or not. Oral presentations refer to any presentations made through a largely oral medium to any audience of two or more people. The acquisition of a skill in making oral presentations aims to develop student self-confidence and social competence which also encourages a variety of teaching and learning strategies. Learning to make an oral presentation involves cross-curricular work, experiential learning and activity-based learning and is facilitated by mixed-ability teaching and successful group work. Oral presentations have become synonymous with tertiary education and should be a compulsory part of the curriculum at these institutions especially at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
Oral presentations have risen to the fore as key to developing real world communications and are essential to individuals' preparations for professional life. As part of the communications processes the skill of oral presentation has become an asset which is central to most if not all endeavours, and has been realized as necessary to be cultivated by educators, as evidenced by an increasing trend to include both oral and written courses in the curriculum of premier Universities and tertiary institutions (Wolfe, 2007). This is seen in the findings of Australian researchers who indentified listening and understanding along with speaking clearly and directly as the two most important elements of communication which small, medium and large enterprises look for in their prospective employees (AC Nielsen Research Services, 2000). With the ultimate aim of individuals pursuing a Tertiary education being to attain gainful employment in a professional setting, oral presentations has become immensely important relative to that goal. This is more relevant now due to the increase in the quantity of individuals exiting Tertiary institutions with degrees fighting for the limited jobs that are available. Exceptional communications skills such as oral presentations and verbal communication are some of the first criteria employers use to select employee candidates from among the vast amount of degree holders. As such, Oral presentations should be implemented in the University of Trinidad and Tobago's curriculum as a means of providing graduates with a competitive edge over graduates of other institutions.
Oral presentations have been highly demanded by university students as a necessary part of the curriculum in their training to become professionals. A major characteristic of being a professional is the ability to effectively communicate both written and orally. The best of business skills can't help if effective communication skills do not exist (Dalmia 2010). According to a study by Ferris (1998), students indicated that their classes focused on reading and writing skills and they felt that additional training in oral skills would be of tremendous help to them, they also singled out formal speaking out of seven areas of oral skills as being the most important. In most Universities there is the option of having a communications course as an elective instead of having to pursue a Communications Degree; however these optional courses have been bypassed and are now very low on the choice of elective courses, as students given the option prefer to adopt courses aligned with their respective overall degree. They also expect that these courses will provide them the necessary training in oral presentations that they need, however this art of oral presentations cannot be adequately learnt as a small part of some course. Oral presentations must be given the respect it deserves and be implemented in the curriculum separate and apart from other courses so that students can get the much needed attention in learning this technical art. With implementing Oral Presentations as a core course on the curriculum at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, students will be provided with the necessary training to effectively and efficiently deliver oral presentations which they demand.
According to oxforddictionaries.com communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. By this definition, it is easy to see the correlation between it and teaching. Teaching is the process of transferring information or knowledge to another person through different mediums. At the University of Trinidad and Tobago Corinth and Valsayn campuses, the production of effective teachers is its sole purpose. In order to maintain its function as a tertiary institution it must effectively instill effective communication skills in its students, more so in the area of oral presentation and speaking. The foundation of effective teachers is their ability to present to their students the information to be learnt in a format that is easy to comprehend.
"This [good communication skills] is a vital skill for anyone who has a teaching job. A lack of communication will mean the students will not understand key concepts. They could interpret them incorrectly, which is just as bad if not worse. Effective teachers are always effective communicators. They can take something that is complex and present it in a way that can be easily absorbed by the students." (Hayden, 2012, para. 9)
This is a skill that is not easily developed by teachers, and is why oral presentations should be implemented in the curriculum at the University of Trinidad and Tobago especially at the Corinth and Valsayn campuses. There are many different avenues teachers can use to present information however, oral presentations work in tandem with all the others and it works in almost every situation. It is for this reason that prospective teachers need to be taught this skill in a structured and planned setting as well as be tested so as to ensure that it is thoroughly learned. With this accomplished, it now becomes an invaluable asset in the arsenal teachers use to impart knowledge onto their students.
Oral presentations skills as well as public speaking are highly useful in various facets of life. They very aptly aid in the development of certain competencies such as creating self confidence and the ability to deliver strong presentations. Public speaking is held in high regard as one of the most prevalent phobias with countless persons admitting that they are plagued by it. It is one of the most prevalent world fears, affecting approximately 75% of the population. Statistically, more people claim a fear of public speaking than a fear of death (Glossophobia, 2001). As a means of combating this fear, oral presentations play a vital role in an attempt to address this phobia. This fact was found in research conducted by Andrew Y. H. Tse (2012) where he concluded that the teaching of affective strategies can reduce high levels of public speaking anxiety and revealed that all students researched experienced significantly less anxiety [glossophobia] after they had been taught how to manage their distress, by means of teaching affective strategies [to deal with their oral presentations]. This compounds the necessity for oral presentations to be implemented as part of the curriculum in the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
Universities across the world are supposed to produce individuals of such caliber who are bestowed with the responsibility of securing the future of generations to come. Whether they are prestigious universities or not this is still a goal they must achieve, and they do so by providing quality services (degree programmes) with diverse and relevant curricula. The University of Trinidad and Tobago is no exception and one specific area which should be implemented in its curriculum is Oral Presentations. Oral Presentations are in great demand by university students as it is a skill which provides them a competitive advantage in the professional world of work; aids in the reduction of their fear of public speaking, improving their self esteem; and is central to being an effective teacher as in the case of education students.