Virginia Tech students of Engineering and other technical professions may earn their degrees having taken only the minimum requirements of composition courses (such as English 1105 and 1106). Such courses focus on academic writing and often overlook the importance of written and visual communication skills in technical professions. Although students of technical professions have the ability to create products of their own design and manufacture, many students lack the skills needed to communicate effectively about these products.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) also recognizes the need for colleges to teach effective communication skills. They require engineering programs to "demonstrate that their graduates have an ability to communicate effectively and a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, life-long learning" (Smelser 2001).
In their future careers, the learners will be expected to compose written and visual materials, such as project proposals and instructions, reports, journal articles, and diagrams. Not only will the learners be expected to generate ideas for a product, but also to "produce clear proposals demonstrating the idea's practicality and economic feasibility" (Smelser 2001), communicating complex ideas clearly and concisely for a wide variety of purposes and audiences.
The written composition of students of technical professions is often riddled with the incomprehensible prose in which some of their technical textbooks are written and technical jargon that cannot be understood by a general audience. The learners need to communicate technical ideas and concepts to a wide range of audiences, including their knowledgeable colleagues, those who are informed but are less knowledgeable, and those who have no knowledge of the subject matter.