In Class News

December 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Donkey Coffee Gets Tips from ELIP Business Writing Class

Chris Pyle, Donkey Coffee co-owner strategizes with business writing students.

Chris Pyle, Donkey Coffee co-owner strategizes with business writing students.

By Kelley Bodwell
Linguistics Department, ELIP GA

Most freshmen are required to take an introductory writing class, but few get an opportunity to collaborate and contribute to their university’s local community while doing so. Ohio University’s English Language Improvement Program provides an opportunity to do just that.

ELIP oversees a freshman composition class (ENG 1610) specializing in business writing for international students. The students, who come from business and pre-professional majors, work with a local business, where they observe, evaluate, and assess the business as a part of their curriculum.

For the past year, the class has worked with Donkey Coffee and the partnership has been successful on both ends. Co-owner Chris Pyle emphasized that he and his wife and fellow co-owner, Angie Pyle, take the students’ suggestions seriously and have implemented some of their recommendations.

The first included increasing advertising to students. Although Donkey generously hands out free drink coupons to all in-coming freshmen at the OHIO student fair, they were unaware that the international student fair was held at a different time, thus significantly affecting their reach to international students.

Donkey Will Promote its Fair Trade Coffee

The second involved increasing customer awareness of the social justice and fair trade aspect of their business, which was going unnoticed by the majority of their patrons.

“They did a survey and only 10 percent of the people knew we sell fair trade coffee. I know most of our regulars know that but our regulars are only 15 to 20 percent of our business,” Pyle said. “That’s what we’re about as a business.”

Since discovering this disconnect, Donkey is planning on printing this information on their coffee cups, placing signs around their store, educating customers as they serve them, and highlighting it on their social media accounts.

As for students, they gain a relevant, interactive learning experience. They not only improve necessary writing skills, but also gain authentic communication experience that will prove beneficial throughout their college and future professional career.

Because the class is project-based, the students write toward a goal, which creates a meaningful context for their assignments. Each group picks a topic that applies to their major (such as marketing) and that remains their focus for the assignments throughout the semester. They learn how to conduct secondary research and how to write academically as well as professionally.

Designed for the 21st century student, technology is integrated into nearly all aspects of the course. Throughout the semester, they meet in a digital media lab for half of the time, where they have individual access to computers. In lieu of a textbook, each student receives an iPad to borrow throughout the semester that they use to access the specialized iBook. Created by Elliott Casal, the instructor for the course, it is well received by the students. The iBook includes hyperlinks and other media throughout the texts that allow students to explore concepts more in-depth. It also delivers homework and is even used during class presentations.

“It has improved the way I learn and find out information I need,” emphasized Omar Almohealdeen, a Communication Studies major.

For a teacher, that sort of praise is the ultimate aim. For students, those skills signify the beginning of a bright future in their professional careers.

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