About Andrew Klobucar, Ph.D.: Andrew Klobucar is the Director of the Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). As Director of the M.Sc. program in Professional and Technical Communication, Dr. Klobucar oversees a wide assortment of responsibilities and tasks, ranging from the everyday duties of making sure each individual student gets properly registered in the course he or she wants to take that semester while finding the right instructor to teach that course, to more intricate obligations like designing, revising, and maintaining new course modules with evermore advanced media technologies. He is also responsible for ensuring that the program’s curriculum and its evolution are consistent with how the field itself is developing.
As an Associate Professor in NJIT’s Communication and Media program, Dr. Klobucar teaches courses that emphasize how literature is evolving in the digital age, using multimedia formats, hypertexts, VR/AR technologies and other similar resources. His classes cover topics in Video Narrative, experiments in sound and creative, electronic writing, but all from a literary perspective. Of NJIT’s Department of Humanities, he told MastersinCommunications.com, “Our department actually functions the way most university English Departments function, providing our university with its core requirements in writing, literary study and philosophy; yet most of our writing and literature courses are a bit novel in that they emphasize studies in contemporary digital or electronic literature.”
Dr. Klobucar completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto, at St. Michael’s College, his Masters degree was a Masters of Science (M.Sc.) in Literary Theory at Edinburgh University in Scotland, and his doctorate (Ph.D.) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication (MSPTC) program, and how it is structured? What concepts are covered in the core curriculum, and how do the electives allow students to build expertise in solving organizational and industry challenges through research-driven and technologically advanced communication solutions?
[Dr. Klobucar] The program was established at NJIT in 1994, and has always been offered completely online—not a small feat in the mid-1990s, when digital information was still being accessed in our homes through 2400 baud rate modems! In any case, each class was designed to be completed online in order to accommodate potential graduate students who were also working full-time. These courses were able to complement just about any working schedule regardless of the time zone the learner may be based in. Students would work asynchronously with the various assignments and be able to complete their work at any time of the day. Of course, with faster streaming tools now everywhere, our classes can also be taught synchronously or at least foster live meetings with learners, while providing one-on-one mentoring.
Needless to say, the instructors who teach in our program are skilled in designing online courses with a suite of resources to provide engaging classroom experiences for teaching and learning.
Looking at the program in more detail, I would emphasize that our core mission is to prepare professionals already working or with an interest in working in a communications-based field, but who want the additional privilege of being able to initiate, manage and oversee the development of specific projects in their chosen profession. Good project management in any business environment, regardless of the industry, requires excellent communication skills along with a familiarity with current media technologies. Our combination of course modules in organizational and professional communication with up-to-date resources allows at a very basic level for prospective students to gain a more in depth, often theoretical understanding of how media technology quite literally shapes how we work and plan together as colleagues. In other words, we feel it’s inadequate to simply provide students with training in different media formats and tools. Professionals today can benefit from a more creative and intellectually inquisitive perspective regarding media in the digital era. They should know when they might have to break the rules, as well as follow them in order to be good project managers.
[MastersinCommunications.com] New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication is offered completely online. Could you elaborate on the online learning technologies that the program uses to facilitate student engagement with course faculty and peers?
[Dr. Klobucar] As stated in the previous question, the main advantage of offering our program online is to give students the flexibility they may need in terms of time and access to specific tools. We use the Moodle for our Learning Manage System (LMS), which comes with a fairly robust set of resources and learning technologies. Despite being online, all course participants, both instructors and the learners, are in constant contact with each other through built-in forum discussions, synchronous chat activities, and, of course, email. Courses can (and often do) carry specific synchronous sessions using the additional live webinar software WebEx. Classes, however, are mainly asynchronous, so as to maintain an equal level of open, consistent access to all course registrants. Despite being offered only online, the degree program allows for learners to enroll in on-campus electives run during any full term, in order to round out their programs of study with skills and information they may individually need. We allow for students to add a maximum of six credits from other programs and departments, and even other universities to the MSPTC degree. The Moodle LMS is very well designed to permit a wealth of tasks and assignments to be completed over the course of each syllabus module. Activities tend to make use of resources like built-in quiz and questionnaire tools, video production applications like VoiceThread, along with a separate package of Adobe media software, delivered via its Creative Cloud. Programs offered in this package regularly include Photoshop, Premiere, Dreamweaver, and Audition, among many others.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication program must complete a Capstone Seminar and ePortfolio. Could you elaborate on the ePortfolio and its required components?
[Dr. Klobucar] The ePortfolio is an especially important component of each individual course of study in our program. As the learners progress through their courses and assignments, completed, final versions of various tasks are reserved to be included in a final portfolio, which is then designed and developed for formal, individual presentation at the end of the course. As an assignment, the ePortfolio is prepared and delivered as a non-credit seminar course, allowing for program faculty to review each completed task in the portfolio, while offering commentary and formative assessment. Learner presentations usually take the form of oral defenses delivered in person on campus. Sometimes, learners taking the course from distant locations will be asked to deliver the defense as a Webinar.
Although no credit is given for this task, we consider the ePortfolio to be particularly helpful as an open summary of each learner’s individual accomplishments within their respective programs. Learners are given the opportunity in these cases to choose the assignments and tasks they feel will proceed to define many of their ongoing professional aims and interests in the field itself. These tasks tend to vary greatly, depending on each learner’s submitted assignments, and can include video work, webinar instruction, analytical essays in technical writing, and creative instruction design. Faculty usually emphasize within each course how important it is for learners to begin immediately assembling an effective, media enhanced CV for online distribution. The ePortfolio remains an excellent draft of this future document, and can easily serve as a ready, if informal, certificate of their current capabilities. In addition, the chance to introduce the work in person gives learners the opportunity to develop and refine their skills in oral presentation, along with other potential interview-related abilities.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication? Independent of faculty instruction and support, what career development resources and academic services are available to students, and how can they make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems?
[Dr. Klobucar] Even if Faculty and full-time instructors are not personally developing and running individual MSPTC courses during a term, they remain available for one-on-one tutoring and mentorship should students require these services once they are enrolled. Our Writing Center is open Monday to Friday each Fall and Spring term and offers professional drop-in tutoring services beginning mid-morning and carrying through most days to the early evening.
The online format of the actual MSPTC program tends to attract potential registrants who live at some distance from the university, often leading to a large number of out of state enrollments. Hence, it can prove to be difficult for students to arrive and interact on campus for face-to-face discussions. The program does not assign students individual advisors once they are enrolled; however, being the program director, it’s my responsibility to contact and mentor each registered student in the selection of courses, while assisting him or her continually throughout each term to build a unique and specialized portfolio suitable to their professional aims and requirements. The registration program we use automatically places each student on academic hold at the end of the term, asking them to contact me for mentoring before selecting and enrolling in new courses.
NJIT, being a polytechnic, invests a substantial part of its annual budget in its career development services. Our CDS office is open throughout the year and offers a broadly integrated set of core facilities to the entire student population in order to help them prepare what they refer to as “professional preparation strategies.” As a result, a substantial portion of the active student population seeks to incorporate their ongoing academic work into formal professional situations in the process of gaining their degrees. CDS services include individual career counseling, while holding and managing large career fairs each term, as well as helping Faculty integrate professional co-op courses into their programs. While, again, the online format tends to attract students who at base have a difficult time attending face-to-face sessions on campus, studies show that the program’s registrants do take advantage of these services when available.
Several of our courses specifically offer students the opportunity and format to design an independent study relevant to their professional aims to be conducted and assessed one-on-one with a Faculty member of their choice. Although it’s rare for Faculty to invite MSPTC students to work collaboratively on active research projects, course instructors encourage and help students to join professional communication and media organizations and to attend all relevant conferences.
[MastersinCommunications.com] For students interested in New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication, what advice do you have for submitting a competitive application?
[Dr. Klobucar] The NJIT MSPTC Program is especially designed to encourage individual creative and proactive career development strategies in the professional communication field. As both an academic and industry-led area of study, professional communication often appears to be caught in a maelstrom of constant development and change. The industry itself, now highly dependent upon near-constant advances in digital media technologies and any corresponding skills needed to use them, can seem aggressively competitive in this era. For these reasons, it has been one of our program’s core mandates to observe and understand how the industry continues to evolve over increasingly shorter time periods, laying aside many long established principles and skills associated with technical writing and communication. Personal and professional success in the field in the current moment often relies on a critical openness to new procedures and approaches to just about any media-related project. Many companies in the process of filling or even researching new administrative positions in communication and media for their offices typically underscore the importance of being able to revise and transform older practices in the face of new conditions and situations.
We’d like our program to provide first and foremost an extended opportunity for potential learners to design and build their own independent projects in a related field of their choosing in order to have ready a competitive portfolio when applying for full-time positions. Accordingly, we look for learners who either are willing to creatively design and manage a media project from its foundations or at the very least have a number of problems and issues in media technology that they are looking forward to resolving. Personal statements that contain these types of narratives are especially sought when assessing new applications. Many of the courses are specifically designed to cater to a learner’s previous experiences and prior skills acquired in communication and media, in order to encourage further work and study in the area.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication program unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?
[Dr. Klobucar] The field of professional and technical communications seems to be in the midst of an extremely significant, not to mention dynamic transformation in terms of both its technologies and methodologies. Certainly, some of the core components that help determine our program’s success as a degree option derive from our University’s advantageous location, less than 10 miles from New York City. Immediate 24 hour transit to and from the city ensure close professional relationships to many communication-related firms and industries, ranging from broadcast media to banking and life insurance headquarters to education. Our program can help set up personal internships while enrolling learners in the courses that businesses might recommend and help direct. Although we don’t offer actual intern-related courses, our individual project-based modules typically encourage learners to design and build their own media-related ventures for joint assessment from both the department and the private sector. Projects in information management, and strategic communication are particularly of interest to learners currently registering in our program. Once a year, we hold a public, half-day retreat with a board of directors we’ve recently drawn from businesses across the private sector to provide guidance and their professional views on how to maintain the program’s general relevance in communication-related offices and networks.
We encourage our students to join important academic organizations in the technical communications discipline, like the Society for Technical Communications (STC). The STC’s annual conference is usually held at the end of each spring term in different cities across the country. Both our alumni and current students quite reliably continue to present papers, projects, while building their own professional networks there. Several of our instructors are also society members and sometimes include projects and tasks introduced in class for public consideration at these conferences.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Students of master’s in communication programs, especially those offered online, often must balance work, internships, coursework, and rigorous research projects. What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully navigating their graduate school experience, and making the most of the opportunities presented to them?
[Dr. Klobucar] Clearly one of the most significant advantages of working online in any course or program of study is the extended capacity the format provides for learners to plan and complete assignments according to their own personal schedules and itineraries. Our course instructors typically provide ready and ongoing access to all material relevant to the tasks being assigned, giving learners the option of engaging and working within the course when they have the time and incentive to complete the projects with the rigor required. Whether the task is assigned as a same-day submission or involves a more intricate, multi-sectioned agenda, the online format supports a very wide array of different learner activities. Of course, any agenda individually-driven to this extent requires learners to be especially efficient with their time management strategies. To this end, we ask our instructors to provide either their own or a ready-available, course-related set of instructions in their syllabi to help learners maintain consistent work schedules in and out of class. Several popular strategies include specifically encouraging learners to keep standard work times on a weekly basis regardless of the project being completed, as well as breaking down each task into their own set of personal items for advanced consideration.
Constant communication between peers, along with numerous extended individual discussions with the instructor can also prove to be vital for success in an online environment. One interesting factor that we continue to emphasize is how the very presence of a learner in a face-to-face instruction space can aid the learning process in ways that cannot be repeated online, even when the instruction is being delivered synchronously via live conferencing tools. In order to compensate for this deficiency we advise learners to set up one-on-one discussion or editing sessions at their discretion, where tasks are revisited and explored in some kind of dialogue. No task is completed alone, we tell each learner, despite the fact that projects and assessments may be individually assigned. Both on and offline, the concept of learning as an ongoing, network-structured vocation remains one of our program’s core principles.
Thank you, Dr. Klobucar, for your excellent insight into New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication program!