Fundamentals of Communication (COMM 1313) Online
Fall 2005 Semester Course Overview
Course & registration info: This rigorous course addresses four modules of communication: intrapersonal (self); interpersonal; small group; and public speaking. The course meets the communication requirements toward the Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and most Associate of Applied Science degrees, and transfers toward the bachelor’s degree. (If in doubt, check with an academic advisor.) This is primarily a web-based class, with some limited community or on-campus interaction required.*
Registration opens April 4, 2005, and will continue until the class is full. Orientation is conducted online, includes graded assignments, and may be accessed before the semester starts August 22, 2005. To learn more about logging into your online classrooms, visit http://www.nwacc.edu/disted/index.php. There are four online sections of COMM 1313 this semester; once the class roster is filled, no additional seats will be authorized for any reason. Fair Warning #1: our online classes fill very quickly. If you’re accustomed to getting overrides for closed classes, you’ll be disappointed—so register early!
Course materials & features: We’re using Fundamentals of Communication (3rd ed.) ISBN: 0-256-84061-X, a McGraw-Hill Custom Publishing textbook. (Please note: both online and on-campus classes of COMM 1313 use the same book.) In addition to the text, you’ll also need regular (think “daily” here) access to a computer with reliable Internet access. We use weekly “content modules” (think “e-text” with different sections).
Each week, you’ll find objectives and reading assignments, plus links and supplemental material. We also discuss your weekly assignments and discussion topics, to help you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and how that work fits into our overall course objective. And, just to help you stay organized, we round out each week with a handy chart detailing what’s due, when it’s due, and where to post or submit your work.
Technical stuff: Course material includes links, graphics, and even videos, which can be a challenge if you’re working with dial-up service. Be sure you have regular, reliable access to the Internet at speeds that can handle downloading files with graphics. Getting knocked offline when you’re trying to access course notes can be downright irritating! And speaking of staying online—make sure you have the capability to stay online long enough to upload files.
We insist you use a computer with updated virus protection software; send only clean, uninfected files. We accept all Microsoft Office files, so you can submit any assignment as an MS Word (.doc) file. If you use another word processing software—such as Works or WordPerfect—be sure to save your documents in Rich Text Format (.rtf) before submitting. Fair warning #2: documents submitted in unauthorized formats will not be graded!
Think ahead: Murphy’s Law guarantees you’ll run into computer trouble at some point during the course, so have a back-up plan ready before you need it. “The dog ate my modem” is not an acceptable reason for not logging in (it’s an interesting excuse, maybe, but it’s not a reason). And that reminds us—Fair Warning #3: once you’ve begun the online class, you can’t switch to an on-campus section. So think carefully before you decide to join us online—frankly, it’s not for everyone.
To succeed: Successful online students will demonstrate higher order thinking skills and have the necessary self-discipline and academic skill to commit 8-10 hours a week to this course. You may need more or less time each week, depending on your ability to read, comprehend, and apply course materials. College-level English language and reading skills are essential! Fair Warning #4: online classes typically require more time than traditional on-campus classes.
What’s involved: Our course objective is straightforward: “develop effective oral communication skills.” To develop those skills, you’ll work through a series of assessments, activities, discussions, and research to learn help you better understand how communication impacts you and the people in your lives. To help you achieve the course objective, you’ll complete online and in-print self-assessments in addition to other assignments.
If you take this course on campus in a traditional course, you would do much of the same work—with one significant exception. While on-campus students can use classroom time to participate in skill-building exercises, online students have to plan a time and place to complete such exercises. And on-campus students have the advantage of an instructor who observes the interaction, solicits feedback from the group, and then connects the exercise to a specific learning objective. Online students don’t have an instructor there to observe, evaluate, and tie it all together into one nice neat learning package.
That means online students (you!) have to “reflect” on the exercise, and demonstrate your critical thinking skills by communicating what you learned from the exercise, and personally connecting the exercise to our overall learning objective. (In other words, you have to actually sit down and put your thoughts into words and explain the value of what you did and learned.) We ask the same two questions over and over: what did you learn? Why does that matter? (Be prepared to answer those questions for quiz credit.) Fair Warning #5: this course requires considerable critical thinking, reading, writing, and interaction.
This online class involves exercises, discussions, and presentations. Some students want to register for this online option because they hope they’ll skip out of having to deliver speeches. Fair Warning #6: you’ll present two speeches as part of this online course. You can choose to deliver your speeches on campus or at a location off-campus to an audience of at least 9 people. (You’ll need to submit a videotape for all off-campus presentations, and those tapes will not be returned. Please read the Speech Presentations handout for more information.) You’ll have the opportunity to select your speech topics from three broad categories: communication; community service & civic engagement (Service Learning); and professional/career fields.
Text materials and assignments vary in length and complexity throughout the semester. We encourage you to look ahead and budget your time wisely to complete your work on time. Each week's assignments typically include 1-2 written essays (or their equivalent) and 2 discussion board topics. (Think of the discussion board as your “classroom” where you talk with other students and exchange ideas.) We expect you to make meaningful contributions to the collective learning experience through online discussion and interaction. We don’t require you to log into the course daily, but we do encourage you to log in frequently through the week. Research suggests that students who interact frequently with other students online report feeling more connected, more involved, and are more likely to be successful.
The discussion board is our “classroom” for the duration of the course. We instructors will initiate the weekly conversations, and then it’s up to you. These conversations are structured so that students (not instructors) are the ones “talking” and developing the topic. Beyond our initial conversation-starters, you probably won’t “see” us in the discussion—that’s not our place. Think about it this way: if you’re in a campus classroom and engaged in a course activity, the instructor doesn’t hover and comment on everything you say and do in a group. We’ve found that conversations online tend to end when we post a comment—maybe because students think we’re wrapping up the conversation, and there’s no need to continue.
The other problem we’ve encountered is that, by responding to some student comments, there’s always somebody who feels excluded or ignored when we don’t comment on their posting. Bottom line: the weekly discussion board is a “learner centered” environment (more on that topic during orientation), and the focus stays squarely on you, the student. Of course, that also puts pressure on you, the student, to be a frequent and valuable contributor to the group’s learning experience.
You must post your individual assignments to the weekly discussion boards by day 4, and respond to other students’ comments by day 7. (Monday is considered day 1 of each week; day 7 is Sunday.) This schedule gives you the flexibility to optimize your work week. You’ll need to complete the assigned readings before day 4 in order to post intelligent, well-considered comments. Your online participation is evaluated weekly and worth approximately 25% of your final course grade. Fair Warning #7: There are no “make up” opportunities for weekly participation requirements, and no “extra credit” or “substitute” assignments will be accepted in place of weekly interaction.
A very important note about communicating with instructors & students: We want to remind you that while the online classroom is available 24/7, we instructors are not. Generally speaking, we’ll log on daily during the week to the classroom to see what’s happening, and will respond to email within 48 hours. (Usually, we’re faster, but sometimes it can take more than a single day to get back to you.) But while we’re not online at all hours, students are! So if you have a question about the course, you can probably get a quick answer from your classmates.
You’ll find a Virtual Student Lounge in the discussion area—that’s a great place to post questions and seek advice from other students. Need help with an assignment? Can’t find something online? Did the computer eat your homework? Get help, advice, and support from your fellow students through the virtual student lounge.
In conclusion… To receive the most benefit, we strongly encourage you to incorporate the assignments into the daily fabric of your life—discuss the topics with your family, ask your friends to help you “role play” a communication exercise, and practice the skills you learn while you’re at work or in a class. Communication is not intended to be an isolated academic experience—communication is an evolving set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that will help you throughout your life. We’re looking forward to learning with you!
*Please note the following: