COMM002: Media and Society

Course Syllabus for "COMM002: Media and Society"

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Do you know what you’re watching? What you’re reading? You might think that what comes across your television or web browser, in your newspaper or magazine, or on your movie screen is pretty much the whole message; what you see is what you get. But the content we see, read, and hear is the product of complex forces − economic, governmental, historical, and technological. This course will explore those underlying forces and provide analytical tools to evaluate media critically. An overall goal is to become media literate, to gain an understanding of mass media as cultural industries that seek to influence our behavior and affect our values as a society. Unit 1 aims to define mass communication, mass media, and culture. It also will introduce the core concepts of media literacy and the concept of transmedia, the practice of integrating entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms. Unit 2 will introduce selected theories that will help in analyzing mass communication and its effects. Subsequent units will explore individual mediums: books, newspapers, magazines, music and radio, film, television, the Internet and social media, and electronic games and virtual worlds. The last unit will discuss issues of media ethics and the relationship of media to government.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • describe how mass communication industries operate as businesses, and summarize the historical, technological, legal, and economic forces affecting them;
  • differentiate among various mass media, but also describe how the various media are interconnected and how this affects the cultural texts they create;
  • explain the concepts of convergence and transmedia using examples from media today;
  • summarize major theories used to study mass communication and apply them as a media-literate person; and
  • analyze mass communication in the 21st century as a cultural enterprise, as the product of mass communication companies is culture.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√  have access to a computer;

√  have continuous broadband Internet access;

√  have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash);

√  have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√  have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√  have competency in the English language; and

√  have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to COMM002: Mass Communication and Society. This course was designed by Michael O’Donnell, Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Please read this general information on this course and its requirements:
Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
1.    Our basic text is “Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication”.
2.    We will visit and revisit Henry Jenkins’s blog, henryjenkins.org, as a source for provocative and informative discussions about mass communication.
3.    We will make use of the video lecture series The Influence of Media on Culture by Prof. Terry Dugas of the University of Nebraska. These lectures are available through his Homepage at and through iTunes U.
You will be directed to other resources that will supplement the material from these sources.
Requirements for Completion: Each of the nine units will include an exercise and a self-assessment subunit for you to test your knowledge. When you have completed the exercise and self-assessment, and are satisfied with your knowledge of a unit, go on to the next one. At the end of the course, you must take the comprehensive final exam.
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, it is recommended that you take notes on and work through all course materials.
In order to pass this course, you will need to score 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score will be tabulated as soon as the exam is completed. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again after a 14-day waiting period.
Time Commitment:This course should take you approximately 126 hours to complete, not including the final exam. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take approximately 7.75 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 2.25 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.2 and 1.3 (a total of 2.75 hours) on Tuesday; subunit 1.4 and assessments (a total of 2.75 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.
Tips/Suggestions:In your everyday life, begin to watch and absorb media as an active viewer. Think of the media − newspapers, magazines, movies, radio, television, video games, and social media − as your learning environment. During the course of this class, when presented with an example from the media:

  • apply what you’ve learned from your textbook;
  • connect the example to other examples; and
  • look below the surface as a media-literate student and think about who made the media text and why.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.