COMM103: Introduction to Mass Media

Course Syllabus for "COMM103: Introduction to Mass Media"

The purpose of this course, as governed by the textbook at its core, Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication, is to complete a fairly comprehensive examination of the evolution and impact of the media, primarily in the United States.  Each of the major media (newspapers, magazines, books, radio, movies, music, and television), as well as new media (electronic entertainment, social media, and the Internet), are examined from their conception to the present and future possibilities.  Emphasis is placed on how each media industry has evolved over time, responding to changes in society, technology, politics, and economics.  The course also explores the cultural impact of the media, from individual media products to entire industries, with particular emphasis on the cultural and ethical factors that influence production, consumption, and also, due to the advent of new media, participation.  Upon completing this course, you should be more conscious of how your viewpoints are shaped by and can shape the media with which you interact.  As a result, hopefully, not only will you be more critical as a consumer of media products but also more demanding and more creative as a participant and even a producer.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Provide specific examples of how media has influenced culture and cultural change and how cultural changes have had an impact on media development.
  • Describe the processes of convergence and gatekeeping and critique their significance in the current media landscape.
  • Identify influential theories and research on the roles, uses, and effects of the media on social, political, and cultural institutions.
  • Compare and contrast the economic and cultural factors that influenced the evolution of various media from their inception to their current status.
  • Recognize historically important technological changes that had direct and lasting effects on the public’s use of various types of media and on how people live their lives.
  • Trace the evolution of journalism as it was influenced by developments in media and critique its current role in fostering public knowledge, social responsibility, and ethics in leadership.
  • Recognize and describe from historical, cultural, and economic perspectives the leading products and personalities in each of the major and new media industries.
  • Identify the legal and legislative developments that have shaped the media and describe some of the unresolved issues which challenge regulation of the media, including how media operate and how much control over media products political and social leaders can exert.
  • Explain the changes and challenges that are occurring as the world goes digital.
  • Provide examples of how the media influences individual perceptions of culture, gender, sexuality, wealth, education, politics, and other important social issues.
  • Show how technology, legislation, and economics have changed media business models over time and how those models have adapted to and/or influenced cultures beyond their countries of origin.

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.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have the ability to download and play iTunes resources.

Course Information

Welcome to COMM103: Introduction to Mass Media.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements.
Course Designer: P. Wynn Norman
Primary Resources: This course primarily utilizes of the following two resources:

Requirements for Completion: To complete this course, you will need to work through reading materials and lectures, as well as study questions, critical thinking suggestions, and mini-projects, before taking the final exam, which will be the sole basis of your official grade.
 In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam.  Your score will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 75 hours to complete.  Each unit in the course includes a “time advisory,” which lists the amount of time you may need to spend on each subunit.  These time advisories should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time estimates and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself.  Completing most of the reading assignments and lectures in the units will take you between 3 and 4 hours, but the amount of time it takes for you to respond to the discussion questions, critical thinking suggestions, and mini-projects presented in the subunits will vary depending on the nature and number of questions.  For general planning purposes, however, you may want to set aside 5 hours – the average time advisory per unit – for each unit.
Tips/Suggestions: To absorb the material in this course and prepare for the final exam effectively, use the learning outcomes listed at the beginning of each unit to preview the information you need to look for and focus on.  Moreover, do not just note the units and subunits that the outcomes preview.  Recognize the demands on your critical thinking skills which the verbs in those statements also indicate: compare, contrast, describe, provide examples, critique, explain, recognize, categorize, show, predict, identify, defend, justify, define, and so forth.
In addition, you should recognize that the content of most of the chapters in the textbook follows a similar pattern to review each media industry: historical and technological developments are always covered first, followed by the relationship between culture and the media, important or influential media products, current issues and trends, and finally projections about the future.  These patterns in the textbook produce patterns in the units of this course, too.  This is another characteristic you should look for in the unit learning outcomes and also in the introductions and guiding statements presented at the beginning of subunits.  Use the notes, study questions, critical thinking suggestions, and mini-projects presented in the subunits as additional guides to help you focus on important aspects of the readings and study for the final exam.