Course Exam—CMNS 302

CMNS 302 (Communication in History) is a three-credit communication studies course that is one of the three foundation courses for the Bachelor of Professional Arts (Communication Studies) degree program.  It follows the interactions between media and society in a few technological contexts: oral and literate cultures, manuscript and print cultures, electric and electronic cultures.  This course has no prerequisites and it has a Challenge for Credit option if students are interested.

This course qualifies for a reduced learning resource fee of $130 which covers the cost of mandatory, Athabasca University-produced learning resources, library services, learning management system support, and learning design and development.  All the course materials are online.

Communication in History has eight units, one assignment that weighs fifteen percent (focused summary), two assignments weighing twenty-five percent (comparative analysis, reflection, and learning object), and a term paper worth thirty-five percent.  There is no final exam for this course.  The eight units focus on topics such as the age of information, scribal culture into print, technology and society, literacy and orality, radio, the wired and wireless world, and TV times.  To receive credit for CMNS 302, students must complete all assignments and obtain a minimum composite course grade of at least a “D” which is equivalent to fifty percent.

Dr. Karen Wall has been full-time with the Communication Studies program since 2006 and prior to that was a tutor for almost twenty years.  She has coordinated CMNS 302 for the past three years.  Alongside CMNS 302, she coordinates CMNS 308 (Understanding Statistical Evidence), CMNS 401 (Cultural Policy in Canada), CMNS 402 (Global Communication), CMNS 423 (The Television Age), CMNS 425 (Film and Genre), CMNS 333 (Research Methods in Communication Studies), CMNS 444 (Media Relations), CMNS 445 (Directed Readings in Communication Studies), CMNS 455 (Media Ethics), and CMNS 450 (Individual/Group Projects).

When asked to describe CMNS 302 to students, Dr.  Wall states “The course surveys an intriguing range of technologies that have mediated communication in different eras and cultures, concentrating mainly on Western societies.  It draws certain patterns that have persisted through the ways that people have invented to send and receive information from early writing systems to the printing press and on into more familiar media of contemporary life.  Complex factors of social power and imagination that we see in how we use today’s electronic devices can also be traced to machines such as the telegraph and radio.  It assumes that, if these connections between human communication technology and human patterns of thought and action hold, then studying the history of communication is central to the study of human history.  The course asks students to think about their own technology use in the contexts of our present lives.”

She continues, providing insight into the structure of the assignments and term paper, stating “The first assignment asks for a short commentary on themes and concepts using your own illustrations and drawing connections to your experiences and observations.  The second is a short essay also asking you to reflect on your own insights as well as study materials on social and political contexts, how technologies operate to support the dominant power relations of their time, and any other aspects that seem important to you.  You will then produce a learning object that teaches history from a communication perspective, in a choice of forms such as video, blog, magazine article or graphic short story.  Finally, you’ll be asked for the traditional research paper of about 4000 words on your choice of a range of topics.  There are no exams or quizzes in this course and the vast majority of students are successful in completing it.”

As for what kind of work ethic students will have to have to be successful in this course, Dr. Wall believes that “The usual advice applies! As with most AU courses, organization and motivation are the best weapons, and the chance to bring your own ideas and experiences into your work should help focus and expand upon the assigned reading materials.  The readings are all quite accessible, and study questions help to guide you, so stick to a schedule and you should be fine.”

She provides some advice to students who are currently enrolled in CMNS 302 or who are interested in enrolling, stating “This sounds obvious, but oddly enough often missed: start by reading all instructions from the course overview and objectives to individual assignments.  If in doubt, ask your tutor.  You could also chat with an elder of your acquaintance about their experiences with media and communication technologies, just to think about perspectives of what changes and what remains over time.”

Dr. Wall recommends Communication in History to “All students interested in communication in everyday life as well as how we got here.  Besides that, of course, it is required for Communication Studies majors.”

After completing CMNS 302, she believes students will walk away with “New ways of thinking about how human beings connect with each other and with ideas and social phenomena through our relationship with technologies, as well as a sense of how central communication processes are in shaping so much of what we think and do across time and space.”

As for what she believes students struggle with most, she states “No one thing comes to mind, though of course if students fall behind in readings and assignments they will find it difficult to maintain the thread of main concepts that link the different units and readings.  Most students find the course quite engaging, so it is just a matter of commitment to taking regular steps forward so as not to struggle with end-of-contract panic.  And be in touch with your tutor!”

Whether CMNS 302 is a degree or program requirement of yours, or the topics discussed above are of interest to you, this course will have you learning about communication throughout history.