- How this course differs from a traditional lecture class
- Responsibilities of the instructor, TAs and students
- Where to find all course content and communication
- Why the class is set up this way, with a cake analogy
COM210 is not a traditional university course with lectures, a heavy textbook and an exam at the end. It is a hybrid course, meaning the majority of coursework is done online even for students who attend classes on one of WSU’s campuses. It also makes use of the flipped classroom model, which means that students work through lessons independently and then use interaction with instructors for individualized help.
Here’s what that means for the instructor, the teaching assistants, and the students:
What I (the instructor) do:
This class is mostly online, so what does a professor do all semester? Instead of being at the front of a lecture hall, I mostly work behind the scenes:
- Prepare course materials. There is no textbook for this course, so everything you read is something I wrote, designed or picked out for you.
- Coordinate with TAs. Teaching assistants meet every week to go over common issues and keep policies standard across sections.
- Send out weekly announcements. Announcements are sent to your WSU email account and posted under “Announcements” on Blackboard with a summary of what’s coming up for the week and any other important information or clarifications.
- Respond to student emails and meet with students about concerns. I make a point to promptly respond to all student emails. If you have not received a response from me within 24 hours during the week or 48 hours on weekends, please send your email again or use Blackboard as an alternate means of communication.
- Collect student feedback and develop ways to improve the course. The technology we use is constantly evolving, so COM210 also changes each semester. Improving the course for greater student success is a big priority for me, so always feel free to send any suggestions or feedback.
What TAs do:
- Help students with questions in lab, by email or through Blackboard forums.
- Grade assignments and provide feedback.
- Notify students about additional information and recommend tips.
That list looks short, but your TA will be your primary contact and best resource as you complete work for this course. Making a point to speak with your TA frequently is the best way you can make sure you do as well as possible!
What students are responsible for doing:
- Understanding and following all course policies outlined in the syllabus. (Ask if anything is unclear!)
- Checking WSU email frequently for all course announcements and instructor messages.
- Completing all assignments by the deadlines listed on the course schedule, following the submission instructions included with each assignment.
- Thoroughly reading the course chapters and going through all assigned materials.
- Asking before the deadline for any assistance or clarification on assignments.
- Monitoring grades on Blackboard and contacting your TA about any issues.
- Notifying your instructor and TA about any personal emergencies in a timely manner.
Where to Find Everything
This course makes use of two online spaces: this course website and Blackboard. In addition, you will be creating a WordPress blog to present your own work. You will regularly use all three of these sites throughout the semester.
- Course website: This is where you will find all lectures, tutorials, materials and assignment instructions. This is also where you can access the syllabus and other resources.
- Blackboard: This is WSU’s learning management system, where you will submit assignments, interact on forums and receive instructor feedback. All quizzes and graded submissions are facilitated through Blackboard.
- Student Websites: This is what you will create in your first assignment for displaying your work throughout the semester. All assignments you complete for this class will be published to your personal student website.
Additional messages and reminders will be sent to the class by email. It is a university policy that all course emails must be sent to your WSU email address.
Why is COM210 set up this way?
But what does all of this really mean for you, and why is COM210 set up this way? As stated in the title of the course, this is a class about creating multimedia content. But, to better answers those questions, let’s pretend for a moment that this course is about creating cakes.
Yes, delicious cakes. If you wanted to learn how to make tasty, attractive, professional-quality cakes, would you go sit in a lecture hall and listen to a pastry chef talk about making cakes? You might learn some general concepts and be able to answer multiple-choice questions about making cakes, but you would probably not walk out of that lecture hall feeling confident that you could go home and make a fabulous cake.
To learn how to make cakes, you need to make cakes. So, you could probably learn all on your own by reading cookbooks and trying dozens of recipes. You could probably even find videos on YouTube that show advanced techniques like fancy types of icing. But this would take a lot of time (not to mention ingredients!) and if your cake tasters are just your roommates or family, you won’t really know if your cakes are up to professional standards.
So, the most efficient way to learn would be taking a cooking class — you make cakes yourself, but with the guidance of a chef who can confirm that your cake turned out correctly or help you fix it if something goes wrong. This is how COM210 is designed, because creating multimedia projects is actually pretty similar to making cakes. (Not as delicious, unfortunately.)
In a cooking class, everyone might start out making the same kind of cakes to learn the basics. You learn principles of baking, like how ingredients work together and how to determine the best baking times and temperatures. You might also practice skills like different types of decorative icing, or how to stack a layer cake. In COM210, this is analogous with our tutorials for each unit, when every student goes through the same exercises to learn the software and basic techniques.
Back in the cooking class, you might then come up with an idea for your own cake. You’d have to spend time thinking about what type of cake you want to make, and you’d probably look through various recipes for inspiration before tweaking the recipe for your own taste. You’d have to make sure it suits the purpose. (A flourless dark chocolate cake with maple-bourbon icing for a 7-year-old’s birthday? Probably not…) This is similar to each unit project in COM210, when each student comes up with an idea for a project related to the chosen topic.
Finally, that cake isn’t officially a success until people eat it. In the cooking class, the chef will take a bite and other members of the class will also tell you what they think. And hopefully they’ll love it, but they’ll also give you valuable suggestions about how to improve your recipe before you make that cake again for people outside the class. In COM210, this is why we have a feedback phase before students create a final version of each project.
Along the way, you’ll also get better at describing the cakes you’re making. You would learn the difference between fondant and buttercream, and be able to explain why one is better in a specific situation. You would be able to follow other recipes more successfully and gain confidence in trying new combinations.
This is the ultimate goal in COM210 — that you will gain multimedia communication skills and improve your ability to discuss multimedia storytelling. You will be able to make visual products, logos, audio stories and videos. And even if your skills are still developing at the end of the semester, you should feel confident in speaking with multimedia professionals and continuing to develop skills that apply to your career or area of study.