Sample Syllabus


 (4 units)

 © 2007 A. Michael Noll

All rights reserved.



A comprehensive analysis of broadcast and interpersonal communication media and information technologies, including historical, developmental, and comparative aspects.


Communication media are pervasive in our lives and economy.  The communication industry generates yearly revenues of about seven percent of the gross domestic product. Communication technologies include electronic interpersonal media (such as the telephone and data telecommunication), broadcast electronic media (such as radio and television, broadcast paper-based media (such as books, newspapers, and magazines), and so-called "new media" (such as computers, videotex, and teletext).  Conventional boundaries separating the media have become increasingly blurred, and media specialists have an increasing need for knowledge of the breadth of media available for use and implementation.  This course — COMMUNICATION MEDIA — is designed to create that knowledge.



The objective of the course is to give the student a comprehensive overview of the distinctive and overlapping nature of all communication technologies, including various existing and newly emerging interpersonal and broadcast media, such as print, film, video, and interactive media.  Each mode of communication is studied historically, technologically, and in regard to certain comparative models. 



The world of communication media is quite vast and includes conventional, broadcast mass-media and interactive interpersonal media along with newer electronic media, such as computers and teleconferencing. The description and history of various communication media are covered.  The different applications, modalities, technologies, and other dimensions are used to categorize and compare the various interpersonal and broadcast media covered in the course.  Issues of privacy, First Amendment rights, and consumer needs are also covered.

The course develops the various dimensions that can be used to categorize communication media, such as directionality, modality, purpose, timeliness, and bandwidth.  Comparative analyses of the media are made using these dimensions, along with discussions of consumer applications, needs, and trends.  Issues of media convergence and blurring boundaries are also discussed.

GRADING (100/200 level)

The final grade will be based upon the following:

class participation               10%                        

written assignments            20%

mid-term examination        30%

final examination               40%


                    TOTAL        100%


GRADING (300/400 level)

The final grade will be based upon the following:

class reports & participation             30%            

written weekly assignments             30%

term paper                                       40%


                              TOTAL            100%

The technique of portfolio grading will be used.  The content of each student’s portfolio of assignments will be evaluated and graded.



In the written assignments, students explore specific communication media in terms of history, applications, and comparisons.  Students will write short papers describing the results of their research and of using media dimensions to categorize and describe specific media.  Students will report in class on the results of their research.



The following are the major texts for the course:

Noll, A. Michael, The Evolution of Media, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Lanham, MD), 2006.

Straubhaar, Joseph & Robert LaRose, Communications Media in the Information Society, Wadsworth Publishing Company (Belmont, CA), 1997.

READINGS - Supplemental Texts

Cheney, Margaret, Tesla: Man Out of Time, Dell Publishing Co., Inc. (New York), 1981.

Fisher, David E. & Marshall Jon Fisher, Tube: The Invention of Television, Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 1996.

Jean, Georges, Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers (New York), 1992

Lessing, Lawrence, Man of High Fidelity: Edwin Howard Armstrong, Bantam Books, Inc. (New York), 1969.

Lewis, Tom, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, Edward Burlingame Books (New York), 1991.

Melosi, Martin V., Thomas A. Edison and the Modernization of America, Harper Collins  Publishers, 1990.

Robinson, David, From Peep Show to Palace: The Birth of American Film,  Columbia University Press (New York), 1996.

Inventors and Discoverers: Changing Our World, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1988.




Communication Media



I. INTRODUCTION: From Shannon To The Home 



            • overview of course

            • assignments & grading         

            • Shannon's model of communication

            • communication media & modalities

            • media-rich home

            • business communication



II. BROADCAST MEDIA                                                                                                     


The Printed Word

            • newspapers

            • magazines

            • typewriters

            • copiers


The World of Audio

            • phonograph

            • audio recording

            • high fidelity

            • stereo

            • compact discs & digital

            • radio

               - AM

               - FM


Still and Moving Images

            • photography

            • motion pictures

            • television

            • video recording

            • teletext





The Written and Printed Word

            • postal service

            • telegraphy

            • teletypewriter

            • electronic mail



            • telephony

            • mobile communication

            • CB radio

            • chat lines & bulletin boards



            • facsimile

            • telewriter

            • picturephone

            • teleconferencing


Computer Communication

            • videotex

            • home information

            • home banking

            • CD/ROM

            • audiotex




IV. TAXONOMY: ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS OF MEDIA                                                                         


Dimensions of Media

            • directionality

            • modality

            • media maps

            • participation

            • purpose


Technological Aspects

            • bandwidth

            • networks

            • analog/digital

            • compression


Consumer Perspective

            • driving forces

            • conclusions


Privacy and First Amendment Rights

            • mass media

            • interpersonal media


Theoretical Models

            • audience/delivery

            • modality/purpose

            • bandwidth/purpose





Convergence and Blurred Boundaries

            • computers & telecom

            • TV & telephony: fiber to the home

            • voice, data, & video: ISDN

            • traffic


Content and Conduits

            • CATV: content + conduit

            • audio/video progression

            • crossings

               - text + radio

               - talking books

               - text + TV


New Services

            • silent radio

            • talking newspapers

            • electronic newspapers

            • personal communication networks

            • caller-ID

            • HDTV

            • educational technology

            • speech technology


 Industry Structure

            • service providers

            • equipment providers

            • financial aspects


Forces Shaping The Future

            • technology

            • policy

            • economics/finance

            • business/management

            • consumer needs