Course Reviews

Course Review: CMN 3130

Written by: Sarah Dean
Edited by: Patricia Michelena

CMN3130| Communication Planning
Required Readings: Varies from professor to professor

Professor: Evan Potter

Communication Planning, CMN 3130, was by far the most beneficial and hands on course I have taken so far in my University career. Both Evan Potter and Natalie Montgomery taught this course during the fall semester of 2014. Although I can genuinely say Natalie Montgomery was one of the greatest professors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, I cannot personally comment on her Communication Planning course, or review it. My professor for this course was Evan Potter, the supervisor of the Journalism program at U of O.

As I approached the fourth year of my communications degree, I was ecstatic to start classes that didn’t require me to sit in a lecture hall with 300 people, listening to a professor speak for 3 hours a week. Don’t get me wrong, these professors were brilliant, and I learned more about communication theories and issues surrounding this particular industry than I could have imagined. However, I was ready for the practical experience, and was eager to really learn what it meant to be a communicator.

This is exactly what Communication Planning taught me. It was a third year course, consisting of a 3-hour night class, with approximately 60 people in a small sized classroom. Additionally, there was one required textbook for this class, and although it was expensive and could probably be found online, I found it extremely helpful to study for the midterm and exam. Each class consisted of discussions of current issues relating to crisis communications and communication planning within an organization. This was by far the greatest part of this course, and allowed us as students to relate all the theories and practices we were learning to real life situations we were interested in. On top of that, each class ended with in-class group work of completely a communication plan, adding a new step or aspect each week, and then briefly presenting our material to the class.

Every course comes with some negative aspects. In this case, these negatives were the midterm and final exams. Although they seemed like deal breakers at the time, because I found them absolutely horrible, they actually weren’t as bad as I thought once I received my marks back.

The midterm was a group project, that was very time consuming and unlike any other project I’d done so far. We were to create a public environment analysis, which consisted of a public opinion scan and a media analysis, from 50 news articles and other articles/ sources given to us. This may seem difficult enough, but to make it even harder the material was only handed out the very last day of classes before reading week, and the final project was due the very first day back from reading week. This made it impossible to meet with group members more than once, resulting in work none of us were proud to submit. On a positive note, the professor graded very quickly and although we thought it was poorly done, we received an A, so none of us could really complain.

In terms of the final exam, it seemed very straight forward going into it, as we were told exactly what we had to do and what we had to know in terms of theories and practices. However, this was the only final I had ever written that took me over 3 hours to complete. When I walked out of the final exam classroom after 3.5 hours, 95% of the students were still writing. The exam clearly had too much information and not enough time. However, like the midterm, it was also graded quite well, so I can’t really complain too much about that either.

This class was challenging enough, but not so much that it made it impossible to be productive. Every class seemed like we were learning new strategies we could actually use in our future careers, which was a really great change from other classes I’ve taken in Communications. Although there were some issues with the testing, overall I really enjoyed both the prof and the course as a whole.

Rating: 8/10


Course Review: CMN 4144

Written by: Jocelyn Lubczuk
Edited by : Pina Capuano
Jan 24 2014

CMN 4144 | Advanced Public Relations Seminar
Professor: France Daviault

Required Readings: Varies for each professor and by semester

As a second year student taking a level four course for the first time, I was quite nervous walking into the little seminar classroom on the first day of class at 10am that Thursday morning. However, in my opinion a few nerves was a fine trade-off! CMN 4144 has been my favorite university class thus far, it has been a drastic change from first year with lecture-based classes filled with hundreds of students. The small class size and discussion based lecture has been the best part of this course, the environment makes me feel like I am getting to know my fellow communication and PR majors.

That being said, I think one of the biggest highlights is the industry professional that the university has brought in to teach us. Her name is France Daviault; she is a young, witty, relatable, modern woman who knows the state of the industry as it stands today. In the past she has worked for the communications department in the Child’s Aid Society of Ottawa and is currently the Director of Communications at the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administration. Professor Daviault draws on her real life experience in PR to illustrate practical examples of the theories she teaches. Thankfully, this class is not theory based (hallelujah!), instead the foundation of this class is the examination of PR case studies and campaigns.

Professor Davaiult knows her students well. She understands our need to save money and preference for using free sources. Her readings can all be found online through the University of Ottawa library and can be accessed through our student accounts. She asks that students come to class prepared with breaking news stories and the completed assigned readings. Each week students must also write blog posts on a personal PR blog, none the less, the workload is rather light.  There are not an overwhelming number of readings but most of them do not exceeding 20 pages. The course break down is comprised of 4 parts: a mid term paper, weekly blog postings, a team assignment PR plan and a final exam. This course is very practical.

My favorite part of this course has been the making of my own personal PR blog. This is awesome because it gives students the ability to work on their writing skills each week and put their own views and opinions out on the web. It gives students the opportunity to practice skills they can put on their resumes and use in the future. Overall, this class gives us a perspective of the PR world as it stands today. In an ever changing field it is refreshing to have a young professor who knows the ins and outs of the PR world. This course is not overly challenging but the more you attend class and engage in classroom discussions, the more you will get out of it. If you open up yourself, you could create a useful network that can be drawn upon in the future.

Rating: 8.5 / 10

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 Course Review: CMN2130

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Written by: Jocelyn Lubczuk
Oct 28 2013

CMN 2130 | Interpersonal Communication
Professor: Mary Hawkins
Required Readings: Beebe, Steven. Beebe, Susan. Redmond, Mark Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others. Pearson, 2011.

Interpersonal communication is a mandatory course for public relations students. Its main purpose is to teach students prominent theories regarding interpersonal communication, and techniques which can enhance it. Its main focus is on communication in a professional and social environment. This course has so much potential to be an insightful, thoughtful course; however unfortunately the circumstances around the class made it drab to sit through twice a week. For everyone who is familiar with CMN1160, it is a first year comm’s course revolving around organizational communication. However, when it was taught to me first year, there was a major rupture in communication within the faculty itself. Instead of CMN1160 being an organizational communications course that it was intended to be, it was taught as an interpersonal communications course. This made the real CMN2160 content overlap with every single lecture from the first semester CMN1160. We were told by Professor Hawkins, that this has happened numerous times, and the professor who taught CMN1160, never changed her course plan. Quite disappointing because as paying students and customers to the university, we expect interesting insightful course lectures – not repeat courses!

Before I start to rant, I will reflect on the course itself. The professor, Mary Hawkins, is quite the professor. She has a lot of spunk and energy. Students will learn a lot about her life through the multitude of anecdotes which she tells. Quite often, we found that she did not teach the power point, instead she illustrates a certain point though her real life examples. She is not afraid of putting students on the spot and she is very straightforward in her methods.

The course textbook is $120 if bought through Amazon, however it should be available for resale if you check the university Facebook groups. The book provided me no new information, as it was a regurgitation of the previous textbook that was required for CMN1160.

The courses workload is quite light. Professor Hawkins usually assigns entire chapter readings each week, and then every second week she has students write a reflection on the readings. She expects that you illustrate the salient points, and provide new insights into the theories and text. Other than that there are two quizzes and a midterm, which are easy to do well on if students read the textbook. Additionally, all slides are posted online.

Overall, this course was fairly disappointing. I expected new information, which was not what was presented. I hope that the university can better communicate their class focus better next time, in order to avoid this issue in the future. However, on the flip side- it was quite an easy course to do well in and guaranteed a strong grade.

I would give this class a 4/10.

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Course Review: CMN 4144

Written by: Bryant McNamara
Aug 24 2013

Advanced Public Relations
CMN 4144 | Laurent Benoit
REQUIRED READINGS: Varies each semester.

To any of you that have had Professor Benoit teach one of your courses I’m sure it goes without saying that he holds a very strong presence in his classrooms. He presents material emphatically and precisely while embodying the very spirit of Public Relations (PR). This course requires the most theoretical knowledge about PR from previous courses accompanied with Laurent Benoit’s very real word experience. Prepare for the most hands on PR course that the University has to offer. Advanced PR is about the essence of a career within PR. Many of the assignments pertain to how the student would handle a real/current Public Relations dilemma as if to be working within a firm. The workload is relatively light, however requires a lot of research and preparation. Group meetings will likely be once to twice a week, lasting two to three hours per week alongside two hours per week of independent work. One assignment requires the student to delegate fictional communications upon announcement of a pending airport closure. Another, requires that in the face of a crisis the students stands to pose as the PR representative for establishments such as Maple Leaf Foods or even the White House before the media.

As the course material is so unorthodox and complex, students may have a hard time wrapping their minds around it. As much as this is a challenge in the real world, students may find it difficult to face such a challenge when a grade is on the line. This course work is not about regurgitating any sort of readings, this course requires real and practical engagement of self. Benoit’s teaching style engages students in a way that requires on the spot reactions and careful wording of response. This style reflects the necessity of careful handling when in front of cameras in the heat of the moment.

The classrooms are quite small, creating the perfect learning environment for this type of class. Benoit is able to provide examples from personal, professional and literature based findings to give an honest and wholesome perspective on complex and diluted issues. This class will require notes from slides but these notes will be applicable to your future work place and should be kept after the course is over. The notes will never be very long, they will be short and to the point much like the professors style of communicating. Be prepared to be interested and challenged in new ways all course long.

In the end, I learned what it means to be a Public Relations worker and a communications professional. I learned the hard way what it feels like to stand in front of the media as they attempt to stuff words down your throat, and what it means to reign victorious over their squabbles. This course is for those serious about taking a step forward with their skills in Public Relations and aren’t afraid to be told to hard truth in the process.

Rating: 10/10

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 Course Review: CMN 2160

Written by: Amber Gillan

Theories of the Media
CMN 2160 | Patrick McCurdy
REQUIRED READINGS: Laughey, Dan. Key Themes in Media Theory. Open University Press, 2007.

As Public Relations students, we don’t have a large option in the classes we get to take. Most courses are mandatory, sometimes making them a drag to sit through. However, there are some mandatory classes to look forward to. CMN 2160 – Theories of the Media taught by Patrick McCurdy is one of the most engaging classes I have sat through thus far. My lecture was from 7pm to 10pm on Thursday nights, needless to say I probably had better places to be, but it never felt like a hassle to go to that class.

The course is an extension of CMN 1160 and discusses the theories about the relations between media, power elites and mass culture. There is study of the main American and European schools of thought from both the technological (McLuhan) to the symbolic and socio-political dimensions (feminist and cultural studies). The description of the course may seem a bit dry but Patrick McCurdy was able to bring the topics to life, relating everything to our generation.

During the first lecture of the semester, many Communications professors tell the class “I’m not the Youtube Professor that shows videos every class” and students let out a groan, but McCurdy embraced the use of videos to enhance learning or just give the class a laugh (my personal favourite was when he showed us the video of Gifs to Music (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKq9RVe84rI). McCurdy has a laid back personality where the classroom becomes an open discussion, he makes expectations of what needs to be studied very clear and it’s obvious that he is passionate in what he is teaching. He even extended the deadline of our assignment by a week when there was a big snow storm in the winter to allow students to complete the assignment to their fullest potential.

Every course has its pros and cons. CMN 2160 has one assignment, a midterm, and a final exam – basically your average workload in a class. Readings are once a week with a textbook that was easy to follow along. The only required textbook, Laughey, Dan. Key Themes in Media Theory. Open University Press, 2007, can be bought for under $50. My favourite lectures were about news – what constitutes news, how news stories get selected, and disaster marathons (9/11) vs. media events (the Olympics). I found that these lectures were relevant to my life outside of the classroom and I learned things that I can later bring to my career.
The assignment for the semester got lots of mixed reviews from students. The class was asked to pick a Wikipedia article, edit it, and then write an essay relating the use of Wikipedia to media theories such as the idea of the public sphere, or network societies. Learning how to edit a Wikipage was overwhelming at first, but once I figured out what I was doing, I actually ended up enjoying it. The hard part was finding a topic on Wikipedia that you could add to – with credible sources; information couldn’t just come from our own knowledge. The essay companion had to have five sources other than the required reading for the class. The assignment as a whole was challenging at times (especially if left to the last minute) but was fulfilling. I left the class knowing how to contribute to the Wikipedia community which I found very satisfying.

The main con was that the professor didn’t post slides online. If you wanted the class information, you had to go to lecture. However, in lecture the professor would tell us which parts of the chapter to focus on (which cut reading in half) as well as gave major hints as to what we would be tested on. If you attend every class, you will do well in this course. If you aren’t a fan of theory classes some parts of lectures may be a bit dull but overall, it was an informative class to take. Students learned lots about policies, theories and concerns with today’s media infrastructure. It is definitely one of the mandatory classes that I actually looked forward to going to.

Rating: 7/10

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Course Review: CMN 2148

Written by: Channelle Labelle-Viens
Edited by: Sharon Cheung
Aug 12 2013

“Spoken Like a True Auctioneer”

Organizational Communication
CMN 2148 | Dr. Rumaisa Shaukat
Shockley-Zalabak, P. (2012). Fundamentals of Organizational Communication, 8/E.
Required Course Pack

With an overall average of 3.6 on ratemyprofessors.com, Dr. Rumaisa Shaukat is a little over the half way mark (ratings are based on a 5-point scale). The average is well – average. I believe it could have been boosted to a higher rate if she made some changes to her teaching style including a decreased workload on weekly projects so that students could spend more time on the final project, and the speed of her voice to slow down making it easier to understand and take notes of class material. At times I often felt she was better suited to be an auctioneer at the rate she was speaking. Going once, going twice, sold to the student in the back who’s completely lost! Don’t get me wrong, Dr. Shaukat is a thorough, comedic, and extremely knowledgeable professor, her teaching abilities exceeded my expectations but just as any other professor, Shaukat could use some improvement. Moving forward, Dr. Raumaisa Shaukat defines Organizational Communication as “a critical exploration of the theories, structure, and processes of communication in organizations”. Basically this class focuses on theories of management that establish the context for organizational communication, ranging from classical to cultural theories. It also pays attention to the influence of new technologies on organizational communication.

Just like every course, CMN 2148 had its highs and lows. I’ll start by outlining the pros.

PROS

#1. Dr. Shaukat is a social butterfly and encourages others to be social as well. The majority of her projects are group projects which are a great way to get to meet new people and enlighten your own perspectives. The sentence, “I never thought of it that way” comes up quite often. This class really does make you build relationships, which is perfect considering public relations students need to be socially active.

#2. Another benefit not to be overlooked, Dr. Shaukat makes sure that not every class is your typical ‘sit down and try to concentrate on every word’ kind of class. She often does case studies which allow you (if you wish) to leave and work outside of the classroom as traditional professors would not do. I know what you’re probably thinking, ‘well, where do I sign up’?! But in all honesty, this class wouldn’t be realistic without some imperfections. The cons seem to outweigh the pros in this case.

CONS

#1. Dr. Shaukat really does try her best to squeeze in the important material, but “squeeze” is the key word. Many have said she is too quick and she rushes through slides. In all honesty, during the lectures I have no clue what is going on. No one is given time to process what has just been said. I understand that it is tough to crunch in an entire chapter in one and half hours but I believe in paraphrasing and this technique might be beneficial to the class.

#2. Have you ever had deja vu? Once a week a “new” case study is given (as previously mentioned) but it’s actually the same old song and dance, just with a new name. I found myself working around open door policies in more than three of my case studies, I’m proud to say I’m no longer a novice.

#3. Finally, Dr. Shaukat gives way too much homework! I believe at one point I had a 12 page research report, a role play, a case study, and a reflection paper due all in the same week! Pardon me for overusing exclamation points but isn’t this just a little banana-sandwich?!

With all of this being said, Dr. Rumaisa Shaukat has a long way to go for complete satisfaction but I still must give her credit as she has helped me develop myself into being a better group leader and team player. She also encouraged me to be creative and be advance my communication skills. At times CMN 2148 was hard because let’s face it, it isn’t a bird course; challenge level being medium to hard, but it was worth the push. It’s influenced my learning about new topics such as open door policies, I even have a better understanding on how to solve or manage a PR crisis.

In conclusion, Dr. Rumaisa Shaukat can encourage a fun and inventive environment in the CMN 2148 course but she can also be tough and confusing. She believes in humour, and she gives out free gum! I wouldn’t write off this course, she tries to improve, but change takes time. You can take a lot from this course if you let yourself. It will help you later on during times of conflict and need for policy changes!

Rate: 7/10 (worth taking it)

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