Published: Dec. 22, 2020

Communication courses help students make sense of this uncertain and unprecedented time—and give them skills to navigate through it. (If you haven’t yet checked out our “C.R.A.F.T.” video, please do—it provides a nice sense of the essential and durable skills that the Communication degree offers.) There can hardly be a more important time to be in college—and to be a Communication major.
Professor Tim Kuhn
Department Chair

Here are a few ways we put that into action this semester...

Koschmann basement setup

Rethinking Lectures

Associate Professor Matt Koschmann, who’s teaching both an introductory class for first-year students in the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI 1010) and for the juniors and seniors in COMM 3320 (Argumentation), converted his basement into an amateur recording studio and produced pre-recorded videos for these courses. Here’s one lecture you can check out on the incredibly timely topic of “The National Conversation” on self-governance. 

While students in the course still logged on to a live Zoom call every Tuesday and Thursday morning for announcements, content questions and small group discussion (breakout rooms), the class would take a long break in the middle so students could watch the pre-recorded videos on their own. This innovative approach to class won rave reviews from students!



A Course on Race and Anti-Black Racism 

This fall, the department offered a first-of-its-kind course called “Race, Anti-Black Racism and Communication” (COMM 3000). Taught by Assistant Professor Danielle Hodge, the course focused on understanding anti-Black racism as a distinct kind of racial oppression, marginalization and discrimination against, imposed upon, and experienced by Black people (i.e., people of African ancestry).

Hodge showed how anti-Blackness pervades contexts, cultures, communities and societies, and encouraged students to ask questions that are particularly essential in 2020: How does anti-Black racism influence our constructions and ascriptions of identity, permeate our language use and impact popular culture? How does anti-Black racism manifest in racial microaggressions, racial gaslighting, racial profiling and racial stereotyping? (And I’m proud to report that this course is being offered again in spring ’21!)


Jeff Motter

Strategizing Political Campaigns

As another example, the class “Campaign Strategy and the Media,” taught by Communication Instructor Jeff Motter and Journalism Associate Professor Elizabeth Skewes, offered students a novel way to experience the 2020 election cycle.

Students met with journalists and communication professionals from across the political landscape, including Jess Brown, Case Button, Fields Moseley and Sandra Fish. They finished the semester by analyzing and creating communication strategies for a political campaign.



Rethinking Thanksgiving

In Assistant Professor Tiara Na’puti’s “Intercultural Communication” course (COMM 3410), students created a Thanksgiving 2.0 Toolkit. They chose topics focusing on intercultural justice and/or Indigenous resilience for these projects, and you can see some of the results.

Na’puti also received a grant to bring in remote guest lecturers (including a Denver-based poet/hip hop artist) who spoke on issues including whiteness, Afro-Brazilian diaspora, Indigenous identity and Filipino solidarity with Black Lives Matter.


Padlet screenshot

Doctoral Candidate Myles Mason, knowing that remote learning comes with increased feelings of isolation and stress, built solidarity in his class using Padlets as a way for students to share their feelings anonymously. In each Padlet, he included a few questions to prompt responses (what assignments are coming up, what’s giving you the most stress, what’s giving you hope) as well as a place marked, “You may scream into the abyss here.”

As you can see in the purple square, one student took him up on that invitation and recorded a stress-relieving scream! The use of these Padlets took only 5 minutes of class time, and allowed students to express their feelings as well as interact with one another via likes and comments. At the end of semester, many students mentioned that these exercises helped them feel less alone during this odd semester.