Communication in Organization

January 25, 2001

Required course for the organizational communication sequence in the Speech Communication degree.

Role of communication in defining and achieving organizational goals. Assessment and development of organizational communication systems.
Service-learning component allows students to apply course content in the field through service to local disaster response and emergency management organizations. Students examine the special communication problems faced in planning for, and responding to, non-routine and crisis situations.

Service Learning Criteria:
1. A needed service: Disaster response and emergency management are important services in any community faced with natural and technological crises such as floods, earthquakes, severe storms, fires and industrial accidents. Crisis situations present challenges to effective intra- and inter-organizational communication and coordination. Such situations are, by nature, non-routine and disruptive of normal communication channels and organizational functioning. Students will provide a needed service by assisting organizations involved in local disaster response in assessment of their internal and/or external communication processes. Depending on organization needs, students may also participate in disaster preparedness training delivery to neighborhood or community audiences or other related service to the sponsoring organization(s).

2. Service-subject matter relation: COMM 417 introduces students to organizational communication needs assessment and intervention. Students become familiar with a range of organizational change agent roles and are expected to develop basic skills 'in communication assessment, training and developmental consulting. The service component proposed for the course involves students in communication needs assessment in community agencies and therefore fully integrates service activities and course content.

3. Reflection on service/learning relationship: Students will be required to reflect on their experiences in the sponsoring agencies in two written progress reports and in weekly informal project discussions. Written 'II focus on service project progress; in-class discussions will explore the relationship between service experiences and course content.

4. Assessment: Written progress reports constitute 10% of a student's course grade. Products of the service project (final report and presentation) contribute 25% of the course grade. The second and third exams will include essay questions which require students to apply course content to their service experiences.

5.Service recipient evaluates service: Sponsoring organizations will be asked to complete an evaluation form assessing the project's contributions and students' service activities. Organization representatives will be invited to the in-class presentation of final workgroup reports. The presentation agenda will include a period for organization feedback to the students.

6. Civic education: Fieldwork in disaster response organizations will familiarize students with a realm of community service that may be less visible than other service arenas but which is still vitally important. The inter-organizational nature of disaster response and emergency management will acquaint students with the complex interdependencies between agencies and between private and public sector parties typical of modem urban communities.

7. Disciplinary knowledge enhances service: Student volunteer service, observation, description, and assessment activities in sponsoring organizations will be directly informed by the social systems and action research perspectives central to the course.

8. Learning from other class members: COMM 417 is designed to foster collaborative learning processes. Student workgroups are the foundation for most COMM 417 activities. As noted in the syllabus, *Applied organizational communication research is concerned with improving communication among multiple, interdependent agents working together in pursuit of shared goals… many aspects of the course are designed to create interdependencies among students… You will be responsible for your own success in the course and for the success of others."

Course Description
This course introduces students to assessment of organizational communication processes and the facilitation of organizational change from a systems theory perspective. The course design emphasizes community service and collaborative learning. The class will be divided into workgroups of four to five students; most course assignments and exercises will be completed in these groups.

Course Objectives
The objective of this course is to enhance your ability to assess and improve communication processes in various organizational situations. By the end of the quarter, you should be able to:
Understand the variety of organizational "change agent" roles applicable in private sector, public sector, and community service organizations.
Understand and apply an assortment of tools used to diagnose and change intra- and interorganizational communication and to evaluate change efforts.
Describe the process of organizational communication development from a systems perspective.

Required Texts and Additional Expenses
DeWine, S. (1994). The consultant's craft: Improving organizational communication. New York: St. Martin's.

Lawrence, P.L., & Lorsch, J.W. (1969). Developing organizations: Diagnosis and action. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Each group will be responsible for insuring that a number of additional readings (on library reserve) are available to all group members. How this is accomplished is left to each group.

Course Assignments and Activities
You must complete ALL assignments satisfactorily in order to receive a passing grade in this course. Each assignment contributes to your final grade as follows:

Exam 1 25%
Field Progress Reports 10% (2 @ 5% each)
Exam 2 & 3 40% (20% each)
Service Project 25% (20% report, 5% presentation)

Field progress reports describe workgroup project activities but are individually written and evaluated. The workgroup service project report and presentation are collaboratively authored and receive a group grade. Your course grade is computed by multiplying the value of the grade received for each assignment (i.e., 4.0 for an A, 3.7 for an A-, etc.) by that assignment's weight and summing the results for all assignments. For example, the weighted grades for a student who received all A's would sum to a total of 4.0, or A.

Assignment grades are given according to University policy:
The A range is for excellent performance and superior achievement.
The B range denotes good performance and substantial achievement.
The C range indicates standard performance and achievement.
The D range is for substandard performance and marginal achievement.
An F is given for unsatisfactory performance and achievement.

Course Policies
Collaborative Learning. Applied organizational communication is concerned with improving communication among multiple, interdependent agents working together in pursuit of shared goals. In order that the classroom serve as a laboratory as a well as a lecture hall, many aspects of the course are designed to create interdependencies among students. Learning will not be a solitary task in this course. You will be responsible for your own success in the course and for the success of others, Others, in turn, will be responsible for your success as well.

Service Learning. Organizational communication scholars are concerned not only with "business" settings, but also with communication processes across the entire range of organizational forms. In this course we will pay particular attention to organizational communication development in public and not-for-profit community service organizations. You will participate in a service learning project in which you will master course content by applying it "in the field" and, at the same time, make a lasting contribution to the commuunity's ability to cope with natural disasters or other emergencies.

Attendance. Class activities, discussions, and presentations constitute a major portion of the learning experience in this course. In other words, this course does not exist in textbooks and lecture notes; it exists in your experiences and contributions. Therefore, missed classes cannot be "recovered" by reading the text and borrowing class notes. Attendance and participation are expected for all class days. Because of the emphasis on collaborative learning, any absence interferes with both your own performance and with the performance of your group. Of course, some absences cannot be avoided- in those cases your workgroup is responsible for bringing you up to date.

Punctuality. You are expected to arrive at class in sufficient time so that you are prepared to work when class is scheduled to begin. If you are unable to meet this expectation please notify me. Consistent problems in attendance and punctuality will result in the imposition of a formal attendance policy for all class members.

Make-up and extra credit work. The nature of assignments used in the class renders make-up work impossible. Therefore plan to prepare and submit work on time. No extra credit opportunities will be provided.

Academic Honesty. Strict standards of academic honesty will be enforced. Academic dishonesty (as defined in Chapter X, Article XI of University regulations) will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.

Requests for Reevaluation. The burden of proof in any disagreement over evaluation of student performance rests with the student. If you desire reevaluation of a grade for an assignment or activity you must submit your rationale in writing. Your request should identify the specific change requested and provide a reasoned argument and evidence in support of that change. Any request for reevaluation must be made within one week of receipt of the original evaluation.

Assignment Summary
Exams. The three exams will be a mix of multiple choice, short-answer essay, and essay questions. Exam study guides will not be provided. Workgroups are encouraged to create their own study guides. The first and second exams are designed to be completed in approximately one hour. The remainder of the class period on those days is available for group work.

Field Progress Report. The two reports are 3-5 page papers summarizing your contributions to your workgroup's progress on the service project. Content requirements and evaluation criteria for the progress reports will be distributed prior to the fourth week of the quarter.

Service project. The core of the workgroup project is a communication needs assessment for a local organization involved in disaster response and emergency management. Groups will be assigned to examine either internal communication processes, inter-organizational communication, or the organization's public communication. The community needs assessment project will utilize theoretical perspectives and assessment tools introduced in course content. Additional volunteer activities may also be assigned, depending on organizational needs. Students are expected to spend a minimum of four hours a week on the service project. The bulk of this time is to be spent with the sponsoring organization.
The workgroup paper and presentation provide a service learning experience, action research experience, and an opportunity to develop skills in collaborative writing, editing, and presenting. The project is also designed to create interdependencies among group members. You are strongly encouraged to reflect upon your group experiences and to apply theoretical and practical concepts from the class to those experiences.
The workgroup project paper should be written in an acceptable academic style (APA 4th edition) and include references. The group presentation format is flexible. A detailed project description, including evaluation criteria, will be distributed when workgroups are assigned in the second week of the term.
This syllabus and schedule are subject to change as necessary to adapt to class size, student performance, and unexpected circumstances.

School: University of Utah
Professor: Dr. Michael Holmes
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