Spring 2023 Communications Course Offerings
Please note that courses offered by the Communications program rotate each semester. The list below covers only spring 2023.
COMM 001: Newspaper Practicum
Through this class, students will work as reporters, photographers, editors, and advertising representatives to publish the Altoona Collegiate Review newspaper online and for circulation throughout campus. Reporters are assigned beats as with a regular newspaper and are responsible for finding leads and generating stories. Photographers handle both photo assignments from writers and enterprise assignments that they develop on their own. Editors copy-edit stories and design pages. Ad representatives sell advertising to community businesses and/or organizations to support the cost of the publication. This is modeled after working newspapers, and there is a strong emphasis on teamwork. Note: Students are urged to either have already taken COMM 260W or to be enrolled concurrently with this course.
COMM 100N: Mass Media and Society
Mass Media and Society is an overview of the interaction between mass media, society and culture, with particular attention paid to the social influences that shape media messages. The aim of this course is to help students understand the role of mass media in our society. During the semester, we cover a wide range of topics, including the historical development of the media industries, media technologies, media research, audience reception, economies of mass communication, textual analysis, media and politics, and media and law. Since mass media plays such a crucial role in our society, it is important to understand its influence, how it is produced, and who controls its production, distribution and exhibition in order to improve one’s media literacy skills. By the end of the semester you will have a better understanding of the forces that affect what you read, see and hear everyday. By better understanding the ways in which media work, the hope is that by the end of this semester you are more informed and critical media producers and consumers.
COMM 110: Media and Democracy
This course seeks to introduce students to the important role of the mass media in developing conceptions of democracy and democratic participation in contemporary societies. Utilizing current events, popular culture and the students' own relationship to media as the template, this course is designed to stimulate student thinking about the interrelationship between the dynamics of US culture, news, politics, and civil society in order to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of what civic engagement and global awareness can do towards nurturing democracy's principles and practices.
COMM 150N: The Art of the Cinema
The primary goal of this course is to help students gain an understanding of film as a medium, an art form, a business, and a key part of popular culture. Main topics include: learning the formal elements and techniques of film making; the emergence of cinema as an institution and business; the global dominance of Hollywood cinema; the history and development of American film as a business and an art form; analysis of film genres; the study of important forms of world cinema; the study and application of basic theories of film; the introduction of film aesthetics; and alternative approaches to film making. Class activities will focus on readings, film showings, short film clips, short lectures and discussions. The core purpose of the course is to make film viewing a conscious, critical and analytic activity.
COMM 215: Basic Photography for Communications
An introduction to photography as a means of visual communication in the digital age. Students will learn basic picture-taking principles, camera techniques, photographic aesthetics, and the use of digital imaging software. Students will be encouraged to explore photography as an aesthetic, expressive, and socially significant medium. This will be achieved through individual and group critique of each student's photographs, as well as through analysis of examples of the work of prominent photographers. Students will complete a series of assignments that help them learn to produce visual content for a digitally savvy audience. At the end of the semester, students will be able to produce story-telling images as well as write captions for their photographs. They will have a knowledge of the aesthetics of photography, will understand the importance of both form and content, and will have the ability to critically evaluate photographs.
COMM 242: Basic Video/Film Production
Learn basic video production using digital cameras and the latest nonlinear editing software. This course includes camera and lighting basics, shooting techniques and editing principles. Prerequisite: COMM 150.
COMM 260W: News Writing
This course helps beginning journalists learn how to write a news story, from determining what is news, to figuring out who the sources are, to formulating questions to ask, to putting it all together in a cohesive, understandable fashion aimed at the reader or listener. Students learn proper techniques for print, broadcast and online new outlets and learn the differences between news and feature writing. There is a strong emphasis on spelling, grammar, and Associated Press style (the industry standard). Class discussions and critique sessions of fellow students’ work help students hone their own skills throughout the term. Prerequisite: ENGL 15 or 30 (also COMM 160 for Bellisario/UP pre-majors only).
COMM 270: Multimedia Production
This course explores the theory and practice of multimedia communications through personal portfolio and multimedia projects. Students will use web authoring and image editing software to create personal web pages as virtual galleries of their written and/or visual work. This course will emphasize the principles of effective multimedia communication and will help students develop professional multimedia skills working as team members on a project for a client. Note: It is strongly recommended that students have a basic knowledge of Macintosh-based systems and a working knowledge of one of the following areas: writing, video, graphic arts production, print production or still photography. We’ll be using several software packages, including Photoshop, Premiere, and Dreamweaver.
COMM 370: Introduction to Public Relations
This survey course provides students with a foundation for understanding the role and function of public relations and public opinion in American society, business and industry. Students learn how individuals, interest groups, organizations, corporations and politicians monitor and analyze public attitudes, opinions and issues that impact individual citizens, groups, organizations, institutions, and society. Students examine public relations from a historical perspective and study important social campaigns that have laid the groundwork for public relations in the modern era. The course helps students develop an understanding of the history, structure, and functions of public relations, the tools used to carry out public relations, ethics in public relations, and legal framework adhered to by public relations practitioners. Students are also shown why individual as well as institutional credibility is critical to public relations practice. Prerequisite: Third-semester standing.
COMM 401: Mass Media in History
Relationship of news media to social, economic, and political developments in the Western world. This course counts for 400-level Theory credit in the COMAL major.
COMM 421W: Advertising Creative Strategies
This course is designed to provide students with an overview of the intellectual and practical skills involved with the development of advertising creative work. Students are introduced to research and strategies that lead to creative ideas and are provided with computer software to facilitate the execution of advertising based on their ideas. The course requires students to complete creative projects. Before developing advertising, students will be expected to research the product, service or idea that constitutes the creative project. They will gain an understanding of the kinds of information most valuable to creative professionals and be provided with an overview of research strategies leading to the discovery of such information. By semester's end, each student will be expected to submit a final portfolio that demonstrates proficiency in the subject matter covered by the course. Prerequisite: COMM 320. This course counts for 400-level Application credit in the COMAL major.
COMM 470A: Convergent Media News Service: Newspaper
COMM 470C: Convergent Media News Service: Multimedia and Online Publications
These advanced courses are unique to Penn State Altoona's Communication major and give students opportunities to choose a primary media format, either The Collegiate Review newspaper or the Live Wire multimedia online magazine. Students in each section will work primarily in their chosen format but will also reformat some of their work in a secondary media format, either the newspaper or the online magazine. The courses give students experience in crossing between media formats, an important skill in our convergent media world. They also provide publication opportunities for portfolio and a chance to participate in a cutting-edge media service. Prerequisite: COMM 260W and at least one 400-level Application course in the COMAL major; for 470C, also COMM 270.
COMM 490A: Convergent Media Seminar
This class has the dual purpose of preparing students for the Communications job market and of providing them with the opportunity to critically examine and articulate their understandings of the effects of media on society. In addition students are challenged to examine the ethical responsibilities they have as media practitioners. Besides readings, papers, and discussions, students work on portfolios and resumes to prepare for the job market and/or do research projects and plan for entrance into graduate school for further study in Communications. Prerequisites: Seventh- or eighth-semester standing and 3 credits of COMM 470.