Module 1: We Connect Society

The first module of the Communication Science bachelor program provides an introduction to the field of communication science. It covers the basic theories that explain how and why people connect, which provides a strong academic base for the following modules. Next to this canon of communication theories, students will be introduced to social science research. For example, students will get familiar with empirical research, as well as data collection methods and measurements. Furthermore, students will acquire important academic and professional skills, such as academic writing skills, design skills, and skills to collaborate in an international project group. Based on the acquired knowledge and skills, students are invited to create a popular article about a global challenge. For example: migration, global sustainability, climate change, diversity and social inclusion. The goal of this popular article is to inform the general public on how to effectively approach current global challenges by means of communication theories.

This module includes four components:

P: Popularizing science

T: Introduction to communication science

R: Research methods & statistics 1

S: Academic, design & intercultural skills

1 Project: Popularizing science

In this module component, students have to write a popular article in small project groups. The topic of this article is related to a global change. Students can apply the theoretical insights they acquired in the Theory component to approach one of the global challenges by means of communication theories. Moreover, they use their design skills and their previously developed infographic (in the Skills component) to create an infographic for their popular article. This infographic is mainly based on data they analyzed in the Research component, which clearly underlines the link between the Project and Research component. At the end of the module, students also practice with giving and receiving feedback regarding project work, and they reflect on their experiences concerning group work in an intercultural context. This latter aspect relates to the project management skills students acquired in the Skills component.

1 THEORY: INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION SCIENCE

This module component develops the students’ knowledge and understanding of the basics of communication science related to three main themes: Changing organizations, Digital society, and Persuasive tech. First, the core communication science theories will be discussed in this component, and students will study communication in the context of how human and organisations interact with tech and what this means for society. Specifically, this component covers theories of, for example, marketing communication, media psychology, intercultural communication, corporate communication, and organizational communication. Theories and concepts will be discussed during meetings with the aim to apply and compare them as input for the individual writing assignment and the popular article.

1 RESEARCH: RESEARCH METHODS & STATISTICS 1

In this module component, the role of asking and systematically answering empirical research questions in social sciences is discussed. Students learn how to identify and formulate descriptive and explanatory research questions. It is explained that all carefully formulated research questions contain at least one variable and a unit of analysis. Answering empirical questions requires careful conceptualization and operationalization of units and variables in the context of various data collection methods. It will be explained which role reliability and validity play in assessing the operationalization of variables. In addition, an introduction to data visualization and descriptive statistics is given. Moreover, the issue of sampling and the idea of inferential statistics will be discussed. Finally, students practice with the description and analysis of data using the statistical software package R.

1 SKILLS: ACADEMIC, DESIGN & INTERCULTURAL SKILLS

In this module component, students are introduced to academic and professional skills. To begin with, students will get taught how to manage their own projects, as well as how to develop a better understanding for fellow students from other countries/cultures. These project management skills and this awareness for intercultural differences are important to effectively work together with fellow students. Moreover, students get introduced to information searching skills and develop the competence to critically evaluate scientific materials. These skills can be directly applied in the writing assignment, where students will also develop the skill to write a short academic text. Finally, students will get taught about the relevance of images and visualizations, and they learn how to create a professional infographic.

Module 2: Understanding media

Most of the ways in which we communicate with each other are mediated by (social) media. We describe our professional lives on LinkedIn, binge-watch series on Netflix, and talk about basically anything on WhatsApp. Such digitized interactions have a large impact on society, ranging from individual effects on the (inter)personal level (e.g. experiencing fear of missing out) to global effects affecting society at large (e.g. changing economic systems). Communication professionals need to be aware of these behaviours and trends to be able to react to them.

In this module, students dive into the small-scale effects of media on individuals. Students also explore motivations and uses of communicative, social, and entertainment media. While learning about the most important theories in media psychology, students will form groups based around research topics such as social media and happiness, persuasiveness of influencer marketing, and motivations to play games. Students are trained to be academic media researchers by performing a literature review, gathering and analyzing quantitative data, and presenting their findings on their chosen topic.

This module includes four components:

P: Effects of media use

T: Media psychology

R: Survey analysis

S: Theoretical framework & presenting

2 PROJECT: EFFECTS OF MEDIA USE

Students take the role of media researchers and advisors working to provide input for a policy debate through a quantitative study. Following a research theme of their interest (e.g., social media and happiness, persuasiveness in influencer marketing, or motivations to play games), students perform each of the basic steps of the scientific process: gathering literature and composing a theoretical framework (learned in the Skills component), designing and performing a (survey )study, analyzing the data (learned in the research component) and reporting on the study in written and spoken forms. This involves designing, performing, and reporting on results. The themes for this project are related to and learned in the Theory component of the module, including different facets of media psychology. Students work in teams to complete the following steps:

2 THEORY: MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY

In this module component, students will learn about the development of media psychological theories. These theories describe how individuals choose, use, and react to different kinds of media. This will give students an understanding of how media research has been performed in the past, as well as point to the future of the field. Topics that will be discussed include, among others, how media research has developed, cultivation of beliefs, media choice and selective exposure, media, identity, and the self, social media and advertising effects.

2 RESEARCH: SURVEY ANALYSIS

A large part of media research is performed quantitatively. This means that statistical tests are used to describe the relationships between measurable variables. These results are generalized beyond the people who were surveyed. In this module component students learn about survey design, data set preparation, linear regressions and correlations.

2 SKILLS: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK & PRESENTING

Before any data is collected, academic researchers need to know what to study. They do this by reviewing the existing literature on the topic. Students learn how to compile a theoretical framework that enables them to identify gaps in the research. After performing studies, researchers often present their findings at academic conferences. They describe their theoretical framework, explain how they designed their study and what results were obtained, and present their conclusions based on this research. Students will learn how to design and give an academic presentation for their peers.

Module 3: The innovation journey

Technological innovations are being developed faster than ever, but they are often met with resistance and doubts about their utility by society and fail before or after they enter the market. This is especially because innovators do not take into account the many possible forces that influence the success of their innovation. First, innovation projects usually involve many different stakeholders that have a ‘make-or-break’ influence, including competitors, investors, the government, and the general public. Second, the organisation’s corporate reputation is essential in the success of the innovation, as well-established trust in the organisation is likely to be associated with the innovation as well. Finally, unexpected issues happening in society might negatively affect the innovation, ultimately leading to a crisis that seriously impacts the organisation’s performance. Hence, whether innovations succeed or fail depends to a large extent on effective communication with relevant stakeholders involved.

In this module, students will learn about the success and failures of the development and implementation of innovations that may change society focusing on the role of stakeholder-, reputation-, and crisis communication. Students learn about the key processes of innovation diffusion, the different stakeholders involved in those processes, public relations, and crisis communication. Students will take an entrepreneurial perspective and set up their own company and are exposed to the many forces and challenges that reflect organizational life in contemporary society.

This module includes four components:

P: Stakeholder & reputation management

T: Public relations of innovations

R: Big data & text mining

S: Media framing & crisis response

 3 PROJECT: STAKEHOLDER & REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

In this module component, students (in a group) will set up their own company to bring an innovation to market. Preparing students on the possible future role of consultant, public relations officer or innovation manager, the project consists of several parts. First, based on the technology breakthrough, students will set up their own company while paying attention to identity management by addressing concepts including mission, vision, strategy and values. What is the identity of the organization and how does this match with the innovation involved? Second, from their company, students work on how to implement their innovation. Steps to take here include a thorough media and arena analysis that gives insights into all relevant stakeholders and issues involved. The next question is how to address the most relevant stakeholders employing public relations activities including reputation management. How should we frame the innovation to make it distinctive from competitors, but in line with societal needs? Finally, to finalize the project, students will look back on the project and assess their performance as well as that of other group members.

3 THEORY: PUBLIC RELATIONS OF INNOVATIONS

In this module component, students gain insight into the relevant theories in the fields of corporate communication and innovation theory as insights from both fields are required by communication professionals to facilitate innovations. Corporate communication topics that will be addressed include identity and reputation management, stakeholder communication, issue-management, media and framing, public relations, public affairs, corporate social responsibility and crisis communication. Innovation theories focus on knowledge development, resource mobilization, legitimization, entrepreneurial experimentation, market formation, the influence of the direction of search and the development of positive externalities. In the study material, all these topics are introduced. Students first read the essential information by means of the literature provided. Then, in lectures and workshops, they will be provided with the opportunity to ask questions to deepen their understanding. The aim here is to apply and compare theories and concepts as input for the project.

3 RESEARCH: BIG DATA & TEXT MINING

To understand the sentiment among the general public regarding their innovation, students are introduced to big data analytics. A wealth of information is available from websites, forums, and social media. Big data analytics are increasingly being applied to combine data from various sources, to represent the outcomes graphically, and to generate new knowledge about individuals based on publically available information. Knowledge about the practice and potential of big data analytics will enable the students to learn how the public and journalists discuss the innovation online. Students will study and apply the methods and the software that are available for analyzing online information. Examples of the use of big data

analytics will be studied and the strengths and weaknesses of the methods used will be discussed. The acquired knowledge and insights will be used in the project and furthermore tested through an individual assignment.

3 SKILLS: MEDIA FRAMING & CRISIS RESPONSE

Dealing with the news media is an important task for communication professionals. An organization can proactively approach the news, for instance to inform about a product launch or certain recent developments, or it can unwillingly be subject to news coverage because of a crisis. As a crisis can seriously impact the organization’s performance, effective crisis communication and damage control are essential: What should the organization do and what should it communicate? And when and to whom? This part of the module introduces the basic academic and professional skills for a public relations professional. Students will be asked to take the lead in a crisis situation. The acquired knowledge and skills will be tested by means of writing a press release; an interview with a professional journalist in a talk show setting in which the students act as a spokesperson; and a reflection on the student’s own media performance.

Module 4: Design for user experience

The possibilities offered by technology in today's society are endless. In the past, communication professionals had to rely on traditional communication strategies to achieve behavioural change. Mass-media campaigns and verbal communication were the tools used in order to influence both the general public and specific target groups. Nowadays, however, ‘new’ theories and insights from social psychology in combination with new communication technologies foster persuasive and effective interactions with targeted audiences. In the final module of the first year, students will be challenged to design a prototype of an app that will contribute to solving a societal problem. Theories on the relations between humans and technology, and more specifically on how technology can be used to influence human behaviour, will inspire students to come up with the best design. Further, they will be trained to communicate with companies that may be interested in collaborating with their team to further develop the prototype of a persuasive app. How should you inform and convince potentially interested companies to invest in your idea? At the end of the module, students will present their app design in a competitive pitch in a Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den presentation format.

This module includes four components:

P: User-centered design

T: Human-technology interaction

R: Usability testing & interviewing

S: Business case proposition

 4 Project: User-centered design

Preparing students on the possible future role of UX designer, in their Project, students will design a prototype of an app that aims to contribute to solving a societal or behavioral problem such as reducing littering or procrastination among students. They will work in project groups and the project comprises of several parts, that together form a complete human-centered design process with elements of agile working methods. After founded their imaginary start-up firm and deciding on which problem to focus, students analyse the problem and translate it in a business model canvas. In a next step, they will elicit and analyse user requirements by applying appropriate research methods (learned in the Research component). Based on this and on insights from visual design theories and social psychology theories learned in the Theory component, students will design a mock-up of a persuasive app aimed at behavioural change. This app will be subject of a formative evaluation with prospective users as students will test their prototype against the formulated requirements. Consequently, they will finalize their prototype and business case and pitch their final proposition (mock-up, business case, user evaluation) to a group of investors in a Shark Tank presentation setting.

4 THEORY: HUMAN-TECHNOLOGY INTERACTION

This module component will be focused on general theories and models on the relations between humans and technology, and more specifically, how tech can be used to influence human behaviour. This will provide students with the necessary background information to be able to design a persuasive app. Topics that will be discussed include persuasion by communication, social psychological solutions for problems, communication goals and modalities, information processing and information design, usability and user experience, technology acceptance, adoption, appropriation and domestication, media richness, social influence and channel choice, and accessibility of technology.

4 RESEARCH: USABILITY TESTING & INTERVIEWING

In a human-centered design process of a new interactive technology, usability testing plays an important role. Prospective users and other stakeholders need to be consulted and/or observed at several moments to provide the designers with information about how to proceed in order to design an app that meets the expectations, is effective and usable. At every stage in the process, several research methods can be applied. These are qualitative methods that focus on collecting in-depth data about users’ and other stakeholders’ needs regarding the to-be-developed technology and about how they interact with it. In this module component, students will be acquainted with a variety of qualitative data collection methods that are used in human-centered design processes, such as interviewing, observation and prototype testing. Strengths and weaknesses of the methods will be discussed, so students can make informed decisions about which methods to use at which moment in a design process.

4 SKILLS: BUSINESS CASE PROPOSITION

In this module component, students will be acquainted with agile processes of project work, in particular the ‘scrum methodology’. The basic idea is that each scrum week consists of one topic that is introduced at the beginning of the week and is delivered at the end of the week. The entire week focusses on the finalization of this week task (scrum tools and roles will be trained to do so). Also, students will be trained to communicate with companies that may be interested in collaborating with them to further develop their prototype of a persuasive app. They will learn how to inform and convince potentially interested companies to invest their business proposal. At the end of the module, students will present their proposition in a competitive pitch in a Shark Tank presentation format and negotiate a deal. The first scrum week is about the ‘scrum’ methodology and group assignment business model canvas. The second scrum week is about assignment requirements and finances. The third scrum week is about the assignment mock-up and design. The last scrum week is about assignment shark tank pitching and negotiating. In the last week, students will also start working on their project portfolio - individual reflection.


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