Summer 2016

COM 450 Political Communication 

Instructor: Michael Stefanone

So, there are quizzes (with attendance marks imbedded in it), participation, a project and 2 exams for this class. This semester’s COM 450 is harder than the previous semesters. Initially, most people got a B for this class, but later it became a B+. There’s an interesting story behind it so read on to find out! 

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Quizzes  are worth 30%. For this semester, we had quizzes at the start of every lesson, one question only. But he only gives you less than a minute for you to answer it. He will usually tell you what he will test on, usually a news or research article that he asks you to read before the next lesson. Occasionally he will test on content taught in the previous lesson or current affairs. Each quiz is worth 10 marks, even if you answered wrongly, you’ll still get 5 marks for your attendance. Sometimes, he will give some marks for participating in group discussions too to be counted into the quiz grade, so just be present throughout the lesson! I got 29/30 for quizzes.

As for the project, we are required to create a political campaign for a political candidate (choose 1 group member).  The candidate will appear throughout the campaign in videos and also the campaign website. The campaign includes the creation of a campaign website, and 3 videos: a 30 s video to promote the candidate, 15 s video of the candidate’s response to a recent event, and finally a 30 s attack ad against another candidate. Each candidate will need to take part in a live debate with other candidates too, but it’s not graded. So… if you’ve always wanted some attention, volunteer as a political candidate!

Anyway the project was fun: trying to create a website, thinking of info to put in, and how we should make our videos more creative! We got the full 15 marks; I guess other groups got the same too as everyone put in the effort.

The next component of this course are the 2 exams, 20% each,  40 questions each. Dr. Stefanone will tell you the specific topics that he will test on, and give an estimated number of questions for each topic. But the exams are still hard though. The questions’ options are very close, it’s hard to even decide which is the best answer. Anyway, he tests from the textbook, notes,  assigned readings, and even from his lectures (some of the videos shown and what he says in class). As long as you pay attention in class, that is already like half the battle won. For the assigned readings, they are research articles, so he will test quite a bit on the general results of the study, trends and results of the graphs. So make sure you know that well. Anyway, his notes are very brief and I feel that he tests quite a number of questions from the textbook. The textbook requires close reading; it’s a little cheem, so please don’t study last minute. I got 35/40 for my first exam, and 34/40 for the second; Dr. Stefanone told us that that is around the average mark.

This section that I’m going to talk about concerns both the exams and his teaching, and the materials. I really don’t know why, but I’m just kind of confused in this class. And I’m not the only one having problems in this class, though I know one friend who said the exams are quite easy. What I’m going to say might not apply to others, but it definitely applies to me. I realise that his teaching can be confusing; there is a ‘difference’ between what he said in class vs the notes vs the textbook, but unfortunately I always only realise this after the exams. There was one question where he asked us which of the following is an example of political bias. He talked about political bias in class, and in that section, he mentioned that when reporters choose to give more news coverage, it is because of a loss frame to gain more attention. In the notes, it is all in bullet points: – In news, candidate has drop in opinion poll, this event gets mass coverage. – Why?  – Reporter’s decision about what is news and bad news is more likely to be covered. So for that question, there were options such as loss frame, journalists giving more news coverage to certain politicians, etc. Of course the second answer was the second option, but at that time I didn’t realise it. Such a situation happened to me for many of the questions too. After the exam, I tried to check the textbook for the answer. I read the whole paragraph on that concept but I still don’t know what is the answer. It doesn’t help that it has huge chunks of text and countless citations all over the place.

The content from his notes can seem contradictory from the textbook and from what he says in class. Not sure if it’s the way the textbook is worded or because his notes are vague. Or maybe it’s just me. He explains A LOT of stuff verbally though, so it can be difficult to follow his teaching as you really need to be good at listening if not you’ll be lost. But seriously, this is the first time I’m so confused in class. I guess my classmates are confused too;  I often hear them asking their friends about what Dr. Stefanone just explained. They also told me the exams are tricky and they don’t know which is the right option. 

Anyway, it pays to pay attention in class, even to minor information. For example, from the 2 exams, there is 1 question each that he asks us about an article and a book he apparently mentioned in class. He only talked about it briefly; didn’t write it on the whiteboard or anything, so me and my friends don’t really remember it even when he provided the title of the book/article in the question. There was also a question where he asks ‘this example that is mentioned in class, is an example of…’ So pay attention to examples that he mentions in class alongside the concept too! Oh and he doesn’t like students who are doing something else and not paying attention.

Here comes the participation component! It is worth 15% of the total grade. He counts participation individually, such as contributing examples when he asks about current events that are happening around the world. Most people don’t participate of course, probably because we all think that we would get the full 15 marks anyway. Oh boy, how wrong we were! Those who did not participate, (or even if you participated, but he doesn’t remember), got 5/15. That is equivalent to an almost 2 grade deduction. One of my friends was lucky though, she got 8/15. Everyone was raging or even cursing because we didn’t expect Dr. Stefanone to give such little marks. Actually, now when I think about this it’s really funny lol  Anyway to be honest, he is not wrong in giving 5 marks for those who didn’t contribute at all leh. At least he didn’t give 0 right? So being kiasu kiasi Singaporeans Asians (there were international students too), my group members and friends suggested that we email him to ask about the marks. I didn’t email him because I thought I deserved it :p

I wonder how many emails he must have received lol (there are 2 sections of this class, a total of 100 students), but I guessed too many people emailed him, thus he got scared and changed everyone’s participation marks to 10/15. Everyone. Including my friend who got 8/15 initially. Seriously, this incident is really funny! #feelthewrathofasianstudents

I think I’ve mostly said what I wanted to say about his teaching. Despite all that,  Dr. Stefanone is still a nice Prof. He may be serious in his teaching, and sometimes he will say something funny about the content and tries to make it more interesting so that we won’t be too bored. But sometimes it can still be boring though. He is not the super duper friendly, informal type of lecturer though, if you’re looking for that.

My grade for this course: B+  With a final grade of 88.


COM 438 Nonverbal Communication

Instructor: Mark Frank

For this class, it isn’t that easy to get an A or maybe even an A-. Dr Frank told us that he would moderate our marks if on a whole, both classes didn’t do well. But at the end of the semester, he told us that everyone did well and there are at least 15% As (15 students), so he won’t change our marks. Lol I don’t understand how did people get an A for this class; the people I know all got B+ all the way to C+.

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For this course, there are 3 quizzes, 1 final exam and 2 assignments. They are 100 marks in total. Assignments are 15 marks each. For this semester, the first assignment was about finding 2 different examples of claims of nonverbal cues from the media and explain whether did the claim is correct. The second assignment was about comparing 2 different chapters from 2 different topics in the textbook and talking about the similarities, differences, and which chapter applied nonverbal communication most effectively. Though the second assignment is harder, both are still quite easy and he marks leniently too. Dr Frank told us that the average mark is 14. I got 15 for the first assignment and 14 for the second.

Next, the quizzes are all MCQs, 15 marks each, but 30 questions + 1 bonus question; if you get all questions correct, you’ll get 15.5/15. So it’s like 0.5 extra mark. And each question is 0.5 mark. I got 11.5/15, 13/15, and 12.5/15 for the quizzes.

The exam is also MCQs, 25 marks, but 50 questions + 1 bonus question. Similar to quizzes. For both quizzes and the exam, Dr Frank will tell you the specific amount of questions that he will test from each chapter of the 2 textbooks and also the lectures (this includes lecture notes too). He will ask questions about the videos that he showed in class or experiments that he talked about so do remember what you have watched/heard. Also, although the content from his lecture notes are based on the textbook (the one which he wrote), questions that he will test from the textbook are NOT found in the lecture notes. Oh and questions that he tests from the “Nonverbal Communication Reader” textbook are usually the main idea in each chapter or some specific finding  in the study. I got 21/25 for the exam. In total, I got 87/100 for this class. Could have done better for both quizzes and the exam if I studied properly, but something happened to me recently so yep.

For this class, there will be some activities at times about nonverbal communication, such as completing some tests to find out our ability to detect nonverbal behaviour, to prove some theory, etc. so it’s not just lecture all the time. I find this class interesting and what’s more, he is an expert in nonverbal communication, so do take his class if you want to learn more about nonverbal communication! He doesn’t have notes for this class, but outlines so that you can type out the information from the slides and also what he says in class. Please don’t print it out and write on it, you won’t have space.

Oh and although Dr Frank may be older than the other professors/lecturer that you have encountered, he still knows how to be funny. For example, there was once where he was talking about an experiment that a researcher did to test facial expressions, about getting participants opening some jars with unknown stuff in it. Dr Frank tried to demonstrate to us how it was carried out nonverbally and he also made some sound effects lol Sometimes he tells us some personal stories as examples, such as what his kids did. Also, he can say funny things that make the class laugh without himself laughing. One bad thing about his teaching is that sometimes he will mumble, but still, I can understand what he said almost all the time.

My grade for this course: B+


COM 231 Principles of Persuasion

For this course, you need a 96 and above to get an A, 90 – 95 to get an A-, and 87 – 89 for a B+. The amount of people getting an A- and A are almost the same. Groups who got As are just borderline As. Only 1 group got B+. No one got lower than that. I’m not sure if this course will be offered again, so I’ll just explain what we did for this course.

For this course, we need to be in groups of 4 or 5 and make a video each week demonstrating an example of the concept that was taught in that week. So in total, we have 5 videos to make. Each week there will be 2 – 4 concepts that will be allocated to each group randomly. For example, maybe one group gets Elaboration Likelihood Model, and another gets Heuristic-Systematic Model. But both groups have to come up with a persuasive campaign with explanations of other key terms in the video. Allison will upload a rubric stating what is required and how many points are allocated for that. It is possible to get full marks for each video, just make sure you have everything that is listed and explain well, if not points will be deducted. You do not need to include anything that is not required in the rubric. Many groups didn’t realise this and lost a lot of points.

Some groups chose to do a poster, while others did advertisements. For our group, it’s all advertisements and we made the video using iMovie. There are other groups who made their videos using powerpoint slides with just voiceover for explanations, then they showed their campaign poster/advertisement. For the first 4 videos, it is 50 marks each and 4 mins each. The fifth and last video is 100 marks, 5 mins. Total is 300 points and will be converted to 100%. For the last video, we need to do a compliance gaining study – getting someone to agree to our request, using 3 different methods. This means that we really need to approach people to gather the data, put the results in our video, and also demonstrate how we approach people, etc. Oh and Allison gives an extra 1 point if she finds that your video is creative. On the day of presentation, everyone must be punctual and go in front present their video; for every 1 group member that is late, she will deduct one point off the overall score. Our scores for each video were 44, 49, 47, 51, 94.

Allison will give pop quizzes when she sees that there are noticeably fewer people in class. No, not the kind that you are thinking of. We had one, and we had to answer this questions on a piece of paper: “What do we like about this class?” When we hand it in, we got one bonus point for attendance and another bonus point for handing it in. Those who didn’t come to class won’t get any lol

Allison also gave us 1 bonus point on the first day of class, and 1 more when we handed in a card with our picture and some information.

Teaching-wise, Allison is super friendly and nice! She likes to smile a lot when she teaches! She also tells us a lot of personal stories about herself, her family, etc. because she uses the stories as examples to explain the concepts that she is teaching. She reminds me a little of Amanda, but less strict and less cute lol. Her slides are very minimal, I feel that she tells stories more than delivering insightful content. Whether it’s good or bad it’s up to you to decide, but that’s ok for this class and in fact I enjoy listening to her stories. 🙂 My group likes her too. Also, there are not only lectures, but we get to watch movies in this class too! We present our videos on Monday, then watch a movie after that! The movies have some examples of persuasion and social influence: The Experimenter, Thank You For Smoking, 12 Angry Men, Mean Girls. Tuesdays and Thursdays are lecture days, but Allison would finish early on Thursday so she could give us our topic for the video. In short, Allison made COM 231 this semester a slack and fun class!

My grade for this course: A



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