Model Syllabus

Welcome  to this course in media history.  This introduction and syllabus will help you get started in the course, describing where resources are located, explaining objectives, detailing assessment methods, and providing information about support and accessibility.

This is a model syllabus, so your instructor and / or course may take a somewhat different approach. Or you may be taking this course online through your university and using these instructional materials.   

Getting started   

1. First, we need to locate the main resources for the class:    

  • The LMS:  The learning management system  (Moodle, Blackboard or  Desire to Learn (D2L) is accessed through a web browser;
    • At RU, Log in using your ID and password at
    • If you are registered for the class, you will see the course listed.  If you don’t see it, please check with the instructor
    • This site contains quizzes, discussions, drop boxes and other resources for the class.
  • 1RevCommNewCoverThe textbook for the class is Revolutions in Communication, Media History fromGutenberg to the Digital Age,  second edition, Bloomsbury, 2015, by Bill Kovarik, ISBN-13: 978-1628924787 or ISBN-10: 1628924780, which is available at the campus bookstore or online.  
  • The textbook web page is located at which is also linked from the LMS site; 

2. To get started reading, download and read the first two chapters of the textbook, which are available at the instructor’s web page:   

3. Other assignments and information for the first week are given on the D2L site and also noted in the course calendar later in this syllabus.     

Purpose of this course     

1. Media:  Some understanding of the history of mass communications is useful for everyone (since we are all publishers now), but for media professionals, it is essential.  So this course is to help you learn about the who, what, where, when and why of media history.  The course (and book) are structured to take us through the four main technological revolutions in communications — printing, imaging, electronics and digital media.     

  2. History:  We can’t study history as if it were just a parade of facts passing by. We have to take an active approach, to be conscious of the questions we ask,  and  to think about the way we formulate the questions. History is a form of inquiry, and there are many ways to ask how and who and why.  So we will also be learning to use historical methods as we apply them to the history of the media.         

Structure of this course     

We begin with two Intro items to help us take an active approach in understanding history.  The first is a quick overview of historians who exemplify different approaches to historical research and writing.  The second is a glimpse at how historians have seen technology in general and media history in particular.

As shown in the Media History Course Map (above), after the Intro, we continue on a mostly chronological basis through  four sections describing the major mass media revolutions: print, visual, electronic and digital.  Each section has three chapters that give histories of specific media technologies or epochs.  

This gives up about 13 weeks of course work, which leaves another two weeks (in a regular semester system) for student projects and presentations.


Students are expected to discuss, debate and take an active role in the class, maintaining respect for all other students, the instructor and the study of history.

Readings and video viewing should be completed in time for discussion in class.

Attendance and participation is part of the grade.  You will be called on to discuss readings or assigned videos.Students who sleep or Facebook through class will have participation points taken off if they can’t keep up with the topic of discussion.  Which brings us to …

Laptops and cell phones during regular class  times are usually OK, although you should be following along or taking notes or checking media history information.  (This is a class about modern media, after all). Again, everyone should be ready to be called on at any time.

Exercises and research projects should be turned into the LMS system with your last name, the short name of the exercise, and the file format as the title of the file being turned in. (Smith.research1.docx).  Your work should also have your name and the short title at the upper left hand corner of the opened document.

Quizzes will be given in class and online. The online and makeup quizzes will need to be taken within a week of the due date or the grade will drop. Online quizzes have an “open book” policy, but the in-class quiz and test policy is closed-book, no notes, no laptops or cell phones.

Quizzes:  There is a quiz for every chapter plus one for the introduction (named “Quiz 0”). So the chapter numbers should line up with the quiz numbers. For instance, the quiz for Ch. 5 is Quiz 5.  This means there are actually 13 quizzes.


To earn an A in the class, earn at least 900 out of 1,100 possible points in these categories:

Attendance  — 10o points
Participation, book & movie reviews, web contributions — 200 points
Quizzes & section reviews (online and in class) — 400 points
Final project — 200 possible points
Final exam — 200 points

Other policies

• Attendance policy:  (N/A for online classes, important for live classrooms). Each class is worth about 2.5 points.

• Late policy: Missed deadlines mean a ten percent reduction in grade per week.

• Honor Code: By accepting admission to this university, each students makes a commitment to understand, support and abide by the honor code without compromise or exception.

• Plagiarism — Students who copy work from anyone else will be reported to the Dean of Students office

• Disabilities: If you are seeking academic accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act at this university, you are required to register with the Disability Resource Office (DRO).   To receive academic accommodations for this class, please submit your documentation to your university’s disabilities resource office.


Order the book Revolutions in Communciation   ($15 used, $25 – $35 new)

Weekly:   Read the chapter,  then respond to discussion questions and take the quiz.

Monthly: Watch a film about people in the media and write a reaction about the film. Deadline is the end of every month.

Semester:  Research an event or person in the history of communication, using contemporary resources in the newspaper / magazine database,  and then write a short overview or biography.   We will have several meetings on campus to discuss research projects, or you can drop by my office.