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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Philip Edward Howard
SIS 419
Seattle Campus

Comparative Media Systems

Provides students an understanding of policies that shape national communication processes and systems. Uses comparative analysis to identify both similarities and differences among media structures of nations at different levels of development. Primary emphasis on broadcast media. Offered: jointly with COM 420/POL S 468.

Class description

This is a course about how information and communication technologies are used to help solve social problems in developing countries. Students will be involved in original research through a group project—publication of the 2008 World Information Access Report by the end of week 9 of term. After two successful years of producing this report for policy makers at the World Bank, UN and international lending agencies, the project now has funding support from the National Science Foundation. This means that our class will have access to significant design and outreach resources.

Coursework is centered around the production of this report, which will include comparative data tables and chapters on key global cities or themes of interest to the students. This class is all about researching and writing in teams, so if you already know you don’t like team projects, don’t take this class.

This course will be run as a workshop. Students are encouraged to share their critical insights on development and communication so as to help all of us understand specific theoretical questions about the relationship between cultures, communication and development. This class has several specific goals:

• to understand the role of new media communication tools in local, national, and regional development; • to understand core development theories of modernization, dependency and underdevelopment; • to practice collecting and analyzing raw data, producing accessible research material, and managing relationships with news media and development practitioners; • to apply the comparative method, critical theories of development, and team learning skills through group projects. Although this course has no formal prerequisites, students with several courses in communication, international studies, or political science will be best prepared for the pace and expectations of this course. Overseas travel experience, or the ability to read and write in other languages, will make students especially valuable.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This class will run as a workshop. Much of the class time will be spent in small groups. These small working committees will change frequently as we move through different phases of gathering data, creating table and text content, and promoting our findings. We will often talk about current events in class, so you should start listening for news items related to course topics. Each class will probably start off with people sharing relevant clippings or news stories read (New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Economist Magazine recommended) or heard (NPR or BBC recommended) during the week. Students will be responsible for generating content ideas during our meetings, for constructing the website, for publicizing our research findings, and for representing our project to public. E-mail will be used to conduct class business and carry on debates outside of class time. Since irregular attendance will disrupt our learning community, unexplained absences will affect your grade.

This class has almost no required reading, but students will still be expected to work about 10 hours per week on our project. Class time will provide 4 hours a week to for meetings with your group, editing each other’s work, and conferring with the instructor. This is a service education class where the goal is to learn about how information technologies are used to solve social problems in developing countries, and to produce a research resource for journalists, development practitioners, and the public.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

All group work. Only take this class if you are good working in teams. Most work outside the university occurs in teams anyway.

There are no quizzes, mid-term exams or final exams in this course. The final grade will have a component determined by peer evaluation (25%), a participation component determined by the instructor (25%), and external assessment of our final report. The peer evaluations will be run every two weeks, and each person will evaluate the people they have been working closely with. Finally, there will be an evaluation of our report at the end of the quarter, by an outside panel of experts in development communication. This committee will grade the project, and the grade they assign will count towards everyone’s final grade. In other words, if the website gets a 3.8, then that grade will contribute to every student’s overall grade. Early in the quarter, students as a group will define the standards by which they want their project graded by the external reviewers.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Philip Edward Howard
Date: 10/30/2007