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COMS 363 troubles

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Communications Studies 363, Professional and Technical Communication, is still a headache for many on campus.

The revamped COMS 363 replaced the specialized communications courses previously offered by many faculties as a requirement. This semester marks the second year of the program, which saw a striking number of complaints from students who are now required to take the new course to complete their degree.

Students from management, engineering, communications and culture, and science are either required to take the course, or for some, it is an option among several other alternatives. Many objected to the large class sizes, heavy workload, dependence on computer-based systems such as Blackboard, and reliance on teaching assistants rather than professors.

Many of the same complaints are still reverberating.

"This course was by far one of the worst I've ever taken," said one third-year Management student, who took the course when it was first implemented last year. "My instructor wasn't able to answer many of my questions, and class responsibilities rested largely on the TA."

The main fault in COMS 363 lies largely in the experimental nature of the class, as well as large class sizes.

"The structure of the class is not the most effective, but class size is the biggest issue by far," said Students' Union Vice-President Academic Laura Schultz. "Classes are just too big for the course to be helpful to all students."

The innovative strategy of blended learning, which involves an emphasis on tutorials with a minimized focus on lectures, has also been challenging to implement.

"Blended learning is difficult to incorporate. In theory, it's a good idea, but in practice, there have been problems executing the objectives of the course," asserted Schultz.

Schultz also speculates many students find the material challenging because it is such a departure from other course material.

"For many students, this course is the first time to be involved in a communications course," she said. "Students in Communications and Culture have taken other communications courses, but other faculties may have difficulty with the different material."

While COMS 363 continues to be a degree requirement, it is clear that some modifications will need to be made by the faculty to the course to address student concerns.

"In order for COMS 363 to be successful, strong technical support, better infrastructure, and greater manpower is needed," says Schultz.

U of C administration could not be reached for comment.

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