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Fall 2009: COMM 491 [Social Media, 2:00 -3:15 pm]

Professor: Sharon Meraz (smeraz@uic.edu, 1160B BSB)

Office Hrs: T/Th 12:30-1:30pm or by appointment


This course is designed to expose undergraduate students to emergent social media forms in the 21st century. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the genesis of social media as it relates to technological development, cultural evolution, and political mobilization among citizenry in a global sense. Through weekly readings, students will be exposed to popular, different forms of social media in an effort to explore their impact on such industries as mass media, marketing, and public relations. Heavy dependence will be placed on exposing students to the exploration of these technologies in a practical sense in order to explore how these technologies are impacting the field of media and communication.

Course Materials

Two main texts are required for this course, both of which are available in the UIC bookstore.

–The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly (Paperback).  By David Merrman Scott

–Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Most weeks also include a series of supplemental readings, which will be available via Blackboard as well as the class blog (https://exploringsocialmedia.wordpress.com/). The majority of these readings are URL links. You are directly responsible for printing/accessing these readings. Since weekly summaries are required of all readings, you are advised to make notes on these supplemental readings if you are not printing them and/or bring your laptop to class.

Assignments and Grades

Your final grade assignments will be based on a series of components. Please note that we will be using Blackboard for grading and your grades is based on the following:
Questions: You are required to turn in at least one critical question on each individual reading before class time to your class blog or twitter feed. Questions on the readings are worth 20% of your grade and must be submitted from the September 1 class session.  At least 50% of these questions must be placed on your twitter feed, which must be referenced to the grouping  #newmediauic09 (more on twitter etiquette to follow).

Leading Discussion and Reaction/Response Paper: Once doing the semester, you will be assigned to lead the class in discussion on the assigned readings for the class session. You are also required to turn in a reaction/response paper to your blog before class time, which will serve as a repository of reading summaries for the entire class.  Leading discussion assignments will begin from the week of September 6.  It is your goal to stimulate discussion and encourage your classmates to participate in class.  Presentation time will be for around 25 minutes, and random assignment of discussion times will occur on the first day of class. Leading discussion is worth 20% of your grade.

Mid-Term Presentation:  During our class mid-term week (week of October 25), each student is required to present on his/her experience with the technologies he/she is using relating it to its potential impacts on the field of communication he/she is interested in pursuing for a career. More details surrounding your mid-term class presentation will be provided in a separate handout before the end of the second class week. In class presentation is worth 20% of your grade.
Final Project: Your final project is to develop a social media press release using yourself as a brand. Each student will take to the task of marketing himself/herself like a product, branding based on what your individual level skill can offer to a company or service. More information will be provided on how to approach this project during the semester. The project will include using your blog (which you will be writing to through the semester), linking to samples of your work which must include some/all of the following: photo gallery/video gallery/podcasting gallery; linking to your twitter feed (which you will be writing to through the semester), formatting your existing resume online, and ensuring there is a valid RSS feed for your social media press release on yourself.  You will be exposed to all of these technologies throughout the semester. This final project is worth 40% of your grade.

Attendance: Since this is a seminar class, students are required to attend all classes. As the assignments reveal, attendance is highly important to your competence in undertaking all class projects with success. In terms of grade assessment, students are allowed to miss 2 sessions without class penalty. Thereafter, each class missed will result in a 2 pt deduction per class. So, if you miss 7 sessions, you will lose 10 points from your grade (2 x 5). This can result in a significant loss of grade points so please try not to miss classes. All valid excuses (sickness, doctor’s visit, unforeseen circumstances) must be captured by the 2-session attendance rule, unless there is a death in the family (which must be supported by documentation), hospitalization, or significant illness (for which you must have a doctor’s note covering all absences during the incident’s time frame). Students must bring in all valid doctor’s notes to the instructor as soon as possible.  As a form of courtesy, please let the instructor know if you are unable to attend class for a specific session.

Participation: Students are encouraged to participate in class in a respectful manner.  Since the instructor is assigning each student to lead class session, some of your participation effort is captured through this avenue. However, the instructor will also be calling on students at random during each class session so each student is advised read all class material before class begins.

Please be advised that students are also required to be respectful of others during each session’s active participation.

Contacting the Instructor

Students are encouraged to contact the instructor via email or through face-to-face office hours. Students can:

  1. Email the instructor at smeraz@uic.edu
  2. Visit the instructor during official office hours. Office hours are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 pm or via appointment.

Class Etiquette: Academic Integrity Policies

Categories of academic misconduct are described at

at: http://www.uic.edu/ucat/catalog/GR.shtml#o along with penalties for lack of

adherence at:


ipline+Code.htm Students found to be plagiarizing or violating academic integrity

will not receive a passing grade in the class, will be reported to the department’s administration, and to the University Judiciary for further punitive action.

Such additional behaviors are also considered misconduct:

  1. arriving to class late (door will be locked within the first 10 minutes of class) or leaving early, including packing up belongings before the class is completed. (If you are going to be late or need to leave early, please let the instructor and TA know via email prior to class).
  2. whispering or otherwise communicating to a classmate while someone else has the floor
  3. mocking or jeering other students
  4. reading materials that do not pertain to class or surfing the Internet to random sites during lecture/ discussion
  5. texting or answering cell phone in class (turn cell phone off please)
  6. verbally, physically, or sexually threatening or harassing others
  7. eating or drinking in the classroom (UIC policy prohibits food and beverages in the classroom)
  8. sleeping in class
  9. chatting in class with your peer groups and friends (the instructor reserves the right to reassign seating if cliques or groups becomes problematic)
  10. doing homework from other classes in class time  (easy to spot from the podium)

Civil, polite communication is expected at all times.  Above all things, remember, you hurt yourself if you engage in any of the above activities. If this class is worth time and money, it is also worth your dedication for the 2 hrs a week that your attendance is mandatory.

Enrollment Policy

Campus policy requires that students be properly registered for a class in order

to earn academic credit for that class. In addition, students are not permitted to

attend any course unless they are officially enrolled.

College Course Drop Policy

Undergraduate students may drop classes during the first two weeks of the semester without prior approval and academic penalty. Thereafter, students may drop classes between the 3rd and end of the 6th week for a total of four times over their entire UIC enrollment. Please see an LAS advisor (3rd floor UH) or get an appointment (996-3366) to process a course drop.

Banner Enrollment

The UIC registration system (Banner) allows students to register for open courses during the first ten days of the semester. LAS policy requires instructor approval for registration in the second week.

Disability Accommodations for Access & Participation

All efforts will be made to accommodate students with disabilities. Students with disabilities who require accommodations for access and participation in this course must be registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Please contact ODS at 312/413-2183 (voice) or 312/413-0123 (TTY).

Syllabus Updates

It is typical for a course to have updates during the semester. All updates will posted to the class blog. You will also be verbally informed of all updates in the class ‘Housekeeping’ notes, at the start of each class. Please arrive on time to hear of all updates.


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