COMM 175 Syllabus

Course Description

This course is intended for non-Communication majors. Its purpose is to give you a basic grounding in interpersonal communication and public speaking skills and principles. An extensive body of research has shown these skills to contribute significantly to success in professional and personal life. You will not become expert communicators in one semester, but through a combination of exercises and class discussions, you will develop the tools to continually work toward more effective communication. You will also begin to recognize the importance of effective communication in family, church, and workplace relationships.


By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  1. Apply core communication skills and principles in a variety of roles and contexts.
  2. Successfully deliver a variety of public speeches.
  3. Take the first steps toward becoming caring, competent, and confident communicators.

Course Materials

You will not be required to purchase a textbook. We will utilize a collection of online readings developed by Communication department faculty. Much of our time in class will be spent on discussions and on fun activities designed to give you a chance to experience firsthand the concepts discussed in the reading. If you haven’t read the assigned reading for that day, you won’t get what you should out of the activities. You should have the assigned section read before starting activities so that you can participate and apply what you've read. There will be a timed quiz on the reading and, although the quiz is not closed book or closed notes, you will not have enough time to go back and read the material during the quiz. In addition, you will be asked to comment and reflect on what you have read. This will all be very difficult to do if you have not completed the reading.

Course Architecture

This course runs in fourteen one-week lessons.

Each week:


Most weeks have reading assignments and an online presentation. It is very important that you complete the readings (and presentation) and take notes of important concepts and areas that are most meaningful to you. You will be quizzed, make insightful postings, participate in group discussions, and summarize the most meaningful points concerning the weekly readings (and presentation). You cannot complete these assignments without completing the readings (and presentation).


There will be no comprehensive exams in this course. Most weeks will include a quiz on that week’s readings. You should complete the readings before taking the quiz. The quiz can only be taken once and has a time limit. Although the quiz is open book and open notes, you will not have time to do the reading after starting the quiz.

Discussion Boards

You will often be asked to engage with your fellow classmates on the class discussion boards. Among other things, you will be asked to express your feelings and insights about the reading by the designated day on the Calendar. You will also be asked to express yourself on at least three classmates’ posts by the designated day on the Calendar. You will be graded on your participation and the quality of posts. Postings in discussion boards should be insightful and designed to move the conversation forward. Comments like “I agree” or “I really liked your comment” are generally not insightful and do not move the conversation to the next level.

Group Activities

Many of the class activities are experiential and require participation with classmates. You will need to identify specific times when you can consistently meet online with your group every week. You will be assigned to a group of individuals that can meet at those same times. You must show up in order to learn and contribute to others’ learning. You cannot complete group assignments without meeting with your group. You will not be able to make up an absence in these group activities unless your group is willing to meet again. Arranging such meetings is up to you and the group, not the instructor. You will meet with your group through a tool called Zoom. You will also use Zoom to present your speeches to the Presentation Practice Center.

Public Speeches

You will have opportunities to give three speeches in this class that are designed to help you improve and sharpen your skill in organizing, preparing, and delivering a speech to an audience. This class is based on the assumption that human beings learn incrementally; that is, they learn in small bites, not big gulps, especially when they are learning a complex skill such as public speaking. For that reason, we will move from simple to complex, learning public speaking one small lesson at a time. This class is also based on a second assumption that it is not possible to become an effective public speaker without actual practice in the process. Speeches will be delivered before a group of your peers and before the Presentation Practice Center using online technology. You will make a final recorded version of the speech available online for peers to critique and your instructor to grade.

  1. Introductory Object Speech: In this speech, you talk about a subject you are very familiar with—YOU Its purpose is to allow you to gain confidence, become familiar with your classmates, become acquainted with the technology, and let us learn a little bit about you. What makes you tick? What is unique about you? You will accomplish this in three (3) minutes. You must include at least one visual aid.
  2. Informative speech: In this speech, you will need to thoroughly research a topic and present it to the class in a professional manner. You will inform them. Professional dress will be required. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions. You will accomplish this in five (5) minutes.
  3. Persuasive speech: Perhaps the greatest challenge in public speaking is to change the feelings or beliefs of audience members and motivate them to action. This speech attempts to persuade your audience to believe or do something they do not currently. Audience analysis, excellent structure, and supporting evidence will be needed. A minimum of three outside sources must be cited. You have seven (7) minutes.

Requirements for ALL speeches:

  1. Practice, practice, practice!: This is a class where it is OK to make mistakes. Perfection is not required. “Winging it,” however, is not acceptable. You should practice your speech many times OUT LOUD before presenting it to the class.
  2. Observe time limits: A crucial skill in any type of public speaking is keeping within your allotted time. Going significantly over time or under time displays lack of preparation and disrespects your audience. Unless otherwise noted, deviation from allotted time by more than 30 seconds will usually result in a significant reduction in your grade.
  3. Get your speech critiqued: ALL speeches presented in this class must be first delivered and critiqued by the university’s Presentation Practice Center. The Practice Center is a wonderful resource provided by the university. Through the Center, you have an opportunity to present your speech in a non-threatening environment and get immediate feedback. Your speeches will also be presented to your small group, and you will receive their feedback. Finally, you will record the speech in front of your small group and make it available online for the rest of your class and instructor.


It is very helpful in the learning process to put the things you have learned into your own words. Each week, you will complete a quiz reflecting on what you've read and learned. Your responses should encapsulate the things you have learned during the week. Include those things that are most helpful and pertinent to you—things you want to remember and apply in your future.


Letter Grade Percentage Range Points
A 100% –94% 777-730
A- 93% – 90% 729-699
B+ 89% – 87% 698-676
B 86% – 83% 675-653
B- 82% – 80% 652-622
C+ 79% – 77% 621-598
C 76% – 73% 597-575
C- 72% – 70% 574-544
D+ 69% – 67% 543-521
D 66% – 63% 520-497
D- 62% – 60% 496-466
F 59% – 00% 465-0