Communication Studies (CMNS) 201

Introduction to Mass Media (Revision 5)

Course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Communication Studies home page

CMNS 201 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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This course provides an introduction to key topics, debates, issues, and theoretical approaches in Communication Studies. In this course, we explore questions of communication and map the contours of the field. We particularly examine the role the mass media play in society and the ways they are shaped by politico-economic and socio-cultural factors. Topics include how media policies, trends in ownership, production practices, and audiences impact our mediascape, with a focus on the Canadian context. We pay particular attention to how digital media practices are impacting these approaches, debates, and issues.

Course Objectives

  • To gain an overview of the key topics, debates, and issues in communication studies and map the contours of Communication Studies
  • To examine the role that communication and mass media play in society, with a particular focus on the Canadian context
  • To critically analyze media practices and media uses in our daily lives
  • To improve the ability to convey ideas through structured written assignments


  • Unit 1: Defining Communication
  • Unit 2: Defining Mass Media
  • Unit 3: Media Audiences
  • Unit 4: Media Policy
  • Unit 5: Critical Approaches and the Political Economy of Media
  • Unit 6: Cultural Studies and Media Representation
  • Unit 7: Digital Media and the Internet
  • Unit 8: Social Media


To receive credit for CMNS 201, you must pass each assignment and the final examination with a minimum grade of 50%. The weighting of the composite mark is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1: Media Log and Blog 15%
Assignment 2: Midterm Readings Exercise 20%
Assignment 3: Synthesis Paper 25%
Assignment 4: Reflective Blog 10%
Final Examination 30%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Shade, L. R. (2014). Mediascapes: New patterns in Canadian communication (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education.

Other Materials

The course materials also include an online Study Guide, Course Information, and AU Student Manual. All other reading materials for the course are available online through the Digital Reading Room.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the CMNS 201 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the examination.

Activity Weighting
Take home assignment 30%
Exam 70%
Total 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, May 31, 2017

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