This textbook explores the media, social culture, and the interaction between them. It is a free textbook on mass communication.
Type of Material:
A textbook in a course on mass communication, or supplemental reading/activity for homework, although chapter exercises could be incorporated into classwork.
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Identify Major Learning Goals:
Understand and apply concepts of mass communication theory. The goal is to complement any course related to media use and communication by outlining the “ongoing evolution” of media technology. The author hopes to present a historical narrative to the topic, outline the macroenvironmental forces that will affect its future, and inspire students to get involved in shaping that future.
Target Student Population:
Undergraduate general education or introductory communication studies course.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Although certainly written to supplement coursework, the text does not necessarily connect to any specific classes. Students seeking general knowledge of media and culture should be able to understand the content perfectly well. The text is adaptable to a wide range of disciplines, i.e. business, journalism, anthropology, etc.
The textbook is comprehensive, grounded in the discipline, and well-written. The text covers 16 chapters for a total of 761 pages, and incorporates learning objectives, key takeaways, exercises and career connections for each chapter/chapter section. It appears that the text is thorough, and showcases a historical perspective as well as a forward-thinking one. Various topics covered include: the evolution of media, how media shapes culture, the need for media literacy, digital media, inappropriate media use, and ethics, to name a few. The information presented highlights fairly recent events (at least up to the first term of President Obama), and utilizes numerous companies throughout the many examples.
The text does not list an overall table of contents, making navigation throughout the file difficult and specific content hard to locate. The instructor will need to design assignments, write exams, and create any classroom discussion materials.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This is a textbook, and as such it is meant to be a supplement to in-class work. As textbooks go, it contains relevant and fairly recent information, learning objectives, exercises and end-of-chapter assessments that can be assigned as a complement to in-class lecture/activity. For some courses, this could potentially be the class textbook, though instructor resources are not necessarily available. Due to its length, it is not a “quick read,” however the content is easily understandable and relatable. Information is often presented in chronological format, so a comprehensive overview is present. Each chapter begins with learning objectives and concludes with key points and discussion question. The material in the text builds progressively.
The missing table of contents makes this a less navigable text for assigning reading and/or work. Instructors would need to preview the entire book in locating specific content to use. This is a full-length text (761 pages) to be used over the course of a class.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The text is complete and has relevant graphics embedded. The appeal of this online textbook is its portability, the embedded links to additional information, and inexpensiveness of this download. Some students may find that this text reads more like a newpaper article or historical fiction than a “typical” textbook.
Given that this is a digital text, it could have included advanced capabilities not available in a printed textbook. It does not. In addition, it is lacking elements found with any printed textbook, including table of contents, index, and supporting teaching materials. Aside for the navigability issues mentioned earlier, the document is very text-heavy, with several text pages at a time with no color or graphic. Additionally the graphics are readable, but sometimes slightly blurry.
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