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Introduction to Communication Science

University of Amsterdam via Coursera


Since Antiquity, scholars have appreciated the importance of communication: as social beings, we cannot exist without communication. We need to interact with people around us, to make sense of the world and to position ourselves in a wider social and cultural reality. In this course, we look at how and why communication evolved as a science and reflect on today’s dominant paradigms. The course also extends beyond the boundaries of communication science itself, exploring dimensions of history, sociology and psychology. Join our class, together with people all over the world.

Introduction to Communication Science explores some of the basic theories, models and concepts from the fields of mass, interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. The course begins with a consideration of several basic models, subsequently progressing to the history of communication theory, linear effect-oriented theories, the reception approach and, finally, exploring theories on the production and reinforcement of culture through communication.

Upon completion of this course, students should:
• have knowledge of the history and development of communication science;
• have knowledge of the dominant theoretical approaches within communication science;
• have knowledge and understanding of the most important models and concepts in this field.

Beginning the week of February 16, 2015, you will be able to join Signature Track, a system that verifies your identity when you take an exam. This option will allow you to earn a Verified Certificate, which provides formal recognition of your achievements in the course and includes the University of Amsterdam logo. Before then, you can complete a “test run” of the exam. You can then re-take the exam after the Verified Certificate becomes available. For information regarding Verified Certificates, see"


  • The Beginnings of Communication Science
    • In this introduction to the course I will briefly introduce the field of communication science and discuss some basic models that will serve as guidelines to the rest of the course. Also, they explore the historical roots of the science of communication. I will discuss the development of communication theory and the evolution of the media landscape in Antiquity, Medieval and Early Modern times.
  • Technical Approaches to Communication Science
    • The linear effect-oriented approach is discussed and how it developed in the twentieth century. Evolving from a belief in all-powerful effects after World War I to a more nuanced negotiated effects perspective in the sixties.
  • Cultural and Social Approaches to Communication Science
    • This covers theoretical approaches that understand communication processes as social and cultural forces, as building blocks of reality, and a binding element of power in society.
  • Final Exam

Taught by

Rutger Graaf


4.0 rating, based on 7 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 1821 ratings

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  • Kristine Sergejeva
    I loved the chosen methodology for delivering this course:
    - Lectures were presented via short (3-5 min) motiongraphics
    - In addition, a wide range of suggested readings were available
    - Longer tests after each week but shorter - within each motiongraphic
    - Difficult and long final test, which could be passed only if you really followed the course

    In addition, there were great discussions in the forum.

    Conclusion - I suggest this course for everyone working in the area of communications.
  • Anonymous
    I enjoyed learning some new concepts about a practical topic that touches us every day! However, I thought the content often got rather academic, and the quizzes basically required that I reference the academic concepts from the transcript.

    My main takeaways from the class: 1) there are many theories and approaches to communications 2) things that impact communication include technology/medium and our own fears of social isolation 3) globalization & mass media influences culture & communication, but may actually lead to more isolated tribe groups (instead of fostering better understanding across groups).
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