Course Syllabus [pdf]

Course Instructor

Instructor: Rebecca L. Cooney, MSC
Office: GOERTZ 205, Pullman campus
Office Hours: By appointment only for online courses
Messages: (509) 335-3911

Textbook & Resources:

  • Brown, P., Rodiger, H.L., & McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Make it stick. London, U.K.: Harvard University Press. ISBN-10: 0674729013 or ISBN-13: 978-0674729018
    • Textbook and Course Materials: (Available at the Bookie or on Amazon. Book is available in hardcover, e-text, MP3 CD and audiobook formats. Retail $16-30).
    • Please note: You can order directly from Harvard University Press. If you choose to order from Amazon, avoid purchasing from Internati0nal_Store ? I ordered a book from them and it came back with blank pages.
  • Additional suggested readings provided as links within the learning management system as part of the course schedule.

Course Overview

The Capstone (COMSTRAT 701) is the final course in the online MA Strategic Communication program.

Credits: 3 credits; Pass/Fail (S/U)

Prerequisites: Completion of COM 561. Completion or concurrent registration in COM 562, COM 563, COM 564, COMSTRAT 561, COMSTRAT 562, COMSTRAT 563, COMSTRAT 564, COMSTRAT 565 (Online MA Strategic Communication). Final semester of enrollment in the program. Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in the program.

Course Delivery: Course is delivered online, asynchronously through WSU?s Learning Management System (Blackboard Learn).

Course Description

Capstone deliverables are a demonstration of the student?s mastery of core MA Strategic Communication concepts through a comprehensive exam and professional online portfolio. Students are assessed in three core attributes: critical thinking, written communication, and creativity. The comprehensive exam includes prompts for students to respond to 4-5 questions, case studies or activities. Each response is open-book (not proctored) and completed individually (non-collaborative). With these prompts, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding and proficiency in the following core areas:

  • Research methods
  • Crisis communications and reputation management
  • Professional ethics
  • Persuasion in communication
  • Brand and consumer behavior
  • Multimedia content creation
  • Storytelling across multiple channels
  • Integrated campaign strategy and development

Course Deliverables

The course is broken out into four lessons ? each three weeks long. Within each lesson students complete the following activities by a single due date:

  • Creative Activity
  • Make it Stick Book Club discussion
  • Prompt
  • Portfolio Phases 1-4
  • Optional extra credit

Here are more details about each deliverable:

Creative Activity: As a way to further promote and demonstrate your creative skills, a series of imaginative activities have been designed to further enhance your ongoing professional development, quality of your online portfolio, and enhancement of your personal brand,

The Make it Stick Book Club: Interaction among peers is a cornerstone of the online MA Strategic Communication program. Through these engagements, students learn from each other, share stories, support one another, and create valuable and (hopefully) sustainable connections. The Capstone is run differently than other courses, but engagement and interaction remain equally important as a way for students to not feel isolated, alone, or unsupported. For this reason, I incorporated a book club model as a mechanism for student engagement and gaining new skills and insights.

Make it Stick looks at how people learn. Although primarily designed for those who teach, it is also instructional for those seeking ongoing education and enlightenment. In the spirit of motivating our MA students to commit to lifelong learning, this book was selected with the goal of helping each of you become more productive learners with tools and techniques rooted in the pedagogy behind memorization, information retention, and self-improvement.

To guide us in this process, I am drawing upon an existing book club created by Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D., Cognitive Scientist and Founder of and other resources including:

A team at Retrieval Practice created several companion tools as part of their structured Make it Stick book club including:

Student participation in these companion tools is optional but encouraged. For our version of this book club, we will work within the Blackboard interface to ease our process in interaction and discussion. Using the Retrieval Practice Book Club Questions as a resource, I have created a series of book club prompts and discussion questions that I feel are most relevant to the Capstone students.

Prompts: Online MA faculty are the authors and inspiration for questions, case studies and creative activities that validate a students? competency level in each of the MA Strategic Communication program core areas (research methods, digital marketing, crisis communications, etc.). Topics for each prompt are not revealed to the students until each prompt release date. Research, writing, creativity, and critical thinking are core attributes of Capstone prompts. Each prompt includes an overview of layout requirements and references, instructions, and grading criteria. Templates or outlines are provided and the use of free web-based tools in the digital content creation or market research is often incorporated. Students are not expected to make additional purchases or subscription commitments as part of completing prompts.

Professional Online Portfolio: Updated as of summer 2018, the online portfolio no longer places emphasis on students only displaying work produced as part of the master?s program. The professional online portfolio assignment is an opportunity for students to showcase their individual suite of talents ? be it professional work product, creative work, applicable coursework examples, writing samples, or highlights of special projects, volunteer work, or works in progress. It is their opportunity to feature professional and academic work, refine their personal brand, and share evidence of core competencies. The development of the online portfolio is broken up into four parts with distinct tasks and deliverables at each stage. Any student who already has an active professional online portfolio will use the assignment as an opportunity to audit, evaluate, refine, and improve their work.

Instructor Interaction

Instructor Interaction:  I am in the Blackboard course space regularly and have a ?questions for the instructor? forum set up on the discussion board that sends me a notification any time a student posts a message. I will respond to emails within 48 hours. As this is a balloted exam, students are expected to work independently on their response to each prompt. I will answer general questions and troubleshoot issues but cannot provide any information, guidance or insight that gives any student an advantage over another. Any commentary or input provided related to the prompts will be addressed in full transparency and globally to those in the course.

Where you find information:  The majority of the instructional content for the Capstone is housed in the WSU Blackboard learning management system. Students should refer there for announcements, discussion forum, information and support materials for deliverables and other information.

Announcements:  Announcements are posted on Blackboard regularly to help keep students on track, remind students of critical deadlines and provide them with helpful resources and tips and other information related to the course.

Course Goals and Assessment

Student Learning Outcome 1:

At the end of this course, students should be able to gather and assess strategically relevant information using analyses and research (critical thinking)

Course Topics

Evaluation of Outcomes

  • Students research and gather digital assets required to produce effective multimedia communications. All reflections illustrate the ability to effectively critique work and provide suggestions for constructive practical alternatives.
  • Students learn to develop multi-modal designs and stories using various digital content creation tools. All of the photographs, concept maps, spreadsheets, graphics, audio and/or video files effectively enhance understanding of concepts, ideas, and relationships, create interest, and are appropriate for the chosen purpose.
  • Students learn how to apply narrative and design principles to develop graphic design, vector illustrations, audio stories, and video stories. All work samples are clearly and directly related to the purpose of the online portfolio.
  • Completion of 4-5 questions, case studies or activities (referred to in this course as ?prompts?)
  • Completed professional online portfolio

Student Learning Outcome 2:

At the end of this course, students should be able to provide evidence of professional skills to develop communication materials using best practices and industry standards presented in the curriculum (written communication)

Course Topics

Evaluation of Outcomes

  • Issue/problems presented are considered critically is stated clearly and described comprehensively, delivering all relevant information necessary for full understanding. Students are expected to meet all the criteria of the prompts. All content is in the students? own words and is accurate. Students are expected to provide clear purpose and subject; pertinent examples, facts, and/or statistics; supports conclusions/ideas with evidence.
  • Information is taken from the source(s) with enough interpretation and evaluation to develop a comprehensive analysis or synthesis.  Student thoroughly (systematically and methodically) analyzes own and others' assumptions and carefully evaluate the relevance of contexts when presenting a position.
  • Students demonstrate graduate-level writing and critical thinking skills through the completion of five prompts. Students must use stylistic and sophisticated language that is precise, engaging, with a notable sense of voice, awareness of audience and purpose and varied sentence structure.
  • Completion of 4-5 prompts
  • Completed online portfolio
  • Participation in engagement activities designed to maintain student and instructor connection and add value to the course

 Student Learning Outcome 3:

At the end of this course, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of strategic, entrepreneurial communication skills such as managing an online presence, self and organizational presentation, and collaboration in an increasingly global world (creativity)

Course Topics

Evaluation of Outcomes

  • Students demonstrate creativity and innovation in completing the prompt guidelines for design elements. The final creative works within prompts are unique, effective, and compelling.
  • Students demonstrate the thoughtful exploration of purposeful research with proven accuracy, citing of resources and evidence of thoughtful and thorough preparation.
  • Students are expected to deliver prompt responses and online portfolio components that are easy to read, clearly written, and labeled. Materials and written sections must be free of misspellings and grammatical errors. All outline sections are expected to be complete and thorough.
  • Completion of 4-5 questions, case studies or activities
  • Completed professional online portfolio

Respectful Engagement

Respectful engagement applies to all course collaborators including the instructor, teaching assistants, students, secondary graders, and virtual mentors (reference (verbatim) Global Campus Online Safety:

Online collaboration
The essence of education is exposure to diverse viewpoints. In your threaded discussion posts, you?ll meet students with vastly different opinions and backgrounds. You?re encouraged to disagree with the substance of others? ideas and opinions but do so with respect, and without losing focus on the topic at hand. Personal attacks and inflammatory statements do not have a place in academic discourse. Please review these tips and academic regulations.

At Washington State University, netiquette is governed by both conduct rules and common-sense guidelines:

Conduct Rules

Your instructors will promote high-quality academic discussions by removing posts they view as disruptive of the educational process and alerting students whose posts have been removed that they have violated course expectations. Students who continue to misuse the discussion boards after a warning may be subject to removal of access rights, course failure, and referral to the Office of Student Conduct.

Postings must comply with university policy on the use of computing resources, including those regarding harassment and discrimination, as well as conform to the Standards of Conduct for Students. Students are encouraged to review the standards, particularly WAC 504-26-218, 504-26-220, and 504-26-222.

Netiquette guidelines

    • Be polished and professional. Write your post in a word-processing program, such as Word. Reread your post for spelling, grammar, tone, clarity, and relevance. After using spell check, cut and paste into your group discussion.
    • Treat others with respect. Encourage conversations by asking questions and explaining your position: "I didn't understand what you meant by this. Can you explain it more clearly?" "I found your argument unconvincing because..."
    • First, be nice. Before you raise a concern with someone else?s idea or work, first point out something positive: ?That?s a good point, but ??
    • Discuss issues or concerns, not individuals or personalities.
    • Be specific. Responding to individuals by name, commenting on specific ideas and approaches, and providing specific suggestions encourage learning.
    • Set clear deadlines that allow time for editing, questioning, and revising. If someone cannot meet the deadline, discuss how the group would like to manage the situation.
    • Use humor cautiously. Someone else may interpret what is funny to you as disrespectful or negative. Sarcasm and irony often fail to be humorous online.
    • Avoid using jargon and acronyms. If someone uses terms you don?t understand, ask for clarification. If you don?t understand the terms, others may not.
    • Avoid judgmental responses such as, ?That doesn?t make any sense.? Try phrasing it as a question: ?How do you reconcile that with what we read in Chapter 2??
    • Be tactful. Read your communications carefully, and try to imagine how they could be interpreted by other people. Be more tactful than you would be in person
    • Encourage others. Your role is not only to learn, but also to help others learn.
    • Be open to being wrong. Remember that you may be wrong, and there?s no shame in that. Nobody is right all the time, and everyone is here to learn.

Online Harassment

The definition of harassment includes a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. For more information, please visit the WSU cyberstalking webpage. 

Expectations for Student Effort

For each hour of lecture equivalent, students should expect to have a minimum of six hours of work outside of class. Therefore, students should expect to devote 6-10 hours/week on engagement activities, prompts, and development of an online portfolio.

Late Work or Work Not Turned In Policy

Students must complete all four prompts and online portfolio to pass the Capstone. Students who fail to turn in a response to a prompt or incomplete/unfinished online portfolio may receive a ?U? assessment for the course. Students may not opt-out of these assignments regardless of total points earned in the course.

All prompts are due by midnight (11:59 pm) by the deadline stated in the course schedule. Students who miss a deadline for a prompt are subject to a 10% penalty for every day the prompt response is late. If a prompt is not received within 72 hours of the deadline, students are at risk of receiving a ?U? assessment in the course for failure to complete a prompt. Similarly, if a student fails to turn in their final online portfolio URL within 72 hours of the deadline, students are at risk of receiving a ?U? assessment in the course for failure to complete the online portfolio requirement.

With regard to late work - please do not ask for after-the-fact exceptions. Some consideration, however, might be given (at the discretion of the instructor) if there are extenuating circumstances such as prolonged hospitalization, family death, or extended individual sickness previously discussed. In cases of documented university conflict, you are responsible for making alternative arrangements in advance and responsibilities must be fulfilled before the normally scheduled time. Please adhere to the stated deadlines and contact the instructor in advance if you have conflicts related to the schedule so concessions can be discussed.

Graduate Review Committee & Balloting

Although this is a professional degree and absent of a research project or thesis, the WSU Graduate School requires final examination and balloting for COMSTRAT 701. Requirements around ?final examination? are accomplished through response to prompts and completion of a professional online portfolio. Balloting is managed by a Graduate Review Committee -  a committee of three faculty members assigned to each student. More info:

  • The Graduate Review Committee is made up of clinical and research faculty affiliated with The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and the Online MA Strategic Communication program.
  • In addition to overall course design, management, and delivery, the primary role for the instructor is to prepare thoughtful review and assessment of each student?s response to prompts ? providing analysis and feedback against a pre-determined rubric designated for each prompt. The instructor is also responsible for reviewing and assessing students? final online portfolio to ensure assignment expectations are met.
  • The role of the remaining two Graduate Review Committee members is primarily one of support and counsel to the instructor should issues or questions arise throughout the semester as part of assessment such as suspected academic integrity violations, disputes or debates about assessment scores for prompts, or providing a second opinion as needed.
  • Final balloting occurs at the end of the semester upon the completion of the assessment of all prompts and online portfolio. All three members of the Graduate Review Committee will meet to discuss the instructor?s final recommendations for pass/fall assessment and provide written verification through balloting that students have met all requirements of the course.
  • Students only interact directly with the instructor. All communication with the committee is facilitated by the instructor.
  • Reference: WSU Grad School Policies and Procedures Ch 14 Professional Master?s Degree Programs, section E. Capstone Project and/or Examination Requirements

Tentative Lesson Plan and Course Schedule: See Course Schedule in left column

Grading:  See Course Schedule in left column

Additional Policies & Procedures

Academic Calendar

Please review the current Academic Calendar to become familiar with critical deadlines on your campus. Visit the WSU Academic Calendar page: and select your home campus from the drop-down menu.

Academic Freedom

WSU supports the faculty?s academic freedom, right to freedom of expression, and responsibility to fulfill course objectives that are approved by the Faculty Senate. This is fundamental to who we are as an institution. Along with these rights comes the responsibility to protect the freedom of expression of all members of our community, including students.

?As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly standards of their disciplines. They demonstrate respect for the student as an individual and adhere to their proper role as intellectual guides and counselors?They protect students? academic freedom.? (Source: Faculty Responsibilities section of the WSU Faculty Manual)

?Freedom of expression is recognized as one of the essential elements of academic freedom. On a healthy campus, there is respect for the dignity and worth of all members of the campus community and a concern for the rights of others. ?It is the policy of Washington State University to support and promote the rights of all individuals to express their view and opinions for or against actions or ideas in which they have an interest? The above rights exist in equal measure for each member of the University community.? (Source: Section IIB of the Faculty Manual - page 14)

At WSU, the faculty has a strong interest in promoting respectful dialogue in the classroom setting. Speech and conduct that disrupts the educational process and creates a hostile environment, as that term is defined in WSU?s non-discrimination policy (Executive Policy 15), is not protected. If concerns arise, faculty will consult the WSU?s Office for Equal Opportunity at 509-335-8288 or We aim to protect the freedoms and rights of every member of the WSU community and to promote learning about diverse perspectives while ensuring that students experience a safe, constructive learning environment.

Academic Integrity Statement

Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects all students to behave in a manner consistent with its high standards of scholarship and conduct. Students are expected to uphold these standards both on and off campus and acknowledge the university's authority to take disciplinary action. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010(3). It is strongly recommended that you read and understand these definitions:

University instructors have the authority to intervene in all situations where students are suspected of academic dishonesty. In such instances, responsible instructors retain the authority to assign grades to students considering, from an academic standpoint, the nature of the student action. Violation of academic integrity on any assignment will involve (i) an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) filing of case with the Office of Student Conduct, and per university regulations, (iii) inability to withdraw from the course.

Cheating includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration as defined in the Standards of Conduct for Students, WAC 504-26-010(3). You need to read and understand all of the definitions of cheating:  If you have any questions about what is and is not allowed in this course, you should ask course instructors before proceeding.

If you wish to appeal a faculty member's decision relating to academic integrity, please use the form available at

Academic Regulations

Students enrolled in online courses are subject to the same University academic regulations as on-campus students. Students may only repeat a course graded C- or below one time at WSU during fall or spring semesters.  Additional repeats are allowed from another institution or at WSU during summer terms or by special permission of the academic unit offering the course. Learn more at

Appeals: Student Appeals Process

?The Appeals Board is composed of employees who review a decision made by the University Conduct Board, or a conduct officer, that a student violated the University's Standards of Conduct for Students. When a student disagrees with a decision of the Conduct Board or a conduct officer, he/she may appeal the decision to the University Appeals Board.? ? WSU Office of Student Conduct University Appeals Board

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