Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
About RPIAcademicsResearchStudent LifeAdmissionsNewsTour
The Graduate School, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Office of the Registrar


Proposing Communication Intensive (CI) Courses

Faculty who want to have a course designated communication intensive should submit a proposal to any member of the CI review committee listed below. The proposal should include the following. 1) a brief memo giving the title of the course, the course description in the Catalog, and the first semester in which the course would be offered as a communication intensive course; and 2) a course syllabus showing how the course has the characteristics identified below.

Characteristics of CI Courses

The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee has identified the following characteristics as being essential for all CI courses.

  • Students complete at least at least two formal assignments; three or more are preferable. Successive drafts of a longer assignment, such as a design report or undergraduate thesis, may count as separate assignments. However, note taking, daily logs, or journals do not count as formal assignments.
  • Over the course of a semester, each student is required to compose, at a minimum, the equivalent of 15 pages (typed, double-spaced) of writing done outside class. In determining the extent to which an oral presentation meets this requirement, one rule of thumb is that it can take speakers approximately two minutes to present the amount of information contained on one page of typed text. (This assumes that the lines of type are double-spaced.)
  • Each student is assessed on his or her ability to communicate orally and/or in writing. For group projects, assessment of individual students might entail such strategies as the following: assigning grades to each individual for his or her part in an oral presentation; basing individual grades for a lengthy report not only on the overall quality of the report but on each individual?s work on a section for which he or she is the principal author; asking students to write an explanation of how their portion of the group project displays communicative competencies listed below.
  • Grades on formal assignments count for at least 25% of the final grade for the course.
  • Grades on the formal assignments reflect students? ability to communicate effectively as well as their understanding of course content. Invariably, instructors will want to use formal assignments to assess students? understanding of course content. But a substantial portion of the grade for each final assignment should reflect students? ability to display communicative competencies listed below.

Communicative Competencies

Rensselaer graduates must be able to communicate effectively in a variety of media (written, spoken, visual, electronic) and in a variety of genres (reports, proposals, etc.) Whatever the medium and genre, Rensselaer students should be able to:

Understand the context in which they are communicating,

  • Identifying the goals of and audience for their communication
  • Using their understanding of goals and audience to choose appropriate media, language, and content

Organize their work,

  • Establishing a clear structure or principle of organization
  • Creating effective introductory and concluding passages in which they identify their main point and set their work in a larger context

Develop content appropriately,

  • Displaying a clear ethical sensibility (e.g., reporting data accurately, citing sources of information)
  • Asserting and elaborating on claims using evidence and reasoning that are appropriate for their audience and their discipline/profession
  • Addressing the questions and/or topics that are essential for success with a given assignment
  • Understanding, and, as appropriate, applying principles of visual communication (graphs, charts, animations, pictures) in their written or spoken work

Edit their written work carefully,

  • Observing the conventions of Standard English (e.g., correct usage, sentence structure, spelling, and punctuation)
  • Observing the conventions (e.g., terminology and page format) of a particular discipline or workplace

Review Process

All proposed courses will be reviewed by a committee that is appointed by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee and comprised of faculty from all five schools plus the Director of the Center for Communication Practices. This committee will:

  • Determine whether syllabi for proposed courses display the characteristics indicated above;
  • Make a recommendation to FSCC as to whether a proposed course should be designated communication intensive;
  • Review all communication intensive courses at three-year intervals.

The review committee consists of the following faculty:
Humanities and Social Sciences: John Gowdy, Mike Kalsher, and Lee Odell (Chair)
Management: Chris McDermott
Science: David Spooner
Center for Communication Practices: Barbara Lewis

Assistance for Students and Faculty

The Center can help students with communication in a variety of media, oral and visual as well as written. In addition to working with individuals or groups of students, the Center will work with faculty in planning CI courses, devising assignments, establishing criteria that reflect the goals of specific courses, and/or annotating exemplary samples of student work for posting on course web sites or on the Center?s web site. Although Center staff will not grade papers, they will visit CI classes to explain criteria and will base their tutorial work on criteria established specifically for each CI course. For further information about this assistance, please contact Center Director Barbara Lewis (lewisb2@rpi.edu)or Lee Odell (odellc@rpi.edu).