How does the communications program work?

This program is especially oriented towards the study of communication and how it manifests throughout ideas of media, culture, language and technology. The program is offered in English and French and differs per course and is structured based on three axes:

  • Communication, culture and society
  • Organizations and communication
  • Technology and communication


To plan your courses and view the courses available in the current term, consult the York University Course Website. 

For degree requirements visit the academic calendars:


COMS 1910 6.0 - Introduction to Communication Studies

Calendar Description:This course introduces the main sub-fields in communication studies and the approaches to studying them from the perspective of the individual, organizations, and society.

Expanded Description: Communication is core to our everyday lives. In this course, we explore key concepts and approaches to understanding communication practices, systems, and technologies from a critical perspective. Communication has been a key topic of study for several decades, and has been considered from the perspective of the individual, organizations, and at the societal level. We will examine the breadth of these diverse ways of thinking about communication and explore their significance in a range of contexts, from our everyday experiences through to our most powerful institutions. We will also consider the value of these theories for understanding cutting-edge, contemporary debates about communication media and technology. Overall, this introductory course aims to support students to build on their experiences as communicators to become critical thinkers about the role of communications in our world.

COMS 1100 3.0 - Methods in Communication Research

Calendar Description: This course introduces students to the major research paradigms and research methodologies in the field of communication studies.

Expanded Description: The foundation of all scholarly work is research. It’s how we generate the information that is turned into knowledge through thoughtful reasoning and analysis. Therefore, the question of HOW we generate this information is of paramount importance, as its quality and veracity is crucial to the arguments and conclusions we develop from it. The basic learning goals of this course are to develop an understanding of research methodologies commonly used in Communication Studies research. Students will develop a critical awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of these methodologies, and an understanding of how research methodologies are used properly and improperly. Students will also develop an expertise in the research processes and techniques you will be using in your own research projects as an undergraduate student, including effective library research skills, bibliographic preparation, web research, and so on.

COMS 2000 3.0 - Social Media, Marketing and Advertising

Calendar Description:This course introduces students to the study of interactive, mobile and immediate communication forms (Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc.) in the service of marketing and the production of promotional material.

Expanded Description: This course examines the relationships between society and the computermediated communication technologies known as “social media”. By presenting the way that social media may take different forms, histories and uses this course will demonstrate how they can be both used to communicate and to disrupt communication; to inform and to misinform; to tell compelling stories and to promote goods and identities.

COMS 2100 3.0 - Beyond Words: Communications, Languages and Media

Calendar Description: This course explores how languages and media interact in the making of our cultural realities and institutional discourses. We will make use of multiple theoretical frameworks to illuminate different aspects of this issue.

Expanded Description: What is the relation between languages, media and communication? How do changes in media affect changes in the construction of meaning and in the way stories and identities circulate? How do different processes of meaning-making (visual, verbal, sensory) contribute to the production of our sense of self and our social realities? How are such realities contested and/or accepted? And what are the institutional, economic and political interests that underpin them? What happens when media move across linguistic and cultural boundaries?

These are some of the questions that emerge when we examine the intersections between communication, language(s) and media. Specifically, in this course we will explore how such intersections take place constantly in our daily lives. Through lectures, workshops, presentations and group discussions we will cultivate our critical awareness of how languages come to signify in their ongoing entanglement with the technologies and the places that shape them.

COMS 2200 3.0 - Computer Tools & Applications for Communication

Calendar Description: This course teaches computer applications used in communication for an understanding of computer and Internet architecture, use of databases for communication, advanced tools in office and collaborative work, with a critical eye to issues like security, accessibility and multi-platform communication.

Expanded Description: Communicating effectively today requires an understanding of the specific role computers play in mediating our messages, from the use of simple applications to social media and emerging communication platforms. In this course, we examine the effects of computerized media to focus on both the technical and culturally symbolic aspects of emerging electronic forms of communication.The course will begin by outlining notions of media, and then examine, practically, new infrastructures for communication. Since technology always implies the skillful use of tools, we will ultimately focus on building the analytic and practical heuristics you need to become better, more aware, communicators.

COMS 2205 3.0 - Creating and Promoting Web Content

Calendar Description: This course teaches tools and knowledge necessary to create, host and promote a web site and its content, with the aim to develop skills to better bridge human needs and technological solutions.

Expanded Description: The World Wide Web is a an application that runs on network foundation, a development and media platform, and, of course, a ubiquitous source of information. At its heart, the Web is about content and how it affects people, and this means content in various media forms including social connections. Increasingly, too, the Web creates both the repository and reflection of larger cultural concerns.The course builds on the concepts and techniques explored in COMS2200, and focuses on understanding how the web really works. Like COMS 2200, we will investigate content technologies in both a practical and theoretical fashion. We will start with HTML and its associated technologies, and end with site promotion. Along the way, students will create their own web site on a topic they choose.

COMS 2902 3.0 – Idea, Opinion, Argument: Rhetoric for Academic Settings

Crosslisted as EN 2902 3.0 and MODR 2902 3.0.

Calendar Description: This course introduces students to the theory and practice of effective persuasion in academic discourse. Focusing on written forms of persuasion from various fields, students will gain argumentative expertise by understanding the history and written techniques of rhetorical communication.

Expanded Description: This course addresses questions by examining the long history of the art of persuasion—rhetoric—as the foundation for a satisfactory answer. The course will show how rhetorical writing heuristics are an important foundation for academic discourse, and how these tools help shape compelling academic writing. Investigating attitudes about persuasion through the ages, students will also gain perspective on why argument itself is so important in the creation and expression of academic knowledge.

Further, this course will also emphasize the practical construction of written ideas and forms to hone students’ academic understanding. Students will gain the expertise they need to express themselves more appropriately, effectively and successfully. The course will follow a traditional learning format, with the course being equally split into lectures and in-class group or individual analysis, along with discussion of various persuasive texts. Because effective persuasive writing is closely tied with close reading and analytic practices, the course may incorporate documents from many fields. A special focus, however, will be on key argumentative structures from various disciplines in the Arts and Social Sciences.


COMS 3201 3.0 - Beyond Borders and Bridges: Transnational Communications

Calendar Description: This course addresses implications related to communications, media and language in the context of globalization and increased international interactions. Issues of power relationship as well as theoretical perspectives will be in the focus of this course.

Expanded Description: All communication is globalized, circulating across borders and boundaries while also subject to local norms, laws, and practices. Coming to grips with these dynamics requires an engagement with case studies enabling critical reflection on relevant stakeholders, initiatives, and communities. To do so, in this class we engage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and their entanglements with communications in specific contexts across the globe. As part of their final assignments, students will develop a critical response to the application of the SDG in their particular context, making policy recommendations informed by their case study.

COMS 3202 3.0 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to Technoculture: Digital Discourse and Design

Calendar Description: This course looks at the delivery and reception of digital communication, focusing on effective visual and interaction design. A particular interest will be given to the ethical and cultural dimensions of design practices.

Expanded Description: This seminarformat course focuses on the ethical, political and sociocultural dimensions of digital communications technologies. Course readings will explore the implications of digital design practices, and creative workshops will provide a means to work through digital design issues on a handson basis. Through a combination of seminar discussions, analytical writing exercises and creative design projects, students will critically examine and creatively remediate digital communication systems.

COMS 3203 3.0 - Practices in Intercultural Communications

Calendar Description: This course focuses on the importance of culture in our everyday lives, and the ways in which culture interrelates with and affects communication processes. The course provides theoretical, methodological and practical insights into intercultural communication.

Expanded Description: From its inception in the American Foreign Service in the aftermath of the second World War, right up into the present, intercultural communication has proven somewhat enigmatic as a field of study. While the initial practitioners of this field were convinced that there were a few common traits shared by all cultures that could be learned to successfully communicate between cultures in an interdependent world of nations, this initial confidence would prove short-lived; it turns out that both “culture” and what it might mean to “communicate” between cultures has been thrown into doubt. Adding to this uncertainty, it is less than clear that in our era of extensive global flows of people, capital, goods, and information (and viruses!), that national cultures can be said to exist as stable entities. Despite extensive intercultural contact, significant disparities of wealth, power, and status remain factors that serve to make the assumptions of a seamless transmission of information across cultural divides less certain than ever.

This course provides an overview of the field of intercultural communication. Since what falls under this topic is quite broad, the course will present a thematic overview of different approaches to intercultural communications rather than take a single perspective. 

COMS 3208 - Can Theory Save The Planet? Emergent Ideas in Communications 1

Calendar Description: This is the first of two courses offering an overview of new ideas in communications and media studies. It examines the relevance of theories today. It addresses communicative issues in a context of activism and political transformations.

Expanded Description: Why should anyone care about theory? Instead of abstract ideas about media and communication, would it not be more relevant to acquire specific competencies and transferable skills? This course makes the argument that our current situation requires a renewed understanding of theory as action and of thinking as embodied orientation. Specifically, theory will be examined as a form of storytelling. This course will further call for the production of contemporary stories about and with the means of digital media. In this way, Emergent Ideas in Communications will also be about making ideas and taking creative action.

COMS 3209 - The Production of the World Is the Message: Emergent Ideas in Communications 2

Calendar Description: This is the second of two courses offering an overview of new ideas in communications and media studies. It examines how communication and media shapes the world we are presently living in from a variety of novel perspectives.

Expanded Description: Through an examination of a series of contemporary issues, technologies, and their social ramifications, this course advances a theoretical appreciation of our changing present. This course continues the investigation of theories of Communication Studies begun in 3208. It builds on the theoretical investigation of communication by examining a series of topics of concern to Communication Studies scholars in our present. Where 3208 was devoted to the topic of theory itself, 3209 turns its attention to the issues of the present moment. While this might suggest a more “real world” or more practical approach, this course also examines these issues through the lens of communication theory; in this sense the course should be regarded as cumulative, presupposing the theoretical framework of the first term.

COMS 4200 3.0 - Knowledge Dissemination

Calendar Description: This course examines the distinction between information and knowledge from the perspective of issues pertaining to processes of transfer and diffusion. The course analyses the variety of contexts and conditions of reception associated with a diversity of publics and audiences.

Expanded Description: This course examines the distinction between information and knowledge from the perspective of issues pertaining to processes of transfer and diffusion. The course analyses the variety of contexts and conditions of reception associated with a diversity of publics and audiences. We look at serious contemporary issues: femicide (Canadian, Mexican), the recent rise of white fascism in North America, the North American opioid epidemic and more as a means of examining real-life situations and knowledge dissemination contexts.

COMS 4201 3.0 – Fail. Fail again. Fail better. Mediations and Conflicts

Calendar Description: This course examines communication dynamics in inter-individual and transnational conflicts. It exposes the ambiguity of communication processes that can feed conflicts and resolve them. It introduces students to theories and practices regarding conflict management, especially in regard to mediation tactics and strategies.

Expanded Description: Apparent failure to communicate, it could be argued, is not always to be overcome, corrected, avoided or fixed. Just like the way an obstacle can expose the path it is blocking in a new light, incommunicability may be just the occasion to think about something that remained unthought. Furthermore, this heuristic nature of failures may have more to do with Samuel Beckett’s “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” than about Paul Watzlawick’s first axiom “one cannot not communicate”.

COMS 4202 3.0 - Tools for Everyday Life: Advanced Communications Research Methods

This course is bilingual (French/English).

Calendar Description: This bilingual course introduces students to advanced research methodologies and research tools in the field of communication studies. Students design and conduct their own research projects. Ce cours bilingue initie les étudiants aux méthodologies et aux outils de recherche avancée en communications. Ils conçoivent et réalisent leurs propres projets de recherche.

Expanded Description: This course builds on the foundations of COMS1100, Methods in Communication Research. We explore a large variety of qualitative methods and tools for conducting research in different online, archival and interpersonal contexts. The course also involves the development of data collection instruments and techniques for their respective data processing as guided by research ethics. Single method, triangulation or mixed method approaches are discussed with emphasis on approaches to gathering, analysis and presentation of data. Students have the option to build on work developed in previous classes such as Knowledge Dissemination and Contemporary Theory, learning how to apply methodological tools to theoretical frameworks to design and conduct a cohesive advanced research project. The class is highly participatory and will consist largely of hands-on seminars and workshops.

COMS 4208 - Dreaming of Electric Sheep: Emergent Practices in Communications 1

Calendar Description: This is the first of two courses offering an overview of emerging practices in communication & media technologies. This course focuses on trends in web-based innovations as well as on new forms of interpersonal and mobile communication.

Expanded Description: This course explores a range of emergent practices in the communication and media landscape. While ‘emergence’ would suggest newness, novelty, or wholly unprecedented activities, in this class we focus on contextualizing the complexity of the technologies, platforms, and practices that constitute contemporary trends in communication, linking the online to the offline, the digital to the analog, and the virtual to the material. Working from the starting point that nothing is actually entirely new when it comes to ‘new media’ or digital technologies, we examine the social, political, cultural, and economic contexts in which these emergent practices are embedded and what they maintain as much as what they disrupt. In addition to critical reading, thinking, and writing, we will engage in this class in critical making that allows students to tell creative stories about emergent practices in communications.

COMS 4209 - Another End of The World is Possible: Emergent Practices in Communications 2

Calendar Description: This is the second of two courses offering an overview of emerging practices in communication & media technologies. This course examines how emerging trends in communications and media impact our personal, social, and political lives.

Expanded Description:This is the second of two courses offering an overview of emerging practices in communication & media technologies. This course examines how emerging trends in communications and media impact our personal, social, and political lives. This first ever version of the class will dive into the field of environmental sensing – the use of digital sensors to interpret the world around us. We’ll be doing this through building and using a network of air quality monitors, learning about work/health/safety policy and working collaboratively on a project or projects to be determined.

COMS 4900 - Internship

COMS Internships are off-campus experiential learning activities designed to provide students with opportunities to make connections between the theory and practice of academic study and the practical application of that study in a professional work environment. Internships offer the opportunity to “try out” a career while gaining relevant experience and professional connections. Internships are completed under the guidance of an on-site supervisor (i.e. a representative for the workplace where the internship takes place), who in combination with the student will create a framework for learning and reflection.

The main objective of the Communications Internship is career education and personal development through a combination of work in a professional setting and reflective analysis. The student will spend a limited time in a workplace, working under the supervision of media and digital professionals. The minimum number of hours needed for the work experience to qualify as an internship is 120 hours, working either full-time or part-time. He or she will have an opportunity to learn skills unique to their field; they will gain valuable insider knowledge about their industry and meet the people who may someday be their co-workers and/or supervisors, gaining advantage in the job market. Simultaneously, the student will engage in reflection-analysis, thus testing and enhancing their personal development.

  • An understanding of how liberal arts coursework ties to professional careers of interest;
  • Gain insight into a possible career path of interest while learning about the industry in which the organization resides, organizational structure, and roles and responsibilities within that structure;
  • Develop professional connections and identify a strategy for maintaining those connections.