curriculum that works around your schedule
Through coursework and a capstone project, you’ll evaluate communication practices in patient-provider relationships, health organizations and the media, and ask meaningful questions about their consequences.
All courses are 100% online and asynchronous, with no specific days or times you are required to be online. Each class requires weekly deadlines, so you’ll interact with other students on a regular basis and feel like you’re part of a program with colleagues (as opposed to complete self-paced learning). All deadlines allow you to complete work during your own free time.
required for the HCOM degree
must be taken through the Department of Communication
are required for the degree
Sample Course Schedules and Descriptions
Each semester, full-time students take two online courses for a total of 6 credit hours: an eight-week course followed by a four-week course, with a two-week break in between.
Courses operate Wednesday through Tuesday, with two to three deadlines per week. For example, a course module begins on Wednesday with readings and a brief assignment or paper due on Sunday, and reflections and responses to peers due on Tuesday. This allows you to fit courses into your professional work schedule and complete the bulk of assignments on the weekend.
Capstone Individual Study (4 credits)
The Capstone Individual Study is this program’s version of a master’s thesis. During this eight-week course, students will design and create their “capstone project” which will utilize all of the skills, knowledge, and expertise in health communication that they have gained in the past two years and apply them towards their own personal interests in the health communication field. This project will be guided and evaluated by a committee of HCOM faculty and other healthcare experts in the community. When complete, the capstone project will be something that students can add to their professional portfolios–a research paper, a webinar series, a dynamic presentation, etc.–that will help them establish themselves in their chosen professional arena as a health communication expert.
This course is offered the first 8 weeks of every semester.
Conflict Management in Healthcare (2 credits)
Conflict management is a fundamental communication process very common in health care situations. This course examines how people experience and manage disagreements within health contexts. We will learn about health communication and conflict within interpersonal, group, and organizational situations. Topics include conflict styles, communication strategies, bargaining and negotiating, group decision-making, organizational leadership, and third-party intervention.
This course will be offered Spring 2022 (March 30-April 26).
Cultural Considerations in Healthcare (2 credits)
This course provides an overview of the impact of culture on individuals’ understanding and management of health and illness. Additionally, we examine health disparities and challenges experienced by minority and marginalized populations and explore meaningful solutions to healthcare delivery.
This course will be offered Fall 2021 (November 3-December 7).
eHealth (2 credits)
This course focuses on the role of technology in health communication (also known as eHealth). Specifically, the course will compare and contrast features of older technology (e.g., telephone), newer technology (e.g., email, websites), and in-person interactions to better understand the ways new technologies are (and are not) changing our health-related communication. The course will use both classic and contemporary theoretical approaches to examine eHealth in organizational health communication, mass media health campaigns, provider-patient interactions, and health-related social support.
This course will be offered Spring 2022 (March 30-April 26)
Professions and Policy
Health Communication Organizations, Professions and Policy (4 credits)
This course provides background on the organizational features of the U.S. health care system. The aim of the course is to provide students with a comprehensive image of the context in which communication between patients and providers, health care consumers and organizations, and public health care messages are sent, received, exchanged, interpreted, and circulated. The course considers four aspects of organized communication and health: 1) background on financing and the system and organization of personal medical services in the United States; 2) the organizations and professions involved in providing personal medical services in the United States and their interrelationships; 3) learning about the U.S. system through international comparisons; and 4) emergent communication issues in the management of health care organizations.
This course will be offered Fall 2020 (August 26-October 20).
Health and Family Communication (4 credits)
This course is designed to familiarize students with current perspectives on the interplay between family communication processes and health-related issues. Using theoretical foundations such as systems theory, communication privacy management theory, narrative theory and family communication patterns theory, we will explore the ways that family members communicate about health, cope with health-related problems and influence one another’s health-related behaviors. We will also examine how different family relationships (e.g. spouse, sibling, parent-child) may influence health communication and health-related behaviors, as well as different mediums through which such communication takes place (e.g. face-to-face, online, etc). By the end of this course, students should be able to identify a variety of health-related issues which necessitate family communication, understand the theoretical foundations underlying differences in the ways families communicate about health, exhibit familiarity with privacy concerns when sharing or distributing health-related information among family members, and identify strategies for generating successful or beneficial health-related communication among family members (as well as recognize problematic communicative behaviors).
Health Informatics (2 credits)
Informatics is a broad term that refers to the use of information and communication technologies to facilitate information management in particular contexts. Health informatics is concerned with the handling and management of information in the delivery of health care and the management of health and illness, and the use of technologies to do so. It is an expansive and multidisciplinary field that encompasses (1) the technical aspects of system design and implementation in healthcare contexts and (2) efforts to understand how and why such systems are used. This course examines the contemporary healthcare environment, stakeholders in that environment, and the technologies that they employ to manage information and communication. We will examine the ways in which patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and others “work” to manage health and illness, and the role that informatics applications play in their efforts. Students will be introduced to the analytic tools (i.e., concepts, models) necessary to understand the relationships that exist between health informatics applications, the individuals who use them, and the surrounding context in which use transpires. Students will also examine pressing problems in the contemporary healthcare environment and explore how informatics applications could be brought to bear on them.
Impact of Health Information Technology (2 credits)
Health Information Technologies (HIT) refers to the electronic systems health care professionals and patients use to store, share, and analyze health information. Informatics is a broad term that refers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to facilitate information management in particular contexts. Health Informatics is concerned with the handling and management of information in the delivery of health care and the management of health and illness, and the use of technologies to do so. It is an expansive, multidisciplinary field that encompasses (1) the technical aspects of system design and implementation in health care contexts and (2) efforts to understand how and why such systems are used.
Founded on a socio-technical perspective, this course is focused on the latter of the two aforementioned points. It examines the contemporary health care environment, stakeholders in that environment, and the technologies that they employ to manage information and communication. We will examine the ways in which patients, health care providers, and others “work” to manage health and illness, and the role that ICTs play in their efforts. Students will be introduced to the analytic tools (i.e., concepts, models) necessary to understand the relationships that exist between health informatics applications, the individuals who use them, and the surrounding context in which use transpires. They will also examine pressing problems in the contemporary health care environment and explore how informatics applications might be implemented in response to them.
This course will be offered Fall 2021 (November 3-December 7).
Introduction to Health Communication (4 credits)
This course is designed to familiarize students with theory and research on communication in health and illness contexts, focusing on how messages from interpersonal, organizational, cultural and media sources affect health beliefs and behaviors. We will explore communication in health care delivery, health care organizations, as well as health promotion and disease prevention. Spanning multiple levels of communication, different communicative channels, and the use of diverse communication media and technologies, this course will demonstrate a variety of perspectives from which scholars examine health communication at an individual, family, professional, organizational and societal level. By the end of this course, students should be able to identify a variety of health communication topics, understand the theoretical foundations underlying differences in the ways individuals communicate about health, exhibit familiarity with health campaign strategies and organizational influences on health, and identify strategies for generating successful or beneficial health-related communication (as well as recognize problematic communicative trends).
This course will be offered Fall 2020 (August 26-October 20).
Picturing Health (2 credits)
This course explores the role of visual imagery in health communication. Visual images are powerful tools for communicating ideas, but can also perpetuate stereotypes or misinformation. Students will learn methods for analysis of visual images and explore a variety of topics related to the visual communication of health, including: historical representations of health and illness, diagnostic imaging, stock photography, visual bias and stereotyping, documentary photography, and visual research methods. Students completing the course will be more knowledgeable about and critical of the health imagery they encounter and more thoughtful about the ways they and their organizations use it.
This course will be offered Spring 2021 (March 31-April 27).
Provider Patient Communication (4 credits)
Communication is essential in individuals and their supportive others’ management of mental and physical health. People facing illness or trying to maintain good health face many challenges: making decisions about treatments and other courses of action, managing uncertainty about their future or the trajectory of their illness, coping with large volumes of information containing potentially conflicting advice, and responding to changes in their identities and relationships as a consequence of illness. Managing those challenges can be helped or hindered by communication with others (e.g., family, friends, and health care providers). This course focuses on three general areas: (a) communication and identity, (b) health and personal relationships, (c) health care provider-patient interaction. This is an advanced course on the theoretical bases for understanding social interactions in health care settings.
This course will be offered Spring 2021 (January 20-March 16).
Health Communication Research Methods 1 (2 credits)
In a world where communication itself is a form of healthcare, how can we know which communication strategies actually work? Most of what we know about the role of communication in health comes from systematic collection and analysis of data. This course introduces social scientific methods for research on health communication and health outcomes. These methods may be used both to establish a theoretical basis for communication, and to facilitate the design and evaluation of actual messages and campaigns. Students will learn: how to frame questions that guide collection of data; how to measure knowledge, attitudes, and behavior; how to systematically evaluate or compare communication strategies; how to effectively use data in decision-making about programs; and how to read and understand the expert literature on health communication.
This course will be offered Summer 2020 (May 13-June 9).
Health Communication Research Methods 2 (2 credits)
This course is designed to enable and promote a very pragmatic approach to data analysis, combining statistical methods that support decision-making with highly focused qualitative methods that provide deeper insight. A primary objective, then, is explain how to begin building a repertoire of techniques – both quantitative and qualitative – that can be applied in likely research settings. Students will also learn how to implement these methods, and how to interpret the results they obtain from them. A consistent goal for all is to build sufficient knowledge and skills to be able to conduct some form of analysis independently, and to know how to enlist additional specialized expertise when needed.
This class will be offered Summer 2020 (June 10-July 7).
Stigma in Healthcare (2 credits)
Stigma, or qualities of individuals that are “deeply discrediting,” play a critical role in producing and perpetuating disparities in healthcare. This course is designed to familiarize students with theory and research that will cover: 1) definitions of stigma; 2) how stigma is communicated; 3) how stigma affects patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers; and 4) how stigma can be managed. By the end of the course, students should be able to identify stigma communication in healthcare contexts, including the messages, behaviors and attitudes that serve to disadvantage individuals. Students should also be able to identify strategies of managing stigma, toward creating more inclusive and equitable healthcare.
This course will be offered Fall 2020 (November 4-December 8).
Successful Health Campaigns (4 credits)
This course is designed to give students a greater understanding of the theory, research, and application of health campaigns. The health communication literature cuts across a number of disciplines including advertising, communication, marketing, public health, political science, psychology, and sociology. This course represents some of that diversity with an emphasis on the theoretical underpinnings of several theories used in health campaigns. In addition to understanding the theories behind many of today’s health campaigns, we will also spend time addressing important aspects of a campaign including formative research, audience segmentation, message tailoring, and evaluation. In all, the purpose of this course is to introduce students to many of the leading theoretical frameworks in the health campaign literature as well as provide them with some insight into the nuts and bolts of designing and evaluating a health campaign.
This course will be taught Spring 2021 (January 20-March 16)
Required Courses for the HCOM Degree
Health Communication Research Methods 1 and 2 (4 credit hours)
Two research methods courses explore the variety of methods used in health communication research, including designs that are quantitative (e.g., using data from experimental or survey designs), qualitative (e.g., using data from observations, interviews, or interaction), or rhetorical (e.g., using texts or speeches as data). The goals of the research methods courses include developing skills needed to understand and critically analyze research.
Capstone Project (4 credit hours)
The capstone project is the final course in the program. It integrates knowledge and skills from prior coursework and experiential learning. This course enables students to demonstrate broad mastery of material for the promise of future employment opportunities and career advancement.
Learn more about the Capstone:
Students work with their Capstone instructor and two other committee members of their choosing to design an applied project that integrates skilled learned in HCOM with professional goals. Types of projects that students have completed include:
- Conducting an extensive literature review of a specific topic area
- Creating a webinar series
- Designing an organizational intervention in a health care setting
- Designing a media campaign, or
- Implementing a hybrid project combing the above options; or a “design your own” model of the student’s choosing