Public Interest Communication Curriculum

The online Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in Public Interest Communication includes 36 credit hours: 33 hours of coursework plus three final credits in the capstone course.

Unique Learning Experience

  • Students generally take 1-3 classes per semester.
  • The fall and spring semesters are 16 weeks and the summer semester is 13 weeks. All courses follow the traditional UF Academic Calendar.
  • Full-time students can complete the curriculum in under two years.
  • All classes are online with recorded lectures, allowing students to view classes at their pace during the week.
  • Each week, students must meet weekly objectives and complete assignments.

Core Courses (21 credits)

Introduction to Public Interest Communication (3)
This course covers the history of public interest communications, its role in driving change, the strategic planning process, the six spheres in which effective social change communications campaigns work, and the roles of branding, storytelling, and empathy. Students will learn to use media, policy, social marketing, activism and communities of influence to drive change.

Public Interest Communication Theory, Scholarship and Strategy (3)
Provides an understanding of interdisciplinary social science theories and their application to the strategic planning process of PIC campaigns. The course includes an overview of scholarship relevant to the field and helps students acquire the ability to identify new scholarship and apply it effectively through the development of communications strategy. Emphasis is on applying theory to specific campaign contexts involving public interest issues such as health, the environment, and social justice.

The Art and Science of Storytelling (3)
Learn the techniques and structure of effective storytelling and navigate the growing pool of research that shows how stories and narrative structure affect our brains. We will review and experiment with new approaches to storytelling to help you build stories that can drive belief and behavior change.

Visual Design for Social Change (3)
In a course based on recent breakthroughs in neuroscience that help us understand the relationship between imagery and emotion, students will learn the role that graphic design, photography, video storytelling and virtual reality play in building empathy and developing memorable messages.

Measuring Change: Research, Polling and Evaluation (3)
Funders, policymakers, and the public often want to know if a campaign “worked” in the past or will work in the future. Evaluation affords us the opportunity to answer those questions with some certainty, rather than simply guessing or assuming based on anecdotal experience. This course takes a broad look at the role of research and evaluation in strategic communication campaigns and provides a foundation and tactics for working productively with evaluators. Students will become familiar with evaluation phases (formative, monitoring, and summative) and the types of research designs that evaluators use to measure campaign impact. We will consider why evaluation is ultimately important to successful campaigns and establish a set of tools for conducting and leveraging research as part of strategic communication practice.

Developing a Public Interest Communications Approach to Strategic Communication (3)
Coming up with a strategic communications plan doesn’t have to require a staff retreat, hundreds of hours of work and the production of a 15-chapter manual that is obsolete by the time it’s written. Focusing on making the right decisions in the right sequence and with the right perspective can make a difference in helping you gain traction for your work. This course will give you a framework that leverages systems thinking to allow you to develop the right strategy to effect change.

Capstone (3)
By working in teams to complete marketing challenges, you will gain experience in the planning and execution of digital marketing campaigns, which will include measuring, reporting and presenting the results of your efforts.

Electives (15 credits)

Choose your electives from the following or from any of our other Master of Arts in Mass Communications specializations programs

Social Media Management (3)
This course teaches students to use social media strategically to create value for a client or organization. An emphasis is placed on strategic collaboration, tactical execution, and measurement of social media efforts. Students will learn by doing in assignments focused on social media strategy and tactics, content planning and creation, paid social, management and measurement tools, and crisis management. The course will cover blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and an array of niche social media platforms.

Brand Management (3)
This course is organized around the brand management decisions that must be made to build, measure, and manage brand equity. The course will begin with an overview of the content and context of brand management decisions to provide the “big picture” for the course. Next, students will discuss the strategies and tactics for building and measuring brand equity. Specifically, students will address direct and indirect measures of brand equity, brand positioning and its marketing value, as well as approaches in choosing brand elements and developing supporting marketing programs. The last phase will focus on the management of brand equity, including the introduction of new products, corporate perspectives, and brand management over time and geographical boundaries. A variety of journal articles will be presented throughout the semester to broaden students’ understanding of the fundamental theories and important issues in brand management.

Social Media and Emerging Technology (3)
This course offers an introduction to gamification, as well as the research, education, enterprise, and marketing uses of mobile games, virtual and augmented reality, social media games, and virtual environments. Students will study the successes, failures, and uses of these technologies, particularly as they relate to marketing, branding, education, and business. Additionally, students will research ethical and sociological issues associated with these technologies and analyze the uses for a variety of settings and purposes.

Each week, students will study real-world examples of major brands and organizations using these technologies in a variety of ways. Among others, course assignments will include: drafting marketing plans using these emerging technologies, reviewing current campaigns; and overcoming hypothetical obstacles and issues in these campaigns.

Digital Layout and Design (3)
This course introduces students to the skills and concepts that will help create documents for both print and interactivity. Using Adobe InDesign, students will apply their understanding of color, type, layout, and design to create a portfolio project. While InDesign permits several possible workflows, this course will focus on those that most readily translate into digital design.

Mass Communication Theory (3)
Over the course of a semester, students will learn about mass communication theory from its inception as a field of study to major trends, followed by current applications of previous paradigms, and finally into the development of new currents of thought. While the main focus of this course is the integration of current mass communication theory with an individual and organizational online presence, the course will also focus on how digital platforms can inform the future of theoretical research and vice versa. From a practical perspective, students will be able to apply these theories to their integrative approaches in creative digital communication and design.

Strategic Communication and Ethics (3)
This course introduces the discipline of strategic communication and the ethical issues that can arise from its practice. Students are given a background in important concepts in strategic communication, including branding, target audiences, technologies of strategic communication, the history and evolution of strategic communication, and other topics. Armed with this knowledge, students are introduced to the schools of ethical thought, and via projects and assignments apply these to real-world strategic communications and concepts.

Strategic Applications of Neuroscience in Communications and Media (3)
Special course for FALL 2019 and FALL 2020 semesters
This course will teach students how to strategically apply consumer neuroscience knowledge related to managing media, brands, and communications. Strategically using consumer neuroscience for media and communications requires the understanding and leveraging of fundamentals and key trends of neuroscientific theories and measurement tools. Students will learn basic theoretical concepts and a broad range of relevant methods used in the industry. Individual projects in consumer neuroscience will be carried out and students will be able to elaborate on emotional data and neuroscientific concepts. The elective enables students to plan, set up and evaluate consumer neuroscience studies, which is a vital skill for marketing, media and communication management career development.

The full list of UF CJC Online courses can be downloaded here.

Quick Facts

36 credit hours
100% online via
recorded lectures & live office hours
Fall Semester starts in August
Spring Semester starts in January
Summer Semester starts in May

Courses follow the UF Academic Calendar

Download Info Packet


Application Deadlines

Fall Semester
July 1

Spring Semester
November 1

Summer Semester
April 1


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