Overview & requirements

05/70/85/88-341: Communications in Groups & Organizations

Class:            Tuesdays & Thursday,9:00-10:20 AM
Room:           Porter Hall (PH) 125B   
Course site: http://orgcom15.hciresearch.org

Professor Robert Kraut
Email:            robert.kraut@cmu.edu
Phone:           412-268-7694
Office:            NSH 3515

Office hours
Tues & Thurs, 10:30-11:00 (e.g., after class) or by appointment. 
Send me or my assistant, Ja'Ron Pitts <jpitts@andrew.cmu.edu>, email to schedule an appointment. 

Course Description

Most of management is communication. You communicate to get information that will be the basis of decisions, coordinate activity, to provide a vision for the people who work for and with you, and to sell yourself and your work. The goal of this course is to identify communication challenges within work groups and organizations and ways to overcome them. To do this requires that we know how communication normally works, what parts are difficult, and how to fix it when it goes wrong.

The focus of this course is on providing you with a broad understanding of the way communication operates within dyads, work groups, and organizations. The intent is to give you theoretical and empirical underpinnings for the communication you will undoubtedly participate in when you move to a work environment, and strategies for improving communication within your groups. Because technology is changing communication patterns and outcomes both in organizations and more broadly in society, the course examines these technological changes as well. Readings come primarily from the empirical research literature supplemented with case studies and exercises.

Course Objectives

 After completing this course you should be able to:

  • Better understand what makes communication within and between groups successful.
  • Better evaluate claims about group and organizational in terms of empirical evidence.
  • Apply principles from research to make the groups you work in more effective.
  • Apply data gathering and analysis techniques to diagnosing problems in workgroups.

Required Texts

Cialdini, Robert B. (2008) Influence: Science and practice (5rd Edition). Talman Co. Note that you will need to buy the Cialdini text from Amazon or another online source. The price for the 5th edition is $16.55 at Amazon, with free 2-day shipping for college students.  As of 8/12/2015, you could find a downloadable pdf version of the 4th addition by searching for "Cialdinai influence pdf".  The 4th edition would be acceptable for this course. 

You will read roughly four articles or chapters per week.  Most are available as hyperlinks from the course syllabus. If there is an error, please let me know as soon as possible, so that I can correct the link. You will  buy a few cases from Harvard Business School press for $3.95 each, and they are be linked in the syllabus. Many other readings are available on a password protected website -- http://orgcom15.hciresearch.org/sites/kraut.hciresearch.org/files/protected. The userid and password will be distributed in class and sent to registered students by email.


The class is intended to be interactive, with much student participation.  However, because it is difficult to keep accurate records of who is active in class, most of your participation grade will come from posts in the forums.  You should post on course readings twice per week, preferably before the class during which an reading is due.  With roughly four readings per week, you will end up posting about half of the course readings.   You can get a rough idea of how you are doing in your online discussion by clicking this link.

Research Participant Pool

Student in this class have the option to participate in the CMU Research Participant Pool (RPP). Many of the theories you examine in class are based on empirical studies of human behavior.  Such research is conducted all the time here at Carnegie Mellon.  The Research Participation Program gives you a chance to be part of that process.  Your participation helps graduate students and faculty conduct research they would not otherwise have the resources for.  It also give you a chance to earn up to 3% extra credit by participating in up to two research studies.

Students enrolled in eligible classes are automatically registered in the program based on their Andrew IDs, based on the course rosters after the second week of class. Automatic registration does not compel participation in any experiment. Students who add this  course after the second week of the term should send an email to cbdr-lab@andrew.cmu.edu with their information (andrew id, name, course).

A  booklet containing the program policies and instructions to use the the experiment scheduling website is available here (RPP Student Booklet.  A slide desk describing the program is available here.  You can sign up for experiments at the Sona Systems experiment scheduling website: http://sds-tepper.sona-systems.com

Course Requirements



Percent of grade

Attendance and in-class participation

Every class


On-line course discussion

Twice per week


Pop quizzes

1 or 2 every week


Comparison of a successful and less successful group or team

Sep 17


Evaluating technology for distributed work

Oct 15 (Part 1)
Oct 18  (Part 2)


Team conflict self-reflection

Nov 8


Wikipedia assignment Nov 29 30% 
Research participant pool (up to 2 experiments for up to 2% boost to final grade) End of semester/Optional up to 2%

Final exam 

Dec 18
1:00 PM 4:00 PM
Place: BH A53