Building Successful Online Communities (Fall 2016)

From CommunityData
Building Successful Online Communities
COM597 A - Masters of Communication in Communities and Networks (MCCN) Elective, Department of Communication
Instructor: Benjamin Mako Hill (University of Washington)
Course Websites:

Overview and Learning Objectives[edit]

Before Wikipedia was created, there were seven very similar attempts to build online collaborative encyclopedias. Before Facebook, there were dozens of very similar social networks. Why did Wikipedia and Facebook take off when so many similar sites struggled? Why do some attempts to build communities online lead to large thriving communities while most struggle to attract even a small group of users?

This class will begin with an introduction to several decades of research on computer-mediated communication and online communities to try and understand the building blocks of successful online communities. With this theoretical background in hand, every student will then apply this new understanding by helping to design, build, and improve a real online community.

This course combines an in-depth look into several decades of research into online communities and computer-mediated communication with real-world experience applying this research to the evaluation of, hands-on participation in, and the critique and design of successful online communities. As students of communication and leadership in the twenty-first century, I expect that many of you taking this course will, after graduation, work in jobs that involve communicating, working with, or managing online communities. This class seeks to inform these experiences by helping you learn how to use and contribute to online communities more effectively and how to construct, improve, or design your own online communities.

I will consider the course a complete success if every student is able to do all of these things at the end of the quarter:

  • Recall, compare, and give examples of key theories that can explain why some online communities grow and attract participants while others do not.
  • Write and speak with a fluency about the rules and norms of the Wikipedia community and demonstrate this fluency through successful contributions to Wikipedia.
  • Engage with the course material and compellingly present your own ideas and reflections in writing and orally.
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically apply the theories by critiquing and/or helping design a real online community of your choice in a consultant/client-based model.

Notes About This Syllabus[edit]

You should expect this syllabus to be a dynamic document. Although the core expectations for this class are fixed, the details of readings and assignments will shift based on how the class goes, changes or updates with guest speakers that I arrange, my own readings in this area, etc. As a result, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  • Although details on this syllabus will change, I will try to ensure that I never change readings more than six days before they are due. This means that if I don't fill in a "To Be Determined" one week before it's due, it is dropped. This also means that if you plan to read more than one week ahead, contact me first or you'll risk reading things that might not stick around on the syllabus.
  • Closely monitor your email or the announcements section on the course website on Canvas. Because this syllabus is a wiki page, you will be able to track every change by clicking the history button on this page when I make changes. I will summarize these changes in an announcement on Canvas once week that will be emailed to everybody in the class.
  • I will ask the class for voluntary anonymous feedback weekly — especially toward the beginning of the quarter. Please let me know what is working and what can be improved. In the past, I have made many adjustments to courses that I teach while the quarter progressed based on this feedback.


This course is organized into two components that roughly span the first and second halves of the quarter.

Component 1: The Theory and Practice of Online Communities[edit]

Kraut and resnick-bsoc.jpg

In the first half of the class (Weeks 1-6), the readings will look to theories that can help explain how and why online communities succeed and fail and how and why they grow or shrink. In each of the weeks in this period, we will read from the book we'll be using as a textbook: Kraut et al.'s Building Successful Online Communities (BSOC). Here is the citation:

Kraut, Robert E., and Paul Resnick. Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design. The MIT Press, 2012.

MIT Press sells the book for $22.00 in a digital format, $31.00 in paperback, and $41.00 in hardcover. Amazon sells the book for $35.00 in hardcover and $17 for the Kindle version. Wikipedia has this long list of possible book sources.

More or less following the organizations of BSOC, we will focus on these key drivers of participation in online communities:

  • Motivation: How do online communities incentivize participation?
  • Commitment: How do online communities build relationships to keep individuals involved?
  • Rules and Governance: How do online communities create norms, rules, and governance?
  • Newcomers: How do online communities attract — or fail to attract — newcomers?
  • Creation: How should one start a new online community?

In order to ground the theoretical readings during the first half of the quarter, there will be weekly assignments that provide a structured opportunity to learn about and become involved in Wikipedia.

You should keep in mind that the bulk of the reading in the course — and most of the most difficult material — will be front-loaded in this first five week period. The goal is to make sure that you have all the tools you'll need by the end of Week 5 so that you can use this material to focus on your projects in earnest.

Component 2: Examples and Challenges[edit]

In the second half of the course, we will focus less on theory and more on examples of online communities and on applications, examples, and challenges, associated with online communities.

Our reading during the second part of the quarter will be focused on cases studies. We will also focus on in-class discussions and exercises that prompt critical consideration of how online communities take place in different domains as well as the challenges associated with using online communities. Our goal here is to build up the ability to critically understand these communities in terms of the theory we covered earlier.

In general, readings during this second component will be on the lighter side and there will be no weekly assignments other than reading. The readings are lighter during this component because I'm expecting you to be spending time outside of class working on your projects.


The assignments in this class are designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at using the conceptual material taught in the class. My classes never involve exams or quizzes. I want to see you use, apply, and critically engage with the course material, not just regurgitate it.

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due at the end of the day (i.e., 11:59pm on the day they are due).

Participation and Cases[edit]

The course relies heavily on participation, discussion, and the case study method. A standard "case" usually involves reading an example — perhaps up to 20-35 pages of background about an organization or group facing an ambiguous or difficult challenge. I will mark certain readings as "[Cases]" in the syllabus and I will expect you to read these particularly closely. It is important to realize that we will not summarize case material in class and I will not cover it in lecture. I expect you all to have read it and we will jump in and start discussing it.

Cases ask students to put themselves in the positions of individuals facing difficult situations to tease out the tensions and forces at play in the case and to construct — through group discussion — the broader lessons and takeaways. Cases are a wonderful way to connect the sometimes abstract concepts taught in many academic courses to real examples of the type of ambiguous situations that you will likely encounter in your career. Generally speaking, there are not right and wrong answers in cases.

Typically, professors teaching cases cold call on students in rooms of hundred students. Since our class will be smaller than a typical case-based class, cold calling might not be necessary very often although I will sometimes use it and you should always be ready to answer every question I pose. That said, I expect every student to be in class every week and to be prepared to discuss the cases and the readings. If you have not spoken all class, I may cold call on you.

The "Participation Rubric" section of my detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use in evaluating participation. I re-read this participation rubric every quarter when it comes to assess participation.


You will hand in two papers in this class. In both cases, I will ask you to connect the knowledge about our course material that you are building with your experience of a real online community. The "Writing Rubric" section of my detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use to evaluate these papers.

Project 1: Contributing to Wikipedia[edit]

In the first project, you will be asked to learn about Wikipedia, its norms, rules, and processes. With this knowledge, you will all be asked to research and write a new article in Wikipedia on a topic of your choice and to publish this article in the encyclopedia. As part of this process, you will interact with other community members who are not part of the class. Afterward, you will be asked to write a short essay to reflect on this process and to connect your experience to the conceptual course material where appropriate.

Every Friday during this first component of this class, there will be a assignment due that corresponds to one step in the process of getting involved in Wikipedia. These Wikipedia participation assignments won't be synced up the the theory, but they will provide with you lots of opportunity to reflect on the theoretical work we are covering.

Although only Task #6 includes anything that you will need to turn in, you will need to participate in Wikipedia each week. All quarter long, I will be able to see this activity and help you. We will take time each week to discuss our progress and experience with Wikipedia and to connect it explicitly to the theoretical concepts we are covering.

Wikipedia Task #1[edit]

Create an account and start orientation
Friday September 30
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Start the online student orientation. You will only need to complete the Basics modules. That said, if you plan to do something covered by the special topics (e.g., work on an article related to medical information, share images and/or media files, or translate an article) you will also be responsible for the material in those sections as well.
  • During this training, you will create an account, make edits in a sandbox, and learn the basic rules of the Wikipedia community.
  • Once you have created an account, you must enroll in the course so that your account on Wikipedia is associated with the course and so that I can track your activity on Wikipedia. Click this link to enroll in the course. If you are asked for a passcode, you can enter fiwotjvu.

Wikipedia Task #2[edit]

Complete Wikipedia orientation and choose article topic
Due Date
Friday October 7
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Complete the online training for students.
  • Create a user page, and sign up on the list of students on the course page.
  • To practice editing and communicating on Wikipedia, introduce yourself to me and at least one classmate on Wikipedia. My username is Benjamin Mako Hill. You can find a list of all of your classmates on the WikiEdu students page.
  • Decide on an article you would like to create or a stub article you would like to significantly expand and improve (see below).
  • Tell me what article you want by leaving a message on my user talk page.

If there is a topic you know are interested in writing about that doesn't have an article, go ahead and suggest it. If you are having trouble coming up with a specific topic on your own, there are a few resources you might find helpful:

  • Requested Articles — This is a list of articles that others have asked to be created. It is sorted into categories and sub-categories. When you're looking at the list, remember that it's possible that somebody else has "gotten" to them first and forgot to remove it. Remember that a red link indicates that there is no page with that name.
  • List of Stubs — This is an extremely long list of articles that are currently stubs and which is also sorted into categories and then subcategories. It might be a little bit out of date so be sure to click through before you decide on an article.

Wikipedia Task #3[edit]

Compile research and write draft
Due Date
Friday October 14
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Compile a bibliography of relevant research.
  • Write a 2-3 paragraph summary version of your article—with citations—in your Wikipedia sandbox.
  • Add the URL For your sandboxed article to yourself on the course WikiEdu page by clicking the assign article button next to your name and assigning the URL for your sandbox to yourself.

Wikipedia Task #4[edit]

Make article "live" and choose articles to review
Due Date
Friday October 21
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Begin polishing your article.
  • Move sandbox articles into the "(Article)" name space by using the "Move" tab, by setting the namespace to "(Article)" and by setting the page title to be whatever you want the article to be named.
    • Once you have moved the article, visit the list of students in the WikiEdu dashboard and (a) assign the new URL to yourself and (b) remove the old one by clicking the "+" button to open the menu and using the "-" button next to the old "sandbox" copy of your article. You need to press "Save" at the top of the page once you are done.
  • Select two classmates’ articles that you will peer review and copy-edit. (You don't need to start reviewing yet.) To sign up, you can mark this in the the dashboard by using the Assign a review' button. Try to pick articles that other students are not yet reviewing. If there are already two students assigned to an article, pick something else.

Wikipedia Task #5[edit]

Peer review other students' articles
Due Date
Friday October 28
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Peer review two of your classmates’ articles. Leave suggestions on the article talk pages for how to improve them.
  • Improve and copy-edit the two reviewed articles to help fix issues, improve sourcing, create a more neutral or encyclopedic tone, etc.

Wikipedia Task #6[edit]

Finalize article and turn in your report to Wikipedia
Due Date
Monday November 7
Finish article in Wikipedia and turn in link to article in Canvas. Turn in report as subpage of your Wikipedia userpage and turn in link in Canvas.
Post your report as a subpage of your userpage. For example, I would create mine with as the URL. Of course, you should replace "Benjamin_Mako_Hill" with your Wikipedia username. You can also just go to your userpage by clicking on your username on Wikipedia and then adding "/Report" at the end of the the URL.
When you go that page, it will say Wikipedia does not have a user page with this exact name.
You can create the new page by just clicking the "Create" tab on that page. When you're done, you can paste the URL into Canvas.
Maximum length for report
1000 words (~4 pages double spaced)

Your Wikipedia article will be evaluated based on your demonstrated understanding of Wikipedia rules and policies. Is it a good article by Wikipedia's standards?

In addition to finishing up your Wikipedia article, everybody should turn in a report reflecting on your experience contributing to Wikipedia in light of your experience and the course material and, most importantly, offering advice to the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Community on how to improve their community. I want you all to treat this as a dress rehearsal for your final projects.

Your report will be evaluated, first and foremost, on the degree to which it provides useful, informed, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. It will also be evaluated on the degree to which you engage with the course material. See the writing rubric for details on my expectations in terms of the content of the papers. A successful essay will do the following three things:

  1. Provide detailed, concrete, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. What should Wikipedia think about doing? What should they think about changing?
  2. Comment directly on your experience in Wikipedia. What did you do and what did you learn?
  3. Connect your experience in Wikipedia explicitly to the concepts in the course material we have covered. Justify your recommendations in terms of the theories and principles we've covered. Why should your recommendations be taken more seriously than just random advice from one new user?
  4. If possible, reflect on what parts of the theories or concepts we covered applied or didn't. You don't have to take everything taught in the course for granted. What would you change or add based on your experience? What is unique or different about Wikipedia?

I will give everybody in the course feedback on their assignment. The basic structure is shorter, but extremely similar, to what you will be doing in the final project. As a result, you can treat this as a "mid-term" and make adjustments based on feedback.

Project 2: Report on building/improving an online community[edit]

For the final assignment, I want you to take what you've learned in the class and apply it to a real online community in a consultant/client model. I'm going to ask everybody to work with a real organization in one of the two situations:

  1. Designing a new online community.
  2. Improving or expanding an existing community.

My strong preference will be for every student to work on these projects alone. That said, if there's a very compelling reason for 2 or more students to work in a group, I'm willing to discuss it.

Community Identification and Signed MOU[edit]

Maximum Length
750 words (~3 pages double spaced)
  • Signed copy of MOU (Turn in to me in class)
  • Community identification essay (Turn in to Canvas)
Due Dates
  • Monday November 7

In this assignment, you should identify and the community you will be working with for your final project. In the essay part of this assignment, I am asking you to write several paragraphs explaining which community you will be working with and why you think it will be an appropriate site for applying the course material. If relevant or possible, it might be useful to also provide a link to any existing community or to the organization.

I am hoping that each of you will pick a community that you are intellectually interested and invested in. If you want to the community something you are involved in your personal and professional life, that's ideal. Although I'm encouraging you to connect to your work lives, you should also keep in mind that you will be presenting this publicly to the class. If you don't know of such a community, Molly Schachter should be able to help connect you to businesses that are interested in advice on growing, improving, or starting an online community.

Second, I want to make sure that the organizations you are going to be working with are on board. As a result, I'm asking you all to bring a signed copy of the course memorandum of understanding in. You should read that document as soon as possible to get a sense of what you'll be asking organizations to agree to.

You will be successful in this assignment if you identify a community and clearly explain why you think it would be a useful community to study using the concepts we have covered in the class. I will give you feedback on these write-ups and will let you each know if I think you have identified a project that might be too ambitious, too trivial, too broad, too narrow, etc.

Final Projects: Report and Presentation[edit]

Presentation Date
December 12 at 3:30pm
Paper Due Date
December 17 at 11:59pm
Maximum paper length
4500 words (~18 pages)
Turn in in Canvas

For your final project, I expect students to build on the community identification assignment and to complete a report. I expect every student to produce a written report that will be shared with the client organization. I also expect each student to prepare a formal presentation that they give during the final class session:

  • A short presentation to the class (length TBD)
  • A final report that is not more than 4,500 words

I will invite representative of client organizations that are interested to visit the final class to hear presentations. If clients cannot attend, I expect that students will give their presentation at another time after the final presentation that is convenient to the client organization.

Each report should include the description of the community you have identified (you are welcome to borrow from your Community Identification assignment), and a description of how you would use the course concepts to change and improve the community.

Once again, your report will be evaluated on the degree to which it provides useful, informed, and actionable advice to the client organization and on the degree to which you engage with the course material. Please make sure you do the following things:

  1. Provide detailed, concrete, and actionable advice to the client organization. For example, what are they doing right? What should they change?
  2. Justify your recommendations in terms of the theories and principles we've covered and include references for your readers who won't have your background. Why should your recommendations be taken seriously?
  3. Remember that you don't have to take everything taught in the course for granted. What is unique or different about the client organization that causes you to have to think and read beyond the course material we've covered? What are the big open questions and risks they will be facing?

You will be evaluated on the degree to which you have demonstrated that you understand and have engaged with the course material and not on specifics of your community or the content of your advice.

A successful project will provide good advice that a client would be happy to have paid 1a consultant for, tell a compelling story, be clearly written, and will engage with, and improve upon, the course material to teach an audience that includes not only the client but me, your classmates, and students taking this class in future years on how to take advantage of online communities more effectively. The very best papers will give us all a new understanding of some aspect of course material and change the way I teach some portion of this course in the future.


I have put together a very detailed page that describes the grading rubric we will be using in this course. Please read it carefully I will assign grades for each of following items on the UW 4.0 grade scale according to the weights below:

  • Participation: 20%
  • Wikipedia assignments: 15%
  • Wikipedia report: 10%
  • Community identification: 5%
  • Final Presentation: 10%
  • Final Paper: 40%


October 3: Introduction & the Origins of Online Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

  • Hauben, Michael, Ronda Hauben, and Thomas Truscott. (1997) Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet. Los Alamitos, Calif: Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press. [Chapter 2 and Chapter 3]

Optional Video:

October 10: Motivation[edit]


Required Reading:

  • BSOC, Chapter 2, pg 21-70
  • Frey, Bruno S. and Reto Jegen. 2001. “Motivation Crowding Theory.” Journal of Economic Surveys 15(5):589–611.

Our first case will just be about Wikipedia. We'll compare three different approaches to socialization in Wikipedia and talk about motivation and incentives.

The game is a few years old and may have bit rot. If you run into problems, try to ignore or work around them. The point here is to just to get a feel for how the game works and what the designers were thinking.

Our second case will be about Gratipay:

  • [Case] The Gratipay website's About Page, Features, Payments, Payroll The Gratipay system has changed a little bit over time. Try to understand what you can and we'll work the details out in class. Please click through things to read more pages and get a sense of what's going on. Come ready to discuss details of the system and the thinking of its designers.
  • [Case] David Heinemeier Hansson's article on "The perils of mixing open source and money"
  • [Case] Chad Whitacre's article on "Resentment"


October 17: Commitment[edit]


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 3, pg 77-115

In some of these cases, there is an enormous amount of material on this page and its subpages. Poke around for 10 minutes or so on each one until you get a strong sense for who is participating and how and why people build commitment to the site and are comfortable talking about this in class:

Several pieces about Facebook and lock-in:

Optional Readings:

October 24: Rules and Governance[edit]


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 4, pg 125-170

Our first case will involve a comparison of Codes of Conduct:

Our second case will talk about Slashdot:

  • [Case] Slashdot: Spend 5-10 minutes to visit the homepage, look at a story you think is interesting, and read several of the comments, paying specific attention to the rating system.
  • [Case] Slashdot Moderation FAQ, 2014
  • [Case] Lampe, Cliff, and Paul Resnick. (2004) Slash(Dot) and Burn: Distributed Moderation in a Large Online Conversation Space. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 543–50. CHI ’04. New York, NY, USA: ACM Press. [Official Link (available through UW libraries)] [Author Website (available for free)]

Optional Readings:

October 31: Newcomers[edit]


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 5, pg 179-223

Our first case will be about the paths that folks take to join communities and will focus on the Freenet Community:

In our second case, we're going to look at the citizen science community Zooniverse and the project "Planet Hunters" in particular. We're going to talk about how the community might deal with (not so hypothetical!) major influx of new users:

Optional Readings:

November 7: Creating New Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

Our first case will about a website called Area 51 on a platform called Stack Exchange:

Our second case will be about a system called Snowdrift:

  • [Case] Read at least the top page, as well as the the about page and the high-level links at the top (i.e., the Illustrated intro, longer explanation, press page, who we are, and FAQ) and poke around on the rest of the site (e.g., the blog, feeds, email lists, etc).

Optional Readings:

November 14: NO CLASS[edit]

November 21: Innovation Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

November 28: Hackers and Tensions Between Communities and Companies[edit]

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

December 5: Crowdsourcing[edit]

Our guest lecturer will be Andrés Monroy-Hernández.

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

Our guest speaker will be talking about these three papers. It might be good to look these over before class:

Assignment before class:

  • mTurk - Find and complete at least 2 "hits" as a worker on Amazon Mechnical Turk. Note that to do this you will need to create a worker account on Mturk.
    • Record (write down) details and notes about your tasks: What did you do? Who was the requester? What could you was the purpose of the task (as best you could tell)? What was the experience like? What research applications can you (not) imagine for this kind of system?
    • If you're not a US citizen, creating an requester account is much more complicated because it involves getting paid and ensuring that you have authorization to work. Please just skip this part.
  • mTurk Create a "requester" account. Doing so may require up top 48 hours to be approved so please do that immediately so you have it ready to go in class.
  • Zooniverse - Complete at least 1-2 tasks in two different projects of your choice on Zooniverse. Come to class ready to talk about it.

In class exercise:

  • Design and deploy a small-scale research task on Mturk. Note that to do this, you will need to create a requester account on Mturk. Be sure to allow some time to get the task design the way you want it! Some ideas for study designs you might do:
    • A small survey.
    • Classification of texts or images (e.g., label tweets, pictures, or comments from a discussion thread).
    • A small experiment (e.g., you can do a survey where you insert different images and ask the same set of questions. Check out the Mturk requester getting started guide
  • Prepare to share details of your small-scale research task in class, including results (they will come fast).

Note: In terms of running your task, it will cost real money and you have to put money on your Amazon account yourself. Each group will have a $3 budget. Please use your credit card to put $3 on your account right away. You should be able to do this in class. I will pay each of you $3 in cash next week to reimburse you for the cost of running the experiment.

December 12: Final Presentations[edit]

No readings.

The final classes will be devoted entirely to presentations.


  • Presentation Sign-up/Schedule — Just edit the Wikipedia page to add your name (or just add your signature with ~~~~)
  • Presentation Slides Dropbox in Canvas — Slides are optional but recommended and are due by 3:30pm before class. If you turn in your slides after 3:30pm, I will not have time to put them into the line-up for class.

Practices and Policies[edit]

Most of the rest of the material in the syllabus will be familiar to students who have taken other Communication Leadership classes. That said, most of this material is important enough that it warrants looking again.


As detailed in my page on assessment, attendance in class is expected of all participants. If you need to miss class for any reason, please contact a member of the teaching team ahead of time (email is best). Multiple unexplained absences will likely result in a lower grade or (in extreme circumstances) a failing grade. In the event of an absence, you are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc.

Office Hours[edit]

Normally, I do not hold regular office hours. In general, I will be available to meet before and after class and at other times that are convenient for you. Please contact me on email to arrange a meeting then or at another time.

Disability Accommodations Statement[edit]

To request academic accommodations due to a disability please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-5430-8925/TTY. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need for the class. I am happy to work with you to maximize your learning experience.

Comm Lead Electronic Mail Standards of Conduct[edit]

Email communications (and all communications generally) among Comm Lead community members should seek to respect the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. With this in mind, in addition to the University of Washington's Student Conduct Code, Comm Lead establishes the following standards of conduct in respect to electronic communications among students and faculty:

  • If, as a student, you have a question about course content or procedures, please use the online discussion board designed for this purpose. If you have specific questions about your performance, contact me directly.
  • I strive to respond to Email communications within 48 hours. If you do not hear from me, please come to my office hours, call me, or send me a reminder Email.
  • Email communications should be limited to occasional messages necessary to the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any CC-ing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any blind-CC-ing to third parties, regardless of the third party’s relevance to the matter at hand.


Grades in this class are based on a rating scale: Rating-scale grades are based on the faculty member's assessment of each assignment as opposed to a calculation from earned and possible points. The broad criteria for the ratings are given below. The ratings for some assignments may be multiplied by a constant (e.g. 2 or 3) so as to count more toward the final grade. The final grade is calculated as the average of all ratings.

4.0 - 3.9
Excellent and exceptional work for a graduate student. Work at this level is extraordinarily thorough, well reasoned, methodologically sophisticated, and well written. Work is of good professional quality, shows an incisive understanding of digital media-related issues and demonstrates clear recognition of appropriate analytical approaches to digital media challenges and opportunities. Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely develop loyalty toward the vendor to the exclusion of other vendors.
3.8 - 3.7
Strong work for a graduate student. Work at this level shows some signs of creativity, is thorough and well-reasoned, indicates strong understanding of appropriate methodological or analytical approaches, and demonstrates clear recognition and good understanding of salient digital media-related challenges and opportunities. Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely recommend this vendor to others and consider a longer-term engagement.
3.6 - 3.5
Competent and sound work for a graduate student; well reasoned and thorough, methodologically sound, but not especially creative or insightful or technically sophisticated; shows adequate understanding of digital media-related challenges and opportunities, although that understanding may be somewhat incomplete. This is the graduate student grade that indicates neither unusual strength nor exceptional weakness. Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely agree to repeat business with this vendor.
3.3 - 3.4
Adequate work for a graduate student even though some weaknesses are evident. Moderately thorough and well reasoned, but some indication that understanding of the important issues is less than complete and perhaps inadequate in other respects as well. Methodological or analytical approaches used are generally adequate but have one or more weaknesses or limitations. Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely entertain competitor vendors.
3.0 - 3.2
Fair work for a graduate student; meets the minimal expectations for a graduate student in the course; understanding of salient issues is incomplete, methodological or analytical work performed in the course is minimally adequate. Overall performance, if consistent in graduate courses, would be in jeopardy of sustaining graduate status in "good standing." Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely pay the vendor in full but not seek further engagement.
2.7 - 2.9
Borderline work for a graduate student; barely meets the minimal expectations for a graduate student in the course. Work is inadequately developed, important issues are misunderstood, and in many cases assignments are late or incomplete. This is the minimum grade needed to pass the course. Clients who received a deliverable of this quality would likely delay payment until one or more criteria were met.

Academic Misconduct[edit]

Comm Lead is committed to upholding the academic standards of the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code. If I suspect a student violation of that code, I will first engage in a conversation with that student about my concerns.

If we cannot successfully resolve a suspected case of academic misconduct through our conversations, I will refer the situation to the Anita Verna Crofts, Comm Lead Associate Director of Academic Affairs. The Comm Lead Associate Director of Academic Affairs, in consultation with the Comm Lead Director, can then work with the COM Chair to seek further input and if necessary, move the case up to the Dean.

While evidence of academic misconduct may result in a lower grade, Comm Lead faculty (indeed, all UW faculty) may not unilaterally lower a grade without taking the necessary steps outlined above.


In closing, Comm Lead students are expected to:

  • Write coherently and clearly.
  • Complete assignments on time and as directed.
  • Not miss more than two classes a quarter, unless due to extreme circumstances.
  • Engage as much as possible with colleagues and the instructor.
  • Stay current with the latest developments in the field of communications and digital media.