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

Class:           Tuesdays & Thursday, 9:00-10:20 AM
Room:          Wean Hall 4709  
Course site: http://orgcom17.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.
  • Become a mini-expert in some course-relevant topic and share this information by improving a Wikipedia article.

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 $19.00 at Amazon, but with slow shipping.  The revised edition would also be acceptable for this course, and I've seen free pdf versions of this online.    

You will read roughly four articles or chapters per week.  Allmost all 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 $4.25 each, and they are be linked in the syllabus. Many other readings are available on a password protected website. 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, 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 three research studies.

Students enrolled in eligible classes are eligible to sign-up to be in the participant poo.  To sign up for an RPP account, students should go to https://cbdr.tepper.cmu.edu/Participate.aspx. After your account has been created (which can take up to 72 hours), you can then log in and sign up for individual studies and allocate credits at https://sds-tepper.sona-systems.com

A  booklet containing the program policies and instructions to use the the experiment scheduling website is describe in this is available in this slide deck.   

Course Requirements



Percent of grade

In-class participation & on-line course discussion (twice/week)

Every class


Comparison of a successful and less successful group or team

Sep 17


Evaluating technology for distributed work

Comparing technology for distirubted work

Oct 1 (Part 1)
Oct 8 (Part 2)


Persuasion experiment Nov 12 10%

Social network visualization

Class presentation Dec 7th
Documentation midnight Dec 8th

Wikipedia assignment

Wikipedia self reflection essay

Dec 3rd
Dec 8th 
Pop quizes every 1 or 2 weeks 15%
Final exam (Note each quiz & exam question are equally weighted and together comprise 25% of the course grade) Dec 12 8:30-11:30AM, WEH 4623  10%
Research participant pool (up to 3 study credits for up to 3% boost to final grade) End of semester/Optional up to 3%

Take care of yourself.

This course (or your course work in general) is not the only important aspect of college. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep,  taking some time to relax and avoiding excess drugs and alcohol. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with this course or college life in general, remember you are not alone. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

For problems with the course, set up a time to talk to your instructor, Professor Kraut.  If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at https://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922
Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police:
           On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
           Off campus: 911

If you have questions about this or your coursework, please let me know.