Audience Dialogue's online courses will be of two types: basic and advanced. Currently (early 2005) we are just beginning, with one course on Basic Audience Research. Later, provided that there's enough demand, we'll convert all our courses into an online format.
Our basic courses are designed mainly for people who have either
(a) completed secondary school, and have a few years' experience working in media, as a reporter, program maker, producer, editor, sub-editor, manager, or in a marketing role
(b) have no experience in media work, but have completed some tertiary study in media studies, social science, management, marketing, etc.
If you do not have this educational or working background, parts of the basic courses may be too difficult for you.
Our advanced courses are for people who have already completed a basic course: either one of ours, or a one-semester (at least) course on a similar topic, at a university or other tertiary institute.
If you're not sure whether your previous course is relevant, if it's not one of ours, contact us with details of your previous education and experience, and we'll try to work out which type of course best suits your needs. However, if you enrol in an advanced course and find it too difficult, you can withdraw (within 3 weeks) and continue with the next suitable basic course. And if you begin a basic course and find it too easy, you can withdraw within the first 3 weeks, and continue with the next suitable advanced course.
For both types of course, you also need to be able to use a computer with internet access for several hours, at least twice a week. Finally, you will need to have a good knowledge of written English. If you have looked up a dictionary to read this page, the level of English in the course will be too difficult for you.
Courses are done mainly through the Audience Dialogue website. Because many people, specially in developing countries, very slow internet access, we can (on request) mail students a CD-ROM containing all the materials for each course. In that case, you'll need a computer with a CD-ROM drive - but you will still need to communicate with us by email and read some web pages.
Because these are online courses, all students will need to spend several hours a week using a computer using (preferably) some version of Windows. Other types of operating system - such as Macintosh and Linux - should also work, as long as you have the necessary software. However, we can't guarantee this, and solving your computer problems is beyond the scope of our courses.
You will also need to go online, using the Web and email. You will therefore need an email address. If you don't already have an email address, there are many free email services. Hotmail and Yahoo are the best known, but our preferences are Operamail and Fastmail. The main problem with Yahoo and Hotmail is being overwhelmed by advertising, so we suggest you decline enticing offers such as "click here if you are interested in receiving information on the following subjects."
The software needed will be:
All our courses are taught in English. If you can understand this page clearly, you should also be able to understand the course material well. We assume a working vocabulary of about 15,000 words - which many people reach after about 5 years' study of English.
For most of our courses, you will also need a modest level of mathematical competency: equivalent to at least a junior high school level. If you can calculate an average and a percentage and can see patterns in numbers, that will be enough for our basic quantitative courses, such as Basic Audience Research. The courses on qualitative research and web development have no mathematical content at all.
A quick test:
(1) What's the average of 6, 10, and 17?
(2) What is 45 as a percentage of 60?
(3) Which number is the odd one out: 6, 18, 36, 42, 54, 66?
If you can answer all three questions correctly - without a calculator, and in less than 30 seconds - you are ready for our quantitative courses. Did you get it right? If you didn't, you may still enrol, but we suggest that you find a friend who will help you with sample design and statistical analysis.
All Audience Dialogue courses, both in-person and online, are based on the principles of active learning. These principles (supported by a lot of empirical research on educational effectiveness) include...
Each course has 10 modules: 1 per week, for 10 weeks. Each module takes about 8 hours' work - though this will vary from week to week. The work includes:
Weekly assignments are due by midday each Monday. That allows you to finish your assignment at the weekend, and email it to us on Monday morning. Here are instructions on how to submit the weekly assignments.
Each course has a planned set of learning outcomes. For example, when you have completed the basic audience research course, you should be able to do all these things:
This10-week course will not make you an instant expert, but it will give you a working knowledge of the principles of audience research. Like all the Audience Dialogue courses, this is a practical course rather than an academic course.
To verify our planned learning outcomes, we recontact everybody who has finished a course, several months later, to confirm their own learning outcomes.
Each course begins with a preliminary test, to establish the existing level of knowledge of each student. In general, courses have a short-answer test each week. Most of these tests have about 10 questions. Sometimes you will need to choose the correct answer from 4 or 5 choices, and at other times you are asked to write around 100 words to answer a question. Answers are provided the following week.
Students also need to send in a Learning Journal each week. This is like a diary, in which they list their reading, course-related activities, thoughts, problems, and questions. This page explains more about Learning Journals.
Students can communicate with other students through an online discussion board, which works like a shared email system, where everybody can read everybody else's messages.
The main assignment in each course is a research project, which students need to work on for several hours a week - less at the beginning of the course, but more towards the end.
A final grade is awarded for each student completing the course: either Pass, Credit, or Distinction. Credit and Distinction grades are mentioned on the Certificate of Completion. The grade is based on the research project (40%), the learning journal (10%), discussion board participation (10%), and the best 8 weekly submissions (40%). As there are 10 weekly submissions, only the highest 8 marks are counted.
Reading material for each course will be provided, either through this website, or (on request) we can mail you a CD-ROM. If your web access is very slow or expensive, the CD-ROM will be better - but of course you will need a computer that can read the CD-ROM. You may also want to print out the reading materials - around 30 pages a week, on average. Some of the reading matter is produced by Audience Dialogue, and the rest of it is available on the Web. Copies of these external web pages will be included on our CD-ROMs, whenever copyright conditions on the originating website do not forbid this.
Everybody who completes all the assignments in a course will receive (by mail) a Certificate of Completion, stating the final grade if this is Credit or Distinction. Their names will also be listed on the Audience Dialogue website, at www.audiencedialogue.org/graduates.html. Each student - including current students - will be given space for a permanent home page on the Audience Dialogue website. This could include a photo, a résumé or CV, a link to your email address or website, or anything you think is relevant. When you are applying for jobs, you can cite this web page.
Audience Dialogue is not a university, so we cannot offer a university degree. Nor can we guarantee that a university will accept our courses in partial fulfilment of one of its own qualifications. However, we are organizing for our courses to be evaluated through Merlot, www.merlot.org. This is one of the largest and most respected organizations that review online courses.
The main teacher on these courses is Dennis List, who has more than 20 years' experience with audience research. He is probably one of the world's most experienced audience researchers, having specialized in this area since the 1970s. He has written three books on the subject, and he is also a part-time lecturer in marketing at the University of South Australia. Students may email him at any time with questions, and he will try to answer within one day.
The fee for each course, including all necessary materials, is 250 euros. This is payable in advance. If you drop out of the course the fee will not be refunded (due to the many problems with international currency conversions) but you will be entitled to resume the next course of that type, at the point where you left off. The best way to make the payment is by bank transfer. Bank notes can be lost in the mail, and international money orders often incur hefty commissions. It will also be possible to make online payments by credit card, through Kagi.
If several people who work together enrol for the same course at the same time, we offer a 10% discount, in recognition of the fact that they will help each other to some extent. In fact, we strongly encourage this, because students working on the same project will experience each other's problems, and learn from them.
We know that students' abilities to continue with a course may be interrupted through no fault of their own. Therefore, students who are unable to continue with a course may drop out at any stage. Provided that they notify Audience Dialogue of this, they may rejoin the next course at the same stage. For example, if you drop out of Basic Audience Research in week 3, you may rejoin the next Basic Audience Research course in week 3. Students who fall more than 1 week behind will be suspended, on the same basis. Note that there will be no refunds for students who drop out or are suspended, as international currency movements make this very problematical.
One advantage of doing a course with a small organization such as Audience Dialogue (instead of with a university) is that we can be very flexible, supplementing course material to meet the needs of individual students. We also offer more detailed and regular feedback than most university courses.
To be able to give enough attention to each student, our classes are limited to 20 students at a time. The minimum initial class size is about 6.
This depends partly on student demand, and partly on Audience Dialogue's capacity to handle large numbers of students. Currently, we are planning for the basic courses to be held two or three times a year. Each of the more advanced courses will be held once a year.
If you'd like to enrol for one of our online courses, please email us to find out when the next course begins. At the moment, we are offering only one course - Basic Audience Research. However, we expect to create online versions of our other courses over the next year or so.
When you are ready to apply for admission to one of our courses, please complete the online application form.