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Online Communication Class Helps Students Resolve Conflict, Improve Communities

July 24, 2013

MANHATTAN -- Knowing how you and others respond to conflict can help reduce the severity and frequency of conflict while making communication exchange more productive, according to Sarah Riforgiate, assistant professor of communication studies at Kansas State University.

This summer, Riforgiate will teach a new online course, Conflict and Communication, or COMM 450, during the upcoming intersession beginning Aug. 5. The class will cover interpersonal communication skills that can help students resolve conflicts in both personal and work relationships.

"Students will learn to manage conflict communication by understanding the factors that influence and instigate conflict, how different types of power are communicated, and how goals shape conflict interactions," Riforgiate said. "They will apply this information to their own communication experiences."

Riforgiate says that applying the techniques from the class not only helps to resolve conflicts, but can enhance relationships and improve communities. The class focuses on a strategic model for making communication choices that result in a lasting positive impact.

"Improving communication skills is an ongoing process, but this is a strong starting point for adjusting behaviors and recognizing conflict patterns to facilitate better communication practices," she said.

Through the online format of the class, students will interact and practice communication techniques through message board posts and reflection papers by applying conflict communication theories and concepts to their own experiences. Riforgiate says the workplace is one important context of interpersonal conflict that students can use to practice these strategies.

"In particular, power and conflict have important implications for workplace conflict and can help students make better strategic decisions in terms of their own communication, regardless of their career field," she said.

The conflict and communication course may be applied to several online programs, including the conflict analysis and trauma studies minor and as an elective in the online general business, animal sciences and industry, and food science and industry bachelor's degrees offered through the Kansas State University Division of Continuing Education. It may also apply as a communication elective for the communication studies program. However, students should consult with their academic adviser to confirm if the class can be applied to their program.

"Students will walk away with a strong understanding of theory and concepts, supportive peer feedback and knowledge of conflict choices to apply to future interactions," Riforgiate said.

Intersession is Aug. 5-21 and is part of the university's summer term. View a complete listing of upcoming on-campus and online intersession classes at http://global.k-state.edu/intersession.

Source: Sarah Riforgiate, 785-532-6776, sriforgi@k-state.edu
Written By: Anne Sisley, 785-532-5888, asisley@k-state.edu
K-State News and Communications Services