Build Communication Skill for Professional Success

About This Specialization

The Effective Communication Specialization takes you on a journey of self realization. You’ll learn that excellence in communication involves the ability to express who you are—your best self—in everything you touch. By taking the individual courses, Business Writing, Graphic Design, and Successful Presentation, you’ll hone your written, visual, and verbal business presentation skills. You'll learn to write well-organized, clear business documents that showcase your ideas; to design elegant presentation slides, reports, documents, and other visual products; and to present and speak with confidence and power. In the final Capstone Project, you will develop a portfolio of work—including a memo, a slide deck, and a presentation—to showcase your communication skills and represent your personal brand.

Created by:
4 courses
Follow the suggested order or choose your own.
Designed to help you practice and apply the skills you learn.
Highlight your new skills on your resume or LinkedIn.
Beginner Specialization.
No prior experience required.
  1. COURSE 1

    Business Writing

    Upcoming session: May 1 — Jun 5.
    4 weeks of study, 1-3 hours/week

    About the Course

    Writing well is one of the most important skills you can learn for success in the business world. Knowing how to write well allows you to deliver your ideas with the power they deserve. Good writing also conveys a sense of your professional excellence to the world around you. In this course, you'll master the simple, effective skills that drive all successful business writing. You'll create impactful documents that not only showcase your ideas, but showcase your own professionalism to your audience. The principles you learn in this course enable you to become a great business writer. They also provide the foundation for moving into Graphic Design and Successful Presentation, so that you can unleash your best professional self whenever--and however--you present your ideas in the workplace.
    Show or hide details about course Business Writin
    WEEK 1
    Building Great Business Writing
    The first lesson in this module introduces the Effective Communication specialization, the capstone project, and the Business Writing course. You'll meet the writing instructor, Dr. Quentin McAndrew, and her counterparts Dave Underwood and Professor William Kuskin, who teach Graphic Design and Successful Presentation. Dave and William join Quentin to offer insights into how writing, design, and presentation relate to a process of continuous personal branding that we call Effective Communication. In this module, you'll discover the simple principles that inform all great business writing and that serve as the foundation of this course. These lessons set the stage for the deeper exploration and specific techniques that follow, not just in Business Writing, but in Graphic Design and Successful Presentation as well. Let's get started!

    Video · The Effective Communication Specialization

    Video · What's So Great About the Capstone?

    Video · What is Good Writing?

    Reading · A Few Important Points About This Course

    Other · Introduce Yourself and Meet Other Learners!

    Video · Be the Windowpane

    Video · Waste No Time

    Practice Quiz · Simplifying Sentences

    Video · Don't Sound Smart; Be Smart

    Video · Own Your Ideas

    Practice Quiz · Edit out the Wishy-Washy

    Video · Everyone Needs an Editor; or, the Story of My Failure

    Reading · Why Johnny Can't Write and Employers Are Mad

    Reading · You Can Never Be a Worse Writer Than I Was

    Other · Have You Noticed Good or Bad Writing?

    Video · Who are you?

    Video · Appearance Matters

    Video · Looking Your Best

    Video · Dave Gives Pointers: Type is the Message

    Practice Quiz · Improve Memos with Design Elements

    Video · Success!

    Other · Have You Noticed Bad Design?

    Quiz · Writing Principles and Design

    WEEK 2
    The Formula for Writing Success
    Did you know that the most important element of good writing isn't good writing? It's good organization. If you haven't organized your documents for maximum effectiveness, you've wasted an opportunity to present your ideas--and yourself--with power. This module teaches you the universal organizational formula that allows you to optimize your business writing. You'll understand how the principles you learned in Module One build to this formula, and you'll see how a scaffold gets created and applied to a real business document. By the end of this module, you'll be able to wield your organizational knowledge in service of your ideas and personal brand, and you'll have built the foundation that allows you to generate powerful sentences in Module Three.

    Video · Organize or Die

    Video · Great Writers Are Great Revisers

    Video · The Organizational Scaffold You Need for Everything

    Quiz · The Elements of the Scaffold

    Video · Quentin, William, and Dave Brainstorm the Memo

    Other · How Do You Get Ready to Write?

    Reading · Have No Fear of English as a Second Language

    Video · Bonus Video: The Basics of Greatness

    Video · A Blank Page: Facing the Void

    Quiz · Compare Openings

    Video · Say it: The Body Paragraphs

    Quiz · Starting with the Most Important Point

    Video · Building Out the Scaffold

    Video · The Conclusion Concludes

    Reading · New York Times: "What Corporate America Can't Build: A Sentence"

    Other · Share an Example of Poor Organization

    Quiz · Practicing the Scaffold

    WEEK 3
    Crafting Powerful Writing
    In the first lesson of Module Three, we'll apply our writing principles and our scaffold to creating an actual memo. You'll see, step-by-step, how the scaffold guides the writing process to make it easier to create a forceful business document. You'll understand how to apply the scaffold to guide sentence and paragraph creation, and you'll have a chance to test and reinforce your new skills. The second lesson covers common grammatical errors that sap many writers' professional brands. Short videos explain each error, why each hurts your clarity, and how to correct your writing--even if you don't remember the grammar rule. You'll understand why these changes are important to your goal of Effective Communication and why it's important to eliminate these common missteps from your own writing.

    Video · It's Go Time!

    Video · The First Paragraph Roadmap

    Quiz · What Goes in the First Paragraph?

    Video · Signposting with Topic Sentences

    Quiz · Writing Strong Topic Sentences

    Video · William on Voicing Writing: How Does it Sound?

    Video · Writing a Paragraph

    Video · Revising a Paragraph

    Practice Quiz · Rubric Training Quiz

    Peer Review · Second Paragraph of Coursera Pitch

    Video · The Conclusion Concludes (Reprise)

    Quiz · Critique These Conclusions

    Video · Does Good Grammar Matter?

    Video · Grammar Blast: I vs. Me

    Quiz · I vs. Me

    Video · Grammar Blast: Mangled Modifiers

    Quiz · Fix These Modifiers

    Video · Grammar Blast: Serial or Oxford Comma

    Quiz · Serial Comma Practice

    Video · Grammar Blast: Pronoun Problems

    Quiz · Pronoun Placement

    Video · Grammar Blast: Apostrophe Abuse

    Quiz · Apostrophe Practice

    Video · Grammar Blast: Your, You're, Their, They're, There

    Quiz · Your vs. You're, There vs. Their vs. They're: Test Your Skill!

    Video · Grammar Blast: That vs. Which

    Quiz · That vs. Which

    Practice Quiz · Rubric Training Quiz

    Peer Review · Writing an Intro Paragraph

    WEEK 4
    Activate Your Voice!
    So, you've started to write a document . . . Module Four takes you beyond the scaffold and good grammar to provide you with specific tips that will elevate your language, infuse your writing with clarity, and amp up your ability to communicate your ideas effectively. Every lesson in this module is based on the principles you learned in Module One, and they form a checklist of techniques that you can apply to any business document to insure your ideas shine on the page. Short videos on emails and longer documents give you simple techniques for applying the lessons of this course to a broad range of your work.

    Video · Writing IS Revision

    Video · Check Your Scaffold

    Video · Keep It Simple

    Quiz · Simplify Sentences

    Video · Brevity is the Soul of Wit

    Video · Dave on How Logo Design Reflects Brevity and Clarity

    Other · Edit My First Paragraph

    Video · Always be Specific; Avoid Generalities and Jargon

    Quiz · Edit Out Generalities and Jargon

    Video · The Power of Active Voice

    Quiz · Identify Passive Voice

    Quiz · Change from Passive to Active

    Video · Limit Crutch Verbs

    Quiz · Remove "to be" and "to have"

    Video · Cut Prepositional Phrases

    Quiz · Edit out Prepositional Phrases

    Video · Don't Repeat Words

    Quiz · Finding Repeated Words

    Video · Always Proofread

    Other · How Have You Changed Your Writing?

    Video · A Word on Email

    Video · Long Documents, in Brief

    Video · In Conclusion

    Video · Time to Design: Dave Takes the Memo

    Quiz · Final Editing Quiz

    Reading · Credits

  2. COURSE 2

    Graphic Design

    Upcoming session: May 8 — Jun 12.
    English, Italian

    About the Course

    Visual communication is as critical to professional success as written or oral communication. Graphic design skills will help you ensure that your visual business assets convey a clear and compelling message - and learning the essentials of good design is surprisingly easy. This course introduces you to a straightforward design process that emphasizes planning, clarity, and focus. You’ll learn to use contrast, repetition, proximity, and tension to create design that is both credible and visually appealing, and you’ll emulate best practices as you work with examples from a wide range of media. When you complete the course, you’ll have the skills you need to design clear and compelling presentation slides, professional reports, business websites, and more. All of the course assignments can be completed with basic presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote. You’ll have opportunities to work with and explore more sophisticated tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, as well.
    Show or hide details about course Graphic Design

    WEEK 1
    Module 1: Getting Started
    This module introduces you to the importance of recognizing good design as the starting place for creating professional, attractive work of your own. We will look to the ubiquitous world of graphic design to establish a vocabulary of successful design and to find inspiration for our own projects. We will also discuss course prerequisites and review a basic digital design glossary that will help you navigate your chosen application.

    Video · Introduction to the Specialization (For New Learners)

    Video · What's So Great About The Capstone? (For New Learners)

    Video · From Writing to Design; the Handoff

    Video · The Importance of Designing Well

    Video · Course Overview

    Video · Course Prerequisites

    Reading · A Few Important Points About This Course

    Video · Glossary of Design Terms

    Reading · A Glossary of Design Terms

    Quiz · Glossary Quiz

    Video · Professionalism in Design

    Video · Designing with a Critical Eye

    Video · Developing a Design Vocabulary

    Reading · Developing a Design Vocabulary

    Reading · Why Designers Use Templates

    Other · Finding Great Design

    Video · The Importance of Inspiration

    Video · Unexpected Places Yield Unexpected Results

    Other · Finding Inspiration

    WEEK 2
    Module 2: The Blank Canvas
    This module will look at the blank canvas – the untouched rectangle that will become our design project. We’ll discuss the importance of working with a grid, understanding negative space, and using appropriate margins. This module will also explore the palette of elements which, when chosen and used wisely, ensure that the finished design project is successful. We’ll cover type, color, images, and graphic elements such as borders, bars, and backgrounds.

    Video · The Necessity of Structure

    Video · Introducing the Grid

    Reading · Practicing Building Grids

    Video · The Grid and Audience Perception

    Video · The Power of Negative Space

    Reading · Practicing Negative Space

    Video · Introducing the Palette

    Video · Type Is the Message

    Other · Choosing a Typeface

    Video · Type Anatomy

    Video · Type Families

    Quiz · Typeface Quiz

    Video · Type Formatting

    Video · Creating with Type

    Reading · Practicing Templates

    Video · Color and Its Meaning

    Other · Choosing Color

    Video · Color and the Natural World

    Other · Photographic Layout

    Video · Image Treatment

    Video · Creative Cropping

    Video · Graphic Elements

    Reading · Practicing Cropping

    Quiz · Seeing Design 'Tricks' in Action

    WEEK 3
    Module 3: Tricks of the Trade
    It's time to start designing! In this module, we'll discuss the process of composition. We'll use the palette items covered in Module 2, and deploy common visual design “tricks” such as contrast, repetition, sublimation, tension, and more. To help see both the effect and the universality of these design approaches, we'll look at design examples from art history, film, and current media. We’ll also cover the strategy of composition. We'll see that providing an obvious target, maintaining a natural visual flow, and prioritizing information are all critical to clear visual communication.

    Video · Design "Tricks"

    Video · Designing with a Closed Set of Elements: The Clarity Guitars Ad

    Reading · Using the Closed Set

    Video · Contrast

    Other · Practicing Contrast

    Reading · Practicing Contrast 2

    Video · White Space

    Other · Practicing White Space

    Video · Repetition in writing, design, and presentation

    Video · Rhythm or Repetition

    Other · Practicing Repetition

    Video · Sublimation

    Other · Practicing Sublimation

    Video · Interlocking Elements

    Video · Introduction to Tension

    Reading · Practicing Tension

    Video · Tension and Movement

    Reading · Practicing Logos

    Video · Targets and Portals

    Other · Identifying Targets

    Video · Establishing Priorities

    Other · Designing a Cover

    Peer Review · Design Critique

    WEEK 4
    Module 4: Revision and Distance
    As we've said before, designers don't work in a vacuum. Our work will be judged by others, and, as good designers, we will learn to take that judgement constructively and in stride. In this module we’ll talk about what it means to be confident, yet open to criticism. We’ll explore the importance of revision as an ongoing component of design, as well as the need to enlist feedback and maintain distance in assessing our own work.

    Video · Your Work Is Not Precious; Your Ability Is

    Other · Designing with Criticism

    Video · You Are Your Own Worst Critic

    Practice Quiz · Rubric Training Quiz 1

    Practice Quiz · Rubric Training Quiz 2

    Peer Review · Poster Design

    Video · Looking Back at Best Practices

    Video · Moving Forward: Public Speaking

  3. COURSE 3

    Successful Presentation

    Upcoming session: May 8 — Jun 12.

    About the Course

    Few kinds of communication can have the effect of a powerful presentation. Even a short speech can motivate people to change long-held beliefs or to take action, and a wonderfully delivered speech can transform a normal person into a leader. In this course, Prof. William Kuskin provides a series of pragmatic videos and exercises for successful public speaking and presentations. The course develops through four themes—mastering fear, developing a creative formula, using verbal and body language, and anticipating the room—so that you can discover your personal power as a speaker and give excellent presentations. Successful presentations do not rely on perfect teeth, a deep voice, or an army of scriptwriters. They depend largely on the same skills as successful Business Writing and Graphic Design: clarity, structure, and revision. The goal of the course, therefore, is to enable you to discover your own internal power as a speaker and express it to the world. After this course, with some practice, you will be able to go into any situation and command the room for as long as you like.
    Show or hide details about course Successful Presentation

    WEEK 1
    Getting Started with Public Speaking
    In this module William tackles the one element that makes public speaking difficult: fear. Unlike writing a memo or designing a slide deck, presenting a speech puts you directly in front of an audience. Public speaking is wrapped up in the fear of immediate judgment and of lasting rejection. Yet the skills of writing and design are exactly the same as those of public speaking: clarity, structure, revision, and above all, storytelling. By applying these skills you can control your fear and take center stage in public. The results will astound you.

    Video · Welcome to Effective Communication (For New Learners)

    Video · The Capstone (For New Learners)

    Video · Welcome to Successful Presentation

    Reading · About Successful Presentation

    Reading · Kuskin's Top Ten Best Practices

    Other · Getting to know each other

    Video · Understanding Fear

    Reading · Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist

    Video · The Code Rule: Survival Reactions

    Video · The Paradox of Public Speaking

    Video · We've All Felt Fear

    Video · Successful Presentation is Storytelling

    Video · Stories and Storytellers

    Video · Performance

    Other · Storytelling and fear

    Reading · Successful Presentation Assignment, Part 1: Telling a Two-Minute Story

    Quiz · Summative Assessment 1

    WEEK 2
    A Formula For Successful Presentation
    Like the Second Module of Business Writing, this module zeroes in on a practical formula for successful presentations. William establishes this structure, and then breaks down it down into modular elements, so the most complex presentations can be created easily, revised effectively, and delivered confidently. Still, no one-size-fits-all outline, no rigid set of rules, is capable of expressing your own personality and unlocking your own brilliance, and so William goes beyond the basic formula to teach you the secret ingredient to public speaking: creativity.

    Video · The Basic Formula

    Reading · The Formula

    Video · The Secret Ingredient: Creativity

    Reading · Raymond Chandler, Trouble Is My Business

    Video · What Is Creativity?

    Video · The Central Importance of the Introduction

    Video · The Introduction: The Salutation

    Video · The Introduction: The Review of the Structure

    Video · The Introduction: The One Compelling Point

    Reading · Successful Presentation Assignment, Part 2: Crafting an Introduction

    Video · Kuskin Receives His Assignment for Coursera Presentation

    Quiz · Summative Assessment 2

    Video · Intro: The Modular Content Unit

    Video · Pushing Each Unit (Thinking in Circles)

    Video · Building Transitions

    Video · How Do You Push Yourself?

    Reading · Successful Presentation Assignment, Part 3: Building Modules

    Video · The Conclusion

    Video · The Entire Talk Is a Circle

    Quiz · Summative Assessment 3

    WEEK 3
    Practicing Your Self
    We’ve all sat through presentations that had solid content but just didn’t seem to work. Sometimes it’s hard to define why a speaker fails to deliver. The key is practice. Practice is tricky, however, because poor practice techniques actually make a dull presentation even duller—further from the inspiring, passionate experience you want to create for your audience. In Module Three, William redefines the notion of practice as a dynamic process of verbal and physical language, and then teaches you how focus your language to express your personal style of passion. Module Three teaches you to put passion in a bottle and release it when you want.

    Video · Dynamic vs. Static (Getting into Your Brand)

    Video · You Are Your Own Harshest Critic

    Video · The Reverse Outline

    Video · Rehearsing the Introduction

    Video · Passion in a Bottle

    Quiz · Assessment 4

    Video · Hearing Your Language

    Video · Marking Your Script

    Reading · Shakespeare Reading

    Other · Reading (and Speaking) Shakespeare

    Quiz · Assessment 5

    Video · Recognizing Your Body

    Video · Using Your Body

    Video · The Importance of Stance

    Quiz · Assessment 6

    WEEK 4
    Engaging with the World
    You’ve put away your fear. You’ve used the formula to write a clear talk, and you’ve tweaked it with the secret ingredient of creativity. You’ve rehearsed and mastered your personal verbal and physical language. Still, a conference room or a lecture hall is an unpredictable arena, one that contains an uncontrollable amount of variables: the layout of the space, the mood of the audience, the complexity of the questions—these are the elements of a presentation for which you can never fully prepare. How do you actually get ready to walk out on stage? The last module of “Successful Presentation” teaches you how to anticipate the field of the play so you are flexible, agile, and confident. It lays out, in simple terms, how to deal with interruptions and hostility alike, concluding the course by looking ahead to how you develop your own identity not merely as a public speaker, but as powerful individual.

    Video · Anticipating the Field of Play

    Video · A Chaucerian Interlude

    Reading · Chaucer Manuscript

    Video · Attending to Your Audience

    Video · Slides vs Handouts

    Video · What Is a Question?

    Video · Being Soft

    Other · Hard and Soft Scenarios

    Video · Avery's Demo Presentation: "Frankenstein and Science"

    Quiz · Rubric Training Quiz

    Video · Building a Public Portfolio from the Private Self

    Video · The Paradox of the Public Self

    Peer Review · Successful Presentation Assignment, Part 4: The Presentation

    Quiz · Summative Assessment 7

    Video · Effective Communication

  4. COURSE 4

    Effective Communication Capstone Project

    Upcoming session: May 15 — Jun 26.

    About the Capstone Project

    In the Effective Communication Capstone learners apply the lessons of Business Writing, Graphic Design, and Successful Presentation to create a portfolio of work that represents their mastery of writing, design, and speaking and that expresses their personal brand. The portfolio includes three individual elements—a written memo, a slide deck, and a presentation—integrated around a single topic. We provide the elements for a basic capstone, but we also invite our learners to create their own project if they so choose. This self-designed "Challenge Capstone" allows learners to engage meaningfully in their world by choosing a project relevant to their current job or by volunteering to write, design, and speak for a social organization of their choice. By successfully undertaking the Capstone, learners will accomplish three main goals: 1. They will hone their writing, design, and speaking skills and build a portfolio for a job search and/or professional application; 2. They will shape these skills into a unique brand identity; and, if they choose, 3. They will undertake a transformative effect in the world around them. Ultimately, the importance of Capstone portfolio is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Its true goal lies in each student’s personal transformation and expression of their best selves. We invite you to unleash your skills and we can't wait to see the results!
    Show or hide details about course Effective Communication Capstone Project

    WEEK 1
    Capstone Introduction
    Quentin, Dave, and William introduce learners to the Capstone, discuss options for the project, and provide learners with an overview of the elements necessary for completion.

    Video · Welcome to the Capstone

    Video · A Message of Thanks from Quentin, Dave, and William

    Reading · Introduction to the Capstone

    Reading · Accepting the Challenge Capstone

    Other · Discuss Challenge Capstone Ideas

    Reading · Embarking on the Clarity Guitars Capstone (Business Case Included Here)

    Reading · For Clarity Guitars: Growth in the Global Market

    Other · Discuss Ideas for the Clarity Guitars Capstone

    Reading · Quentin's Final Coursera Pitch Memo Revealed

    Reading · Dave's Final Slides Designed

    Video · William Delivers the Effective Communication Pitch

    WEEK 2
    Writing the Memo
    Compose a highly polished draft of your memo. You'll review the key lessons from Business Writing so that you have a fresh reminder of the principles and techniques that drive all great writing. Then, you'll receive peer feedback (and a grade!) in preparation to create the visual elements and speech that will comprise your final project.

    Video · Composing the Memo

    Reading · The Memo Assignment

    Video · Excavating Quentin's Scaffold in the Pitch Memo

    Reading · Optional Review: The Scaffold

    Video · Optional Review: Be The Windowpane

    Video · Optional Review: Waste No Time

    Video · Optional Review: The 10 Principles of Good Writing Revisited and Explained (The Business Writing Conclusion)

    Reading · Optional Review: The List of the 10 Principles of Good Business Writing

    Reading · Optional Review: Self-Revision Checklist

    Other · Getting Past That Blank Page

    Peer Review · The Polished Memo Draft

    WEEK 3
    Designing the Slides
    Design presentation slides which will illustrate key points from your memo. We'll review a few lectures from the graphic design course and work to make your slides functional and visually attractive. The final slides will be used in your capstone presentation.

    Video · The In-Between Guy

    Reading · The Design Assignment

    Reading · Brainstorming a Design Style

    Video · Designing the Coursera Pitch Slides

    Reading · A Sample Written Description of a Design Strategy

    Reading · Using Templates

    Reading · Aim for the Rectangle Outside the Box

    Reading · 5 Best Practices of Good Presentation Design

    Video · Optional Review: Unexpected Places Yield Unexpected Results

    Video · Optional Review: Introducing the Grid

    Other · Learner Feedback on Design Strategies

    Peer Review · First Draft of the Slides

    WEEK 4
    Creating the Presentation
    Create a draft of your final presentation. You'll draw on the work you've done writing your memo and designing your slides. As in the previous modules, you can review some of the videos and documents from the previous MOOC, "Successful Presentation," and you're work here will lay the foundation for your final revision.

    Video · Crafting the Speech

    Reading · The Presentation Assignment

    Reading · Optional Review: Kuskin's Top Ten Best Practices

    Video · Optional Review: The Paradox of Public Speaking

    Video · Optional Review: The Basic Formula

    Reading · Optional Review: The Formula

    Video · Optional Review: The Central Importance of the Introduction

    Video · Optional Review: Dynamic vs. Static (Getting into your Brand)

    Other · Not Getting Stale

    Peer Review · The Draft Presentation

    WEEK 5
    The Final Push
    You've reached the final module of Effective Communication, and you're ready to produce your very best work. In this module, we ask you to pull together your memo, slides, and speech into a powerful expression of who you are.

    Video · The Final Synthesis

    Reading · The Final Assignment: Weaving it All Together

    Other · Creating Your Most Powerful Personal Brand

    Peer Review · The Final Submission: The Effective Communication Portfolio

    Video · It's a Wrap! A conversation about our approach, what we learned, and what Coursera means to us


  • University of Colorado Boulder
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    CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

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