A common undergraduate degree requirement

Public speaking courses (often referred to by students to as “speech classes”) are included in the basic degree completion requirements for many undergraduate programs at Penn State. They fall under the category of general education courses (or “gen eds”). They are most commonly taken in the form of CAS 100: Effective Speaking, or one of the variations, such as CAS 100A, B, C, or D.

Scrutinize the syllabus for helpful clues

The exact format and approach of online speech classes will vary depending on the course itself. Some speech courses focus more on speaking techniques and studying the elements of an effective speech. In those cases, students mainly focus on analyzing rhetorical practices by studying famous or historically significant speeches, as opposed to actually giving speeches themselves. 

Students can learn specifics about the exact material, format, and requirements of a particular course by reviewing the course's sample syllabus.

For example, a typical syllabus for a CAS 100B: Effective Speech course at Penn State World Campus explains that the course explores communication among small groups, so students spend much of their time reviewing and analyzing group communication dynamics and participating in group discussions. In these courses, most of the assignments involve written analysis and discussion, but students do typically have one or two group assignments that involve participating in an interactive, synchronous group discussion using a video conference platform. For these assignments, the class is divided into small groups and the members of each group coordinate meeting times that work for them.

For another Effective Speech course, CAS 100C, students record themselves delivering three mandatory speeches using an online video platform. Some of these speeches are submitted directly to the instructor and viewed only by them, while other recorded speaking assignments may be uploaded to a group dashboard to allow for feedback and discussion.  

When students browse available courses to make their selections for the upcoming semester, they can review a sample syllabus and see the requirements for courses they are considering, which helps them determine if the structure of that particular course will work for them.