About the General Semantics Course

Course Home | 1: What is GS? | 2: Allness | 3: Bypassing | 4: Linguistic Relativity | 5: Symbol Rulers | 6: Review and Reflection

This course was developed and presented on the Canvas Network by Steve Stockdale, Mary Lahman, and Greg Thompson. It is reproduced here under terms of the Creative Commons Share Alike License as published on Canvas Network from 13 January – 24 February 2014.

Welcome from your Instructors


  • Mary Lahman, PhD, Manchester University (Indiana)
  • Greg Thompson, PhD, Brigham Young University
  • Steve Stockdale, MA, New Mexico State University (Grants Community College)

Read about the instructors.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to General Semantics—the study of how we transform our life experiences into language and thought. Students will learn how language habits and behaviors, how they think about and share experiences, are what make them uniquely human. In other words, students will discover the critical, but sometimes subtle, distinctions between what happens in their lives and how they talk about what happens. The course will include readings from a wide array of disciplines, such as communication studies, neuroscience, and cultural anthropology, in addition to visual and auditory demonstrations, music and social media, and collaborative interactions with fellow learners. These types of learning experiences allow students to not only learn about more effective language behaviors, but also practice those new behaviors in order to communicate more effectively and appropriately in interpersonal and organizational contexts.

Course Modules

Learning Objectives

Participants will learn:

  • how language and thought shape, and are shaped by, our experiences;
  • the critical, but sometimes subtle, distinctions between what happens in our lives vs. how we talk about what happens;
  • the importance of distinguishing facts from inferences and opinions;
  • how to spot attempts to use language in manipulative ways;
  • the limitations and potential pitfalls of some language habits;
  • how to analyze unexamined assumptions and premises that contribute to many of our interpersonal and organizational communication difficulties;
  • and how to use simple, straightforward methodologies to more effectively and appropriately think, communicate, and behave as 21st century citizens of the world.

Course Organization

This six-week course is organized into weekly Modules that will open and be available to you each Monday morning at 08.00 Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. ( or UTC 13.00). Once opened, each Module will remain available throughout the duration of the course.

What do I do now?

New students should go directly to the Getting Started page and begin working your way through the Getting Started Module. Thereafter, you can pick up where you left off by going directly to the Modules List from the course navigation panel. And if you’re joining us after the 13 January course opening, please review all of the course Announcements.

About this Course – Specifically


The course is worth a total of 1,000 points. Except for the quizzes (which are multiple choice, true/false, and short answer), you earn points for an assignment simply by completing the assignment. The purpose of the assignments is to facilitate and reinforce learning. As you earn points, you can track your progress by checking the Grades tab in the left menu.

To be clear, this course does not provide grades (A, B, etc.) or academic credit. The points simply provide a marker of progress and, we hope, some modest incentive or motivation to complete the assignments.


module1badge-125.jpgOne developing aspect about online courses, especially those like this which are open and do not offer academic credit, is the awarding of certificates or badges. In this course we are going to experiment with one type of badge – a Canvabadge. We’ll announce more specifics as the course proceeds, but the general plan is to offer one badge per module, and one badge for completing all of the course requirements, for a total of 7 badges that can be earned. If you are an educator interested in online badges, you might consider the Canvas Network course, Badge 101: The Discovery of Badging, beginning 27 January.



The course is organized into weekly modules. On 13 January, the Getting Started module and Module 1: What is General Semantics? will be open and available to students. Thereafter, each module will open on Mondays at 08.00a Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. (New York time). Once opened, every module will remain open until the course is completed on 24 February.

Weekly assignments are all “due” on Sunday evenings at 11.00 pm (23.00 hrs) New York time. However, for this course “due” dates are suggested and not fixed. You can always complete and submit an assignment later than the “due” date.

Discussion Forums

We will use the Canvas Discussion tool throughout the course on a variety of different topics. These will be identified within each week’s Module list.

We also have three “pinned” Discussions, meaning they will be available from now through the duration of the course.

  • Introduce yourself to the class.
  • Ongoing Course Discussion – for questions or comments about the course content.
  • About Canvas, miscellaneous questions, etc. – for questions or comments about Canvas, administration of the course, or anything else not directly related to the course content.

Personal Journal

Canvas doesn’t provide a Journal feature, but we’ve created an assignment that can function as your personal journal for making notes, jotting down questions, etc. You can always edit and resubmit the assignment to save your comments.


The Canvas Chat tool is a simple, always on way to connect with people in the course who happen to be online at the same time. There is only one Chat “room,” so within Canvas there isn’t a way to conduct a private chat. Throughout the course we will be scheduling one-hour open chats at different times. Watch your Announcements for specific dates and times. Please note: Chat posts cannot be deleted.

Video Tour of the Course


Instructor Responsibilities


The three of us (Mary, Greg, Steve) will share responsibilities for leading the course. Since Steve knows Canvas (it’s part of his day job), he functions as the course designer and will handle everything related to Canvas. We have organized the course materials such that (other than Week 6) each of us will serve as the lead instructor for a specific week’s module. Our intent is that this approach will provide you with three different perspectives on General Semantics with consistency within each module.


We will be monitoring the Discussions and commenting as we feel necessary or desirable. Please don’t feel offended or slighted if one of us doesn’t comment or praise your post – we’re going to be pretty busy keeping up with all the aspects of the course. We will do our best to provide affirmation or corrective clarification as warranted so that appropriate statements are reinforced and questionable interpretations are challenged. However, due to the nature of GS there is some merit to individuals figuring out things for themselves in terms of how they evaluate certain statements, judgments, and opinions.

Also regarding the nature of GS … we may express sentiments or address issues that you may strongly disagree with or even take offense with. Please know that our intention is solely educational and in no way do we want to demean or insult any individual or group. However, we cannot deal with matters of evaluation (a cornerstone of GS) without also dealing with presenting examples of misevaluations. So while we may indeed analyze and judge a certain reaction or response, we do so only to offer illustrative and relevant examples.

Teaching Assistants (TAs)

Because of the number of registrants in this course (more than 700) and the number of countries represented ( at least 25), we have asked several of our colleagues around the world to serve in the role of Teaching Assistant (TA).

  • from the United States: Andrea Johnson, Nora Miller, and Frank Nason
  • from Argentina: Laura Bertone
  • from France: Isabelle Aubert
  • from India: Jung Pravesh and Devkumar Trivedi

They will help us monitor and facilitate the discussions and chats, as well as answer your questions. We greatly appreciate their willingness to help out and add to your learning experience.

Student Responsibilities

Your responsibilities in this online course are highlighted below.

  • You have no responsibilities.

You are taking this course to fulfill whatever curiosities or motivations drive you. You can spend as much or as little time here as you want. You are under no obligation to do anything in this course other than what you are moved to do.

This online course experience is probably as close as we can all get to the notion of learning for the sake of learning. We (Mary, Greg, Steve) believe the material we will cover is important, relevant, and beneficial. We’re happy to do this. We aren’t getting paid, just as you aren’t paying for it. So let’s have fun in the pursuit of own time-binding learning experiences. (Details on what that means later.)

As in most things we experience in life, what you get out of the course will be a function of what you put into it. We’re looking forward to working with you to encourage your inputs and facilitate your takeaways.

That said …

The Announcements tool (in the left course navigation panel) will be very important for keeping you on track. Please make sure you have opted to receive Announcements immediately or daily in your Notification Preferences (click on your name in the Canvas header, then select Notifications in the left course navigation. Each week, you should plan to:

  1. Complete the readings and videos assigned for the topic area.
  2. Complete the assigned activities (discussions, assignments, quizzes).
  3. Participate in the discussions and engage with your fellow students (and instructors and TAs) with courtesy, respect, and a mutual interest in learning.


crowd-carries.jpgPlease introduce yourself, guided by the questions listed below.

  1. How would you like to be addressed?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Where are you now? Why?
  4. How do you spend your time?
  5. If you could have a front row seat to observe any past, present, or future event, what would it be? (Think sporting event, concert, historical event or period, artist’s studio, conversation, museum, venue or place, etc.)


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