Multimodal Assignments

First-Year Writing understands both “text” and “writing” to include composition through a broad range of modes and technologies. FYW courses should incorporate attention to diverse composing practice throughout the semester, in addition to more traditional forms of academic writing. Instructors may incorporate chances to practice and discuss the rhetorical affordances of multimodal composing and writing technologies through in-class activities. Instructors should assign at least one major multimodal project during the semester.

What follows are guidelines for developing multimodal assignments:

  • New ways of writing should not be seen merely as “enhancements” or add-ons to more conventional texts. Students may require extra guidance on how to navigate new technologies.
  • Multimodal projects can be very complex, and it may be necessary to devote a significant amount of in-class time to practicing and discussing principles of composing through alternative modalities (for example, by giving opportunities to learn visual design skills through activities or by rhetorically analyzing audio texts).
  • Collaboration may also be important for certain multimodal projects, and instructors will need to consider how to facilitate this.
  • Multimodal projects need to have clear instructions and goals; there is often no “tacit script” that students have internalized from other writing experiences for what they need to do.
  • Instructors should have realistic expectations for the work multimodal projects require, and this should be communicated to students. (Students do not always have realistic perceptions of how long such projects will take.) A 60-second video could well be more demanding to produce than six pages of written text.
  • Depending on how open-ended the assignment is, it may be useful to ask students to write a proposal for their projects, so that instructors can preview and advise on the projects as they develop. Sometimes it may be easier to respond to a detailed proposal as a draft, or to workshop proposals during peer review, since diverse multimodal projects tend to develop at different rates.
  • Multimodal assignments should always consider the ways use of diverse modes or technologies contribute to students’ rhetorical awareness and abilities; they should go beyond “functional” use of technologies as transparent tools.

Below are some sample “assignment shells” for multimodal project ideas that could be adapted to a variety of course inquiries.

Sample Multimodal Assignment Designs

Sample Assignment 1A

Sample Assignment 1B

Sample Assignment 2A

Sample Assignment 2B

Sample Assignment 3

Sample Assignment 4A

Sample Assignment 4B