Student Engagement

Because the Writers' Studio is taught in a fully online environment, a great challenge faculty members faced was student engagement with multimodal composition. At the start of each semester, some of the students were resistant to developing projects that exceeded essays. In previous classes, not only did they not consider other types of writing, but also they had not been given the freedom to choose a type of text to construct. We began the course by asking students to explore ideas of rhetoric and audience. Additionally, we asked students to watch videos our team developed on multimodal composition and read relevant textbook content on "Choosing a Medium, Genre, and Technology for Your Communication" to build an understanding for rhetorical knowledge within the Council of Writing Program Administrators' Outcomes Statement (Roen, Glau, & Maid, 2012). We pointed students to open-access technologies and technical support for many Web 2.0 apllications. Once students grasped the idea of essay as only one genre within one medium, many of them embraced the opportunity to develop real-world documents and write for audiences that exceeded the teacher as audience.

To offer more even support, we placed students in cohorts within the class and assigned each group an instructional assistant. The instructional assistants were upper-level writing students who served as peer mentors. The instructional assistants gave students extra feedback on projects throughout the writing process, giving students suggestions regarding choosing a medium and genre or using various technologies. Many students entered the Writers' Studio with little understanding of how to create multimodal projects; thus, the addition of instructional assistants gave students extra support to succeed in an unfamiliar environment. Other universities may not have access to such resources as instructional assistants; however, it is imperative that students are given feedback throughout the process of multimodal design, whether from the instructor or peers.

By offering additional support through instructional assistants and supplemental videos and resources, we addressed students' needs when creating multimodal texts. We believe that the design of the course—specifically a design that focused on utilizing multimodal instruction—helped students better understand course concepts. In addition, our instructional tools served as a model for students when designing their own multimodal projects. The rich learning environment we've described in this article meets the needs of various learning styles and encourages student engagement and understanding of the complex rhetorical situation associated with multimodal composition.