Blog Post

Looking for Advice on Multimodal Teaching & Composing

This spring, I am teaching an online professional writing course for Appalachian State University. The goal of the course is for students to study the rhetorical principles and writing practices necessary for producing effective professional documents such as letters, memos, proposals, and collaborative projects in web- and print-based environments. Another major emphasis of the course is exploring issues related to underrepresented groups in the workplace.
As I begin the journey of teaching this online course, I’m trying on a few new “teacherly hats.” I’m pushing myself, for instance, to commit more thoroughly to what I call multimodal teaching, which is rooted in teaching using multiple modalities. To accomplish this, I’ll be using a combination of synchronized virtual meetings, instructional videos, and web-based materials such as digital posters and audio recordings. By presenting course concepts and materials in a variety of modes, I hope to support diverse learning styles and foster dynamic learning experiences. I also want to model for my students the types of compositions I want them to produce.
Moreover, I’ll be pushing my students to engage in multimodal composing by creating compositions which blend traditional text-based elements with multimedia ones. I’m asking students, for example, to build Google worksites so they can generate and share professional communication documents (such as memos and emails) in digital spaces, learn new technological skills and tools, and understand ways in which the web can be an important space for developing and distributing information and ideas.
Although my commitment to multimodal teaching and composing is steadfast, I still have a few nagging concerns about this teaching approach that I’m hoping folks in the HASTAC community can help me work through: What if this approach creates positive learning experiences for only a handful of my students? How much attention should we (as a class) pay to the “invisible” ways in which digital communication technologies both positively and negatively shape social issues, particularly for underrepresented groups? What types of new technologies should my students learn and which tech-skills will be most helpful to them in the professional arena?
The questions I pose here are not statements I’ve simply repackaged into inquiries for rhetorical purposes. I am sincere about wanting to know how others approach these questions/issues and, just as importantly, what others’ concerns are about multimodal teaching and composing. So please...throw your ideas my way.

Lori Beth


Lori Beth - I just saw Adeline's new course called "introduction to Digital Writing" and you should check out the assignments and her approach. 

I'm copying Amanda Starling Gould's comment from another thread on this syllabus:

You must absolutely check out Adeline Koh's new online course GAH 2180: Introduction to Digital Writing. As usual, she is at the forefront of creative pedagogy. Her course description:

"This fully online course will introduce you to some of the key elements for writing for the web. We will consider how the Internet functions as a meeting space for different kinds of communities, and the role that digital writing plays in constructing this space. There are two major assignments for this class: 1) an original contribution to Wikipedia on a neglected subject, and 2) creating a niche blog and developing an accompanying audience on Twitter." 

See her syllabus and more details about these fantastically innovative assignments here:





What types of new technologies should my students learn and which tech-skills will be most helpful to them in the professional arena?

I'm not exactly sure about which tech skills these students should learn, but I think the best thing to teach is HOW to learn new tech skills. Where can they take online classes? Or watch videos? Khan Academy? other places? Are there PDFs they can follow step-by-step to learn? How can they identify which skills to master?

Basically, I think learning new tech allows them to learn other forms of new technology that they might need in the future. So one goal might be to expose them to different ways of (a) Identifying the tech problem and solution, and (b) Figuring out how to learn them. 

Maybe they can all contribute to a wiki or other collaborative document that lists resources on how to learn various tools and apps?



Hi Fiona,

For some reason I'm just now seeing your comments; thank you for sharing these resources and links. Adeline's course looks amazing; I look forward to "stealing" some of her ideas and assignments.

Thanks again,

Lori Beth