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The "Writing Program" at a Traditional Liberal Arts College

Implementing a Multimodal Composition Initiative

After Multimodality

How the Liberal Arts College Environment Enhances Multimodal Instruction

Works Cited

Photograph Credits

In many ways, The University of Findlay’s writing program currently resembles many first-year writing programs. The writing program is housed in the Department of English, and oversees first-year and second-year composition courses. Students are required to pass the first-year College Writing II (English 106) for graduation, and complete a “second-level” writing course as Takayoshi and Selfe (2008) note in Multimodal Composition, “the texts that students have produced in response to composition assignments have remained essentially the same for the past 150 years. They consist primarily of words on a page, arranged into paragraphs. This flow of words is only occasionally interrupted by titles, headings, diagrams, or footnotes." (1)

Despite the persistence of this model of writing, increasingly, multimodal composition assignments are introduced into traditional composition courses. These multimodal texts “exceed the alphabetic and may include still and moving images, animations, color, words, music and sound” and consist of web pages, films, and podcasts in addition to print-image hybrids such as brochures (1). Multimodal assignments take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies that include social networking sites such as MySpace, file sharing sites such as Flickr, and an emphasis on immediate, content-driven publication rather than a knowledge of programming skills (Peek 17). Still, these texts remain the exception, not the norm. While students often compose via multiple modes in their non-academic lives, connections between in- and out- of class literacies are not explicit for many students.

When writing instructors do incorporate multimodal assignments, reasons they cite include existing student interest and engagement with multimedia (and therefore, an assumed increased interest in the multimodal composing process in general), a need to provide students with successful communication skills in both print and electronic environments as students learn and work in both, and a desire by instructors to teach writing skills that are relevant (Selfe and Takayoshi 3-5). Multimodal instructors recognize is not enough for students to merely analyze web texts and compose traditional print-based texts in response. Rea and White (1999) note that traditional rhetorical concerns persist in web environments but students cannot effectively critique web texts without experiencing the web composing process firsthand. Instructors of multimodal composition therefore “face the challenge of deciding how to incorporate various media into writing classes in ways that are not only fiscally and technologically viable but also pedagogically and ethically sound” (Turnley 146).