• to develop your reading and composing skills in multiple media
  • to experience multimodal composition as a process that includes analysis, invention, drafting, and revision across modes, media, and genres of texts
  • to use and interrogate traditional writing processes when composing in multiple media
  • to reflect on your processes as readers and writers as you read, write about, and discuss the texts of the course: published work, peers’ writing, and your own
  • to become more practiced at using multimodal composition as a means of investigation, scholarship, and play
  • to understand that multimodal composition is both rhetorical and creative, and thus can be useful in many disciplines
  • to investigate the impact of digital technologies on reading and producing multimedia texts
  • to have fun and learn by wowing ourselves and each other


  • all readings are linked to this website unless otherwise stated in class


  • comfortable stereo headphones with a 5-foot cable and a 1/8-inch input jack. You are required to bring headphones to class with you every day.
  • a 5- or 10-pack of DVD-Rs or DVD+Rs (either will work on the PCs. If you own a Mac, check to see which will work).
  • a 5- or 10-pack of DVD covers. All DVDs are required to be inside a sleeve or case.
  • a Sharpie (permanent) marker or DVD labels to put on all DVDs you turn in. I will not accept DVDs that aren’t properly labeled with your name, semester, and assignment title.
  • a personal computer with Internet access, sound card, and the ability to download free software needed for class


  • headphones with a built-in mic. (Priced at $15-100, depending on your long-term needs. Mac users need to get a USB headset/mic)
  • your own domain and server space (Priced at about $100/year. On sale at the highly recommend for $128 for two years, domain included, right now.)
  • an external hard drive (at least 250 gigs. Priced at $75-100)
  • a digital video camera (I recommend the Flip Video Ultras, not Minos, available on amazon for about $115. If you decide to buy another kind for use in this class, please ask me about specifications, filetypes, and other recommendations I have).

I will provide some audio and video equipment. If you lose, break, or have this equipment stolen while it’s under your care, you are responsible for purchasing like equipment by semester’s end.


Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Disability Concerns at 350 Fell Hall, 438-5853 (voice), 438-8620 (TTY).

You are here because you want to be in this class. So am I. I embrace the English studies model of this department but also value how all aspects of your undergraduate or graduate education come together to form your learning and life experiences. Together we gladly learn and teach!

I have several expectations for you while in this class. You should:

  • come to every class,
  • make time to read everything assigned and to understand it,
  • be open to voice related topics of interest to you,
  • complete your assignments on time and with creativity and care,
  • provide thoughtful discussion in and out of class,
  • conduct yourself in ways suitable to your class colleagues and myself, and
  • do excellent work, because there are too many average students out there trying to get jobs for you to bother with anything less than excellence.

I value

  • thought-out (or at least informed) questions rather than off-the-cuff opinions, although you will have a place to do both in this class,
  • your bringing connections to light between classroom discussions and your prior experiences and other classes,
  • risk and creativity and multidisciplinarity and self-learning and helpfulness, and
  • aha moments, which can turn into great discussions, projects, or (later) honors theses, internships, memorable moments, or projects external to your classes.

Overall, I expect you to push yourselves to learn, a process which can take many forms.

From me, you should expect:

  • an interest in your scholarly work in this class and its connections to other classes you are taking,
  • an enthusiasm for teaching about multimodal composition, which includes theory, practice, history, technological literacies, multiple ways of knowing, and having fun.
  • a personalized approach to teaching,
  • an ability to go with the flow and to create learning scenarios that may sometimes seem quirky (what I call a Happenings pedagogy), and
  • a desire to help you connect with multimodal composition in a way that suits you. (Know that I try to read minds, but may occassionally need some clues from you! 😉


  • Reading responses (blog posts)
  • Screenshot analysis of Watson video CFPs (grads = digital scholarship)
  • Video CFP
  • Pitch Proposal
  • Collaborative scholarly project
  • Individual screencapture (Camtasia) process document of group project
  • Portfolio reflection
  • Completed blog portfolio


  • class participation: 50%
  • final portfolio: 50%

Because ISU doesn’t believe in +/- grades, the absence of which leads to grade inflation (and deflation), I have changed my grading scale to reflect what I require in this class:

A:  92–100%  (excellent)
B:  84–91%  (above-average)
C:  76–83%  (average)
D:  66–75%  (below average)
F:  >65%  (did not complete course requirements)

If you have questions AT ANY TIME about your grade potential, please make an appointment with me. If I believe that you are on a trajectory toward a D or F, I will let you know. If you’re participating in the basics of the class, then you’re probably passing and should only be concerned with your individual goals for earning a C, B, or A, described in more detail below.

class participation
As my grading rubric shows, I take class participation very seriously. All of these items are especially important, I’ve found over the years, for students who have borderline grades. Participation includes

  • attendance: You are required to attend every class session unless the schedule specifically indicates that class is canceled that day. There are no such things as excused vs. unexcused absences—if you’re not here, I don’t much care why. If your absence is caused by a funeral or similar extenuating circumstances, I will take that into consideration when I tabulate final participation grades. For every day of class you miss, your participation percentage (50%) will drop by 5%. (For those, like me, who suck at math that means that if you miss 2 classes, the highest participation percentage you can hope to earn is a 40%, which means the highest grade you can earn in this class is a B.) If you miss a workshop, it’s worth two absences (see explanation under timeliness and readiness.) Attendance at out-of-class conferences with me is considered the same as class time when class has been canceled to accommodate conference time. (When conferences are in addition to class time, I just get pissy if you miss your appointment, and usually I won’t have time to make it up with you.)
  • timeliness: If you show up late or leave early or disappear for 15 minutes in the middle of class, it will affect your participation grade. Timeliness also refers to the time-sensitive nature of completing assignments, such as blog posts, and turning in equipment on time. Late work is completely unacceptable, and I will not give you feedback on it. If you do not have a major assignment ready in time for our workshop days, I will deduct 5% from your participation grade. If you return borrowed equipment late, I will deduct 5% from your participation grade. If you fail to return borrowed equipment at all (like, you lose it or break it beyond repair), I will deduct 5% from your participation grade, PLUS you are responsible for replacing the equipment in kind and I will hold final grade submissions until it has been replaced.
  • readiness: Readiness is different from timeliness in that it relates specifically to being prepared by the start-time of the class period (and any outside-of-class work that we negotiate to do). All homework must be completed BEFORE class starts. For instance, printing of assignments or uploading of files after the class period has begun will result in a delay of class, which will negatively impact your participation grade. This bullet also refers to workshop participation and group work participation in that if you do not have a draft ready on workshop day, you are unprepared to provide feedback to your workshop peers, or you are unwilling/unable to perform the responsibilities of your group work, you will receive a deduction of 5% every time (for any of these infractions) in your participation grade.
  • thoughtfulness: Thoughtfulness translates to critical awareness and participation in all manners of class activities. This may include activities such as having useful, productive questions or discussion items based on homework (readings, assignments, or peer-review work), collegial work completed with your group mates, or thoughtful work demonstrated in the major assignments themselves. In addition (a note for those of you who like to talk a lot), thoughtfulness means that if you constantly need to share in class, but your sharing is largely off-topic, disruptive, or unhelpful,your participation grade will be affected.

The portfolio grading systems means that I won’t be assigning grades (other than for participation) until you turn in the final assignments in the portfolio the last week of class. You will receive feedback to your work in the form of in-class discussions, conference meetings, and blog comments. When I and your peers offer critiques of your draft projects, we assume that you will assimilate those revision suggestions into your final draft. When you don’t, you should have a very good reason in relation to the purpose of the text for not doing so. Otherwise, when I am grading your final portfolio, I should be able to see your progress on the text from the time it was workshopped as well as from informal, in-class feedback or conferences with me. I hope that this portfolio system will allow you the freedom and flexibility to take risks in your assignments while also providing time for you to re-envision and revise those drafts into more usable, sophisticated, and polished texts by the end of the term.


tips for earning an A
The grade of A is reserved for excellent work. Excellent work does not equate with showing up every day, participating once in a while, and turning in completed drafts on time or turning the final portfolio in with the revision basics done. Those are the average requirements of any class setting, and average equates to a C in the real world. Here are some ways to earn an A:

  • Produce excellent assignments. What constitutes excellence?  Doing more than simply completing the terms of the assignment. An excellent assignment is sophisticated,  engaging, and insightful. It is technically polished and free of any kind of errors (and, thus, often requires multiple drafts, as workshops allow). It shows evidence of a substantive, thoughtful engagement with the course materials and assignment objectives. It is, above all, interesting, designed to draw the reader into full engagement with its content.
  • Participate excellently in class. Excellence in class participation means not simply speaking frequently, but contributing in an active and generous way to the work of the class as a whole by asking questions, offering interpretations, politely challenging your colleagues, graciously accepting challenges in return, and being a productive group member.
  • Be an excellent citizen-scholar. Specifically, be able to demonstrate to me (through discussions, group work, assignment drafts, and your final portfolio) that you (a) understand and can reflect on the content of this class and show progress toward that knowledge in your final portfolio; (b) reason logically, critically, creatively, independently and consensually, and are able to address issues in a broad context; (c) recognize different ways of thinking, creating, expressing, and communicating through a variety of media; (d) understand diversity in value systems and cultures in an interdependent world; and (e) develop a capacity for self-assessment and lifelong learning.

actions that will positively affect my evaluation of you as an excellent student

  • having a collegial attitude
  • waiting for me to get settled when I walk into class by holding all questions until I am ready
  • bringing your materials to class every day
  • asking for help well in advance of a deadline
  • accepting responsibility for late or incomplete assignments
  • asking your classmates for missed content if you are absent
  • being attentive in class so that I avoid needless repetition
  • providing me assignments on time and in the medium I ask
  • asking your classmates for help during open-lab sessions, then…
  • …if stumped, raising your hand, calling me, and waiting patiently for help
  • using email, office hours, or some other agreed-upon conferencing medium for private or involved questions
  • accepting that I respond to emails as quickly as I can, but never after 5pm and usually not on weekends
  • understanding that strategic (and sometimes maximum) effort results in excellent work

15 thoughts on “Syllabus

  1. Kate Melia

    After reading this syllabus in its entirety, unlike I did while sitting in class taking in descriptions of multimodal composition, I have to be honest in saying that I feel slightly intimidated.

    I do not doubt for one second that this class will leave me with mass amounts of knowledge in this field- or more information that I started out with at least- but I am concerned at the high expectations. This may be a bit of self doubt, but I am willing to work hard.

    I do appreciate, unlike the majority of the syllabuses I have seen in my four years, that there is a list of expectations and tips towards an excellent grade in this class. I feel that this provides an unarguable list for students to run off of as the semester progresses.

    I am looking forward to diving in head first into the multimodal composition genre. I have never dealt with, nor was I prepared for, this type of work. It can only help my success.

    Also, another thing I admired about this syllabus and will incorporate myself into my future classroom is what the students should expect from the professor. This syllabus allows equality to be felt within the classroom. Though I am very intimidated by the work that I am guessing is ahead of me, I am calmed to know that my professor will be working just as hard, if not harder.

  2. Matt Wendling


    Firstly, I apologize, I accidentally posted this to the page I was viewing and not the page I was supposed to post on!

    Since this is my second time through the course, I think I have a basic understanding of the class goals. I hope to continue to learn more about the topics we’ll cover. I’m excited for the opportunity to be published again and though I don’t have any specific project ideas yet, I’m thinking about how I’ll approach this semester. I do know I do not want to continue work on the MySpace project (or log into MySpace at all ever again). I want to take from this semester an even deeper understanding of how multimodality shapes our existence in this digital world. I also want to explore what career opportunities are available to someone with specialized knowledge in multimodal comp. I’m excited for this semester to get underway!

    On a sidenote, I did end up getting a portable hard drive for Christmas so getting files to and from class won’t be as much of a pain!

  3. Jason

    The syllabus and goals for the course are straight-forward enough. I am quite excited about creating some multimodal compositions — to practice what I hope to take back to the classroom. I hope to investigate, further, the idea of how having students develop multimodal projects can work to help students gain a better understanding of the main ideas in a composition course, and how doing so might even work better (well, in my opinion it will work better) than having students write text-based papers.
    Looking forward to the semester,

  4. Sheree Brewer

    After reading the syllabus for this course, I find myself slightly overwhelmed, yet excited. Working with multiple media is a very important part of my major, public relations. I feel this course will take me in a new direction that will set me apart from many public relations majors, and other majors within the school of communication.
    Since this is the first class that I am taking toward my writing minor I feel slightly out of my league. I am hoping this class will show me not only that I want to set a focus on my writing skills but also that I can succeed in this area. I have not thought of any project ideas up to this point but this course seems to allow room for spontaneous creativity.
    I did not expect this course to be so hands on and I more than half expected it to be boring. However, it seems that I may be wrong, and I’m very excited to get things started!

  5. Emily Rieger

    Along with some of the other students, I feel somewhat intimidated. I’m an education major so I haven’t taken any classes alike to this at all. It helps a lot to have such a detailed syllabus so I can know what to expect, along with what you expect out of me. The major assignments sound fun, yet challenging. I hope to learn a lot from this class that I could maybe use one day in my own classroom. I am really looking forward to this class because it seems so diffferent than other English courses. See you on Wednesday!

  6. Ben Kaufman

    After reading the sylabus outside of class i feel a little better about the class as a whole. In all honesty when i signed up for the class I had no idea what it was about and only did it to fullfill a requirement. I will say that i am pleasantly suprised about the content of the class because in the past i have played around with video composition but haven’t had the time to do anything serious with it. I think that this class will provide me with a fresh view of my own writing as well because i will now be able to think about other options then simply typing my thoughts out in an essay form.

  7. Daniel Harla

    I am also somewhat intimidated by this syllabus, but I am willing and eager to learn as much as possible through this course. The course goals and projects seem obtainable (of course, I will need to learn more than what I learned wed.). I am having some trouble working out all the kinks in my page, but I am sure they will be worked out. I value the same qualities you require, so we’re cool in that regard. I hope to gain as much knowledge from this class as possible. I do not know much so everything is new and scary to me, but also exciting.

  8. Jonathan Myers

    Humm, what do I say here…

    To start, the expectations I have of myself far exceed that which is included in a syllabus. As Cheryl , Susan, and perhaps Jason know, I expect far more of myself than I am usually capable. Occasionally I do achieve these lofty benchmarks. As of yet I am unable to prevent these absurd personal requirements from asserting themselves. I look forward to learning all I can about further multimodal composition practices and processes beyond what I have picked up on my own.

    I come to this class with decent prior experience and a love for the craft. I’m no expert nor am I a novice. My hope is to pick up more “tricks of the trade” as well as a strong pedagogical grasp of teaching methods for multimodal composition.

    No one should feel overwhelmed or fearful of anything in this course. We will all work together to aid in overall understanding of expectations as well as conceptualization of what multimodal composition is. Look at intimidation as a signal to step to the task. it is a challenge presented to us with a fostering kindness by Dr. Ball.

    To any future k-12 teachers: use this class to get ahead of your future students. They are already multimodal composers, as you probably are also but don’t realize it.

    I am torn between two projects. The first is pushing in on my reason for being at ISU: a concept I have designated as World Building Narrative. It involves theoretical and practical applications of various forms of traditional and nontraditional narrative to the construction of richly storied persistent 3D environments. Of particular interest for me is that of MMORPGs and their advancement into a new form of cooperative narrative composition between users and developers. In essence it is an extreme form of multimodal composition focusing one facet of interactive fiction expression.

    The second project I have in mind is a reexamination of a concept i have dealt with in one of Dr. Ball’s classes. This concept is Transhumanism. There is a tension between the concepts of already being transhuman or that we are moving into Transhumanism. The fact that we are all taking a course about multimodal composition states that we are either moving into a transhuman form of existence or are simply acknowledging we are transhumans. Regardless of the conclusion of this interacting binary, the frame of Transhumanism is more than sufficient in its ideologies as a fuel for scholarly investigation and then expression of multimodal composition/s. The question, for now is, as threshold or actual transhuman our potential as writers has shifted; so then, what does the prospect of thinking in acknowledged multimodality do to our conscious and unconscious authorizing activities? What are we presenting and what are we giving up as we create new media artifacts as base as a word document or PDF all the way through to a full fledged maelstrom of tiered media forms to create a composite whole?

    Can you tell which I am leaning towards? /wink

    (The website I have submitted may change in address as the semester progresses.)

  9. Susan Grogan

    I am quite excited about the course goals, as I have a strong interest in the power of multimodal composition.

    At present, my skills are most rudimentary. I have taken one course that introduced the software and processes of creating various mutli-media projects. The prior course was essentially designed to provide the basic skills required to create a mutli-media work, some of the core principals of appealing design, the common terminology, and an overview of multi-media as a business. That course was a mixture of frustration and triumph in the form of brief projects and I loved every minute of it!

    I am most excited to delve into the rhetorical applications and hone my skills at reading and writing in these modes. Coming from a background in the visual arts, the very thought of combining such elements with the written word is inspiring. Adding greater depth with other formats is sure to be enlightening. I can fairly be called a nerd, so learning anything new or growing in new directions is something of a thrill. As I have progressed in my education, I have found that all of my courses-even those which do not seem to overlap-add to my perspectives.

    The projects look like they will provide many challenges and new insights.

  10. Adam Gertz

    You certainly know how to write an intimidating syllabus. What I would most like to take from this class is an idea of how I can apply what I learn here to my future career as a technical writer, which will be essential in a world with a decreasing number of paper manuals.

  11. Andrew Wasowicz


    I’ve been pretty excited about the class as Social Media and Social Marketing are huge interests of mine, and a class like this I feel will help me greatly in the field. I look forward to the opportunity to work toward getting published and hope that, if it happens, it will be something I can point to for grad-school. One of the project ideas I’ve had so far, and I don’t know if this is the direction I should be thinking in, is possibly a video that analyzes the anti-national health rhetoric of advertising by insurer and pharmaceutical lobbyist groups.


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