As a required course for the writing major, and one of the only required courses with a central and comprehensive focus on digital composing, WRT 302 should be accessible to digital newbies, while also providing enough space for more experienced students to find meaningful work and help inform the class overall. As this was my first time teaching 302, I drew from the model syllabus, though I made modifications. The course focused around user experience and user-centered design, disability and digital technology, the role of digital culture, and composing through a range of modalities and interfaces (creating infographics, websites, photo and video editing, producing podcasts, etc.).
I wanted the class to strike a balance between practical skills and more complex rhetorical awareness with(in) digital composing. This meant that each assignment made use of both hands-on learning experiences and analytical and reflective aspects of the assignment.
Unit one was clearest example of this, where they had to make a screen-capture-based analysis of an interface that they chose. This forced students to make use of a few things. First, they had to learn the interface of their choice–getting better at infographic making, coding, video editing, etc., depending on their choice–and become fairly fluent with its functions. Next, they had to critically analyze it based on class readings and in-class discussions that revolved around design, usability, politics and other practical and critical concepts regarding digital composing. Third, the students then had to convert their analysis into a screen capture that required them filming the program’s use and narrating. This incorporated a range of skills. How to organize and breakdown their analysis? How to showcase their analysis in voice and visual? They also had to produce this work, experiencing a new form of composing. To accomplish this, we spent considerable time practicing and discussing their projects and the tools and concepts involved. We also incorporated accessibility with a particular focus on usability and subtitles.
Project two, a website, and project three, a multi-media portfolio, continued this focus on learning concrete skills and building an awareness of audience, usability, and design. For example, a long while before they started composing their website, we had activities and discussions regarding users, accessibility, site architecture, etc., and then tested their sites with usability testing. As digital writing is often highly flexible, iterative, and ongoing, I approached each project this way, especially the website. Regular reading responses also provided a low-stakes space to produce invention work, reflect on the larger goals of their projects, and engage with some of the more theoretical and rhetorical concepts.
Last, I also created a strong focus through assignments and in-class activities surrounding fair use. On the immediate level, this affected the type of composing that they could do, including the images, sounds, etc., they embedded on their site or used in their multi-media portfolio. But in a larger sense, it is also an important issue for more and more composing today online, connected to parody, meme culture, and circulation.