Course Description, Policies, and Assignments

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General Information

Course number/section: ENGL 303/002
Course name: Multimedia Writing
Term and year: Spring 2013
CRN: 11280
Location: G06 Colson Hall
Times: TT, 2:30-3:45
Instructor: John Jones, Assistant Professor
Email: john dot jones at-sign mail dot wvu dot edu
Twitter: johnmjones
Office: 231 Colson Hall
Office hours: Office hours: T 10-11, Th 1-2, or by appointment

Course description

“I have been a person of the book, but I am becoming a person of the screen. It is not an easy transition.” – Kevin Kelly

While writing with rich media has existed for decades online, with the introduction of electronic readers and tablet computers, that writing is increasingly redefining what we call the “book.” In this course, students will study multimedia writing, visual rhetoric, information design, and the principles of copyright and fair use as they relate to electronic books. Using this information, they will learn the skills necessary to write, design, and publish an electronic book using a combination of open-source and student-created content, integrating text with multimedia elements such as images, audio, and video. We will briefly examine major eBook formats—those compatible with Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook—but the focus of the course will be on creating books in open formats that are accessible to readers of multiple devices. In short, students will not only learn how to compose and publish multimedia electronic texts, they will also interrogate our society’s transition from people of the book to people of the screen.

While the course content will focus heavily on the technical details of creating electronic books, including eBook formats, creating multimedia content, the ethical use of that content, and the rhetoric of visual design, students will bring their own knowledge to the course by choosing a topic for the book that they will produce for the course.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have:

  • mastered multimodal, electronic writing, including the composition, design, and organization of interactive digital texts and remixes with audio-visual elements;
  • produced texts that display an awareness of the needs of the rhetorical situation and a particular audience;
  • understood and be able to relate the best practices for the fair use of media that is copyrighted, Creative Commons licensed, or in the public domain;
  • mastered the publication of texts in the EPUB format, including coding interactive multimedia elements in HTML5 and CSS;
  • mastered the technologies and best practices for collaborative writing and other group work; and
  • mastered the research and source citation methods appropriate for multiple media.

In line with the goals of the WVU BA Program in English, these objectives will enable students who successfully complete the course to

  • interpret texts within diverse literary, cultural, and historical contexts;
  • demonstrate a general knowledge of the social and structural aspects of the English language; and
  • demonstrate a range of contextually effective writing strategies.

Course resources

Required texts

Additional course readings will either be found online via the course schedule or on the Readings page.

Required digital resources

  • Regular access to a computer and the Internet (on-campus computer access is provided by the Office of Information Technology, the Center for Literary Computing, and the WVU libraries);
  • a MIX email account which is checked daily;
  • a Twitter account;
  • a Google Drive account;
  • a means of keeping track of your course files, using
    • a USB drive you can bring with you to class (good) or
    • a cloud backup service for your data like SpiderOak or Dropbox (better) or
    • both (best);
  • a RSS reader like Google Reader for tracking the main course blog;
  • Adobe InDesign (this software is available on the classroom computers as well as in labs linked to above); and
  • eReader software that can display EPUB. To test the compatibility of your book for multiple platforms, you should download the following applications:
    • the Calibre eReader,
    • the free NOOK for Mac or NOOK for PC applications OR a NOOK OR an iOS or Android device that has a NOOK application, and
    • the free Kindle for Mac or Kindle for PC applications OR a Kindle OR an iOS or Android device that has a Kindle application.
    • Finally, while the Kindle platform is currently not compatible with EPUB, we will use it to discuss the changing nature of the book. You will be required to acquire Kindle versions of some of our course texts and create public notes on them at

Additional recommendations

  • A tool for tracking your research, like Evernote for note-taking, Delicious for tracking Web sources, and Zotero or RefWorks for managing research and formatting citations and
  • a service for uploading and sharing media, like Scribd for documents, Vimeo or YouTube for videos, and Flickr or Picassa for photos.

Course policies

Professional conduct

This course is part of the Professional Writing and Editing (PWE) program at WVU. The PWE program is dedicated to preparing its students to complete a capstone internship experience and, ultimately, for careers as professional communicators. For this reason, many aspects of the course are designed to replicate professional work experiences, and all students are expected to conduct themselves like professionals in the course. As is the case with professionals, students are expected to attend and be on time to all class meetings; to come to all class meetings prepared; and, generally, to respond to course activities and assignments as they would to comprable work activities and assignments.

Work visibility

Due to the nature of the course, you will be sharing your work with your fellow classmates as part of workshops and peer review sessions. Additionally, you will share your work publicly on the Web (e.g., on this course site) and with the WVU community at your book reading. By taking this course, you are indicating that you accept these requirements; if you have any questions or concerns about them, please contact me immediately.

Office hours

If you have questions about the readings, assignments, or any other issues related to the course, I will be happy to answer them. I will generally be available before and after our class meetings, and I will hold regular office hours each week. My office hours this semester will be on Tuesdays from 10-11 and Thursdays from 1-2. If you would like to meet with me but are not free during those times, please contact me directly and I will be happy to schedule an alternative meeting time that fits both of our schedules. If for some reason it becomes necessary for me to cancel or reschedule my regular office hours or a meeting with an individual student, I will notify the class or the student as soon as possible using one of the methods described in the next section.

Official communication

In addition to our class meetings, there will be two primary avenues of official communication for the course: WVU email and this website. I will initiate official communication to the class or individual students via my WVU email account. I will send these messages to your MIX emails. Updates to the course site—such as changes to the course schedule, or additional information about assignments—will be posted to the blog on this site. I may sometimes duplicate messages in other media—for example, I might post on Twitter that I have added a new blog post to the course site or that I have sent everyone an important email—but, in order to make sure you don’t miss important information, you should regularly check your MIX accounts as well as this site. We will also communicate via other means, most notably via Twitter and comments on documents on Google Drive.

My tendency in course communication initiated by students will to respond in the medium in which the question was sent. For example, if you ask a question on Twitter, I will tend to respond on Twitter (assuming the answer can fit in a tweet and is suitable for public view); if you ask a question in a comment on a document in Google Drive, I will respond in a comment on that document; if you send me an email, I will email you back.

I will do my best to respond to your messages within 24 hours during the work week; on the weekends, responses may take longer.

Technology policies

Adopting new technologies

In this course, we will be experimenting with many different technologies for writing and reading, ranging from services like Twitter to software packages like Adobe’s InDesign to markup languages like HTML5 and CSS. As experimenters, our method will be trial and error. In this course you may be introduced to a new way of communicating that you find indispensable. Alternatively, you may find yourself using communication technologies that you cannot imagine yourself using again outside of the course, and you may experience these technologies as being difficult or simply irritating.

That is ok.

You are not required to love the technologies we experiment with or embrace them without question. What is required of you is that you approach all of our assignments with an open mind and your best effort, as a future professional experimenting with different modes of communication.

While we will have specific, detailed instruction on the use of EPUB and related features of HTML5, it will not always be possible for us to cover the uses of all technologies touched on in the course. On some occasions you will find that you need to use a technology or piece of software that is new to you but which we have not discussed in class (for example, you may want to add an HTML5 feature to your book that isn’t covered by the class). I do expect that when we discuss specific technologies in class you will take notes so you will have a guide to follow when it comes time for you to use these technologies.

In all cases, when faced with new tools and technologies you should expect to devote some time to experimenting with and learning these technologies, researching (or discovering) their possibilities and limitations, and, when possible, sharing what you have learned with your classmates when they need help. If you need assistance with a particular technology, feel free to come and ask me; however, you will find that in most instances, if you have a question about how to accomplish a particular task—for example, adding an image to an HTML page—other people have had the same question and the answer is available on the Internet.

Using technologies in class

You are welcome to use the computers in the lab during class for note-taking and activities that are relevant to the tasks at hand; you are also welcome to bring your own devices for these purposes. However, there will be some occasions when I will ask you to turn off computers and other devices for a period of time. In general, most technology is welcome in class as long as it is used to aid student learning. Technology that doesn’t serve this purpose—or that actively distracts you or your classmates from learning—is not welcome, and I reserve the right to restrict the use of these technologies in class.


In this class we will cover a large amount of information in our face-to-face meetings that will be essential to how you understand the course topics and eventually complete your assignments. We will also be learning a number of skills that you will be expected to develop incrementally over the course of the semester. For these reasons, it is important that you attend class, arrive on time, bring any assigned work and necessary materials, and participate in all in-class writing, workshopping, and discussion sessions.

There are no “excused” absences in the course. For this reason, you should reserve your absences for truly unavoidable emergencies. Each student will be allowed four (4) absences without it affecting his or her grade. For each absence over four (4), the student’s final grade for the course will be lowered by 5 points. This includes absences for illnesses and other emergencies.

It is also important that you be in class on time and stay for the entire period. If you arrive to class more than 5 minutes late or leave class more than 5 minutes before it is dismissed, you will be counted absent. Further, if you come to class unprepared on the day of a peer-review session, conference session, or workshop—that is, without a draft to discuss with your classmates or myself or unprepared to workshop your project—you will be counted absent.

If you find that an unavoidable conflict prevents you from attending class or being on time, you should discuss this conflict with me prior to the absence (if possible). Otherwise, you should contact me about any absences as soon as possible.

Late work

If you cannot attend class on the date an assignment is due, you should discuss a make-up date with me before the absence. If you do not contact me before the time an assignment is due, the assignment will be considered late. In general, a problem with technology will not be considered an acceptable excuse for late or incomplete work. If your computer malfunctions, it is your responsibility to find an alternative one to work on. If your Internet goes out, you will need to find a different access point. And you should create multiple redundant backups of your work in case you accidentally erase, overwrite, or otherwise lose your files.

Work turned in after it is due will be penalized by ten percentage points for each calendar day it is late. Homework, quizzes, and all other in-class assignments will not be accepted late. If you fail to attend class on the day you are scheduled to lead a class discussion or give a presentation, you should expect to receive no credit for that assignment.

Submitting course work

Unless otherwise noted, all course assignments will be submitted electronically. I will inform you of the method and procedures for submitting particular assignments before those assignments are due. Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due before the start of class on the day they are listed in the course schedule.

Research, plagiarism, and scholastic honesty

Although we will spend substantial time in the class discussing the remixing and reuse of others’ work, it is vitally important that you fully acknowledge the original authors or source of all material that you include as part of your assignments, at every stage of the assignment. Without that citation, you can cause confusion as to the authorship of your work, and taking someone else’s published or unpublished ideas and submitting them as your own constitutes plagiarism and will result in formal academic discipline. In general, if you turn in work that is not your own, in whole or in part, without adequate attribution to the original author, or if you commit any other form of scholastic dishonesty, these actions will result in either a major course penalty or, depending on the severity of the violation, failure for the course. If you have any questions about the use you are making of sources for an assignment, you should counsult me before the assignment is turned in.

For a complete discussion of what constitutes plagiarism and the relevant WVU disciplinary procedures, students should consult the West Virginia University Undergraduate Catalog (pdf) and the West Virginia University Student Conduct Code.

Accommodations policy

If you have a documented learning disability, hearing or vision problem, or any other special need that might affect your performance or participation in the class, please contact WVU’s Office of Disability Services to arrange accommodations.

Social justice policy

The English Department and the Professional Writing and Editing Program support WVU’s commitment to social justice. In this course, you will work with your classmates to create a positive learning environment based on open communication and mutual respect.

Assignments (grade%)

  1. Participation (10%)
  2. Exploratory email (10%)
  3. Book proposal (20%)
  4. eBook (30%)
  5. Author statement (15%)
  6. Public reading (15%)

Participation (10%)

This course is designed to be a participatory learning experience, combining discussions, workshops, and in-class technology assignments. As such, it is important that you fully participate in all in-class activities, specifically by committing yourself to the learning community represented by your classmates and myself.

What is class participation?

First, you cannot participate if you do not attend class, or if you regularly show up late or otherwise interfere with course activities. For these reasons, course attendance is a necessary prerequisite for participation. However, attending class does not equal participation, for it is possible to be in every class meeting without contributing anything to the learning that occurs in class. It will also be impossible for you to participate in course learning if you come to class unprepared. For this reason, you should complete all assigned readings and homework, take notes on these activities, and generally engage in effective practices for retaining and relating the material you have read.

You should bring all materials to each session, including course texts, additional readings, your notes, assignment drafts and research sources, and discussion notes from previous meetings. And, while in class, you should be engaged in the proceedings by taking notes on our discussions and participating in those discussions either orally or via the Twitter backchannel. Similarly, during peer-review sessions or technology workshops, your time should be spent conferencing with your classmates and myself or engaging with your course work and the workshop deliverables.

On any day on which readings are assigned you should be prepared to demonstrate your comprehension of those readings, not simply by discussing them in class, but also by being quizzed on the content of the readings and/or successfully completing any assigned proof-of-reading activities.

You will have multiple opportunities to earn participation credit. For example, you could post links and comments relevant to course discussion to the Twitter feed during class, you could take notes on class discussions, or help your fellow classmates with technical or other tasks during workshops. In all cases, it is the student’s responsibility to save relevant materials like notes in order to demonstrate their participation if such a demonstration is necessary. In general, if at the end of the semester you can demonstrate that you were able to substantially enhance or contribute to the course learning community and you fully participated in community activities, you will be able to earn full credit for participation. While preparation times may vary depending on our weekly schedule, you should generally plan to spend 6 hours a week—or, 2 hours for every hour of class time—preparing for class meetings.

Exploratory email (10%)

This is the first stage of the process that will lead to your final eBook. You will send me an email (to john [dot] jones [at] mail [dot] wvu [dot] edu) of 350-500 words describing your preliminary ideas for the book. This email should describe your current plans for the book, including its subject matter, goals, potential audience, length, source material, collaborators (if any), and how you would like to use the EPUB format to incorporate interactivity and multimedia elements into the text. This is a preliminary assignment, so you may not be able to be entirely specific about your goals, but you should attempt to be as specific as possible, providing concrete descriptions of what you hope the book will be like and your goals for it as a final product.

Do not be afraid to take chances or suggest creative, ambitious projects. Your goal at this stage is to invent a project that will capture your attention for 15 weeks, and that will lead to a final product that your audience—the book’s potential readers—will enjoy.

The tone of this email should be professional, as if you are addressing an acquisitions editor about the possibilities for a future project. I will provide feedback on the appropriateness and feasibility of your project, and that feedback, along with your email, will guide you as you begin planning and eventually executing your book. That means that between the submission of this project and your proposal, you will need to do a lot of legwork—researching the availability of sources, looking at other ebooks for ideas, discovering the possibilites of the EPUB format—to make sure the materials you want to use are available, that your plan will meet the needs of your audience, etc.

This assignment will be graded according to your ethos; that is, the ways in which you use this written document to project your authority, expertise, and professionalism. Such an ethos can be achieved here in three primary ways:

  • an effective, persuasive summary of the detail and scope of your project;
  • the recognition of the limitations of that project or your description of it—such as what details of the project still need to be decided on or what work remains to be done;
  • and your ability to meet the assignment requirements and master effective, error-free writing.

Book proposal (20%)

This formal proposal will solidify the details of the project that you outlined first in the exploratory email. This proposal will be more detailed than that email, serving as roadmap for the project, both for you and for me. As a formal proposal, this document should be clearly written, thoughtfully revised, and thoroughly proofed so as to present the best possible ethos for the writers. This document will be the place where you connect the book’s content and form and explain how the two will work together to appeal to your audience. Your goal is to convince me that your book will be interesting, meet the needs of a particular audience, take advantage of the multimedia and interactive elements of the EPUB format, and can be successfully completed in the time available to you.

In the proposal, you should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the book about? What is the title? What will the content consist of? Where will that content come from? Will you create it? Will you adapt it from other sources? Or will it be some mixture of the two? As part of this section, you should give a description of the form of the book. Will it be divided into chapters or sections? What will be their titles and what content will they contain? You should include a sample Table of Contents as well as some indication as to how long the book will be.
  2. Who is the book for? Who will be the audience for your book? What is it about your book that will appeal to that audience? What does your book provide that other, possibly similar, books do not? For this last point, it can be effective to briefly describe similar books whose audience you wish to appeal to, then explain what your book will offer that audience that they cannot get from these existing titles.
  3. Why you? Provide a brief explanation, backed by your training or biography, as to why you are the best person to author the book you are proposing.
  4. Why is this book an eBook? What multimedia and interactive elements will you include in the book? How do you anticipate these elements enhancing the goals of the book you outlined in 1.? How will they serve the needs of your book’s audience?
  5. How will you complete the project? What research needs to be completed, what technology skills need to be mastered, or what content needs to be created in order to achieve the goals you have outlined in the proposal? What is your timeline for completing these tasks? If you are working in a group, how will these tasks be divided among group members? Briefly describe how you will go about completing these tasks.

The proposal should be 1,500-2,000 words in length. This assignment will be graded according to the detail and thoroughness with which you answer the questions above, as well as on the style and correctness of the document. Again, your ethos will be an important factor in the persuasiveness of your proposal, and, like your email, it should be professional in tone.

eBook (30%)

Your book should largely follow the plan you outlined in the proposal. You are not locked into your proposal, but any major deviations from this proposal should be addressed with me as early as possible and prior to submitting the project. The project will be graded according to the following factors:

  • Design: The book adheres to the best practices for document and multimedia design.
  • Accessibility and standards: The book adheres to the guidelines for accessibility and the EPUB format. The eBook should be free of major errors in code—it should pass validator checks—and load correctly in major EPUB readers.
  • Readability and effectiveness: The content of the book effectively accomplishes the goals laid out in the proposal, including the quality of its content and its appropriateness for the target audience. The text and other multimedia elements are free of major and minor errors in structure, syntax, and grammar and display the quality of writing appropriate for a professional publication.
  • Multimodality and interaction: Effectively incorporates multimedia and interactive elements into the book to complement, comment on, and/or extend the written text.
  • Copyright and citation: All of the elements of the book are either the sole creation of the author or authors, explicitly licensed for reuse, or no longer covered by copyright. All sources used in the book that are not the sole creation of the author or authors will be fully cited using the MLA citation format and upon request the author or authors will be able to demonstrate that the book meets the above requirements.

Author statement (15%)

Aside from developing the technical skills necessary to create your eBook, one of the goals of this course is for you to develop the rhetorical skills that will allow you to create effective communication in multiple media for specific audiences. While your book should demonstrate that you have mastered these skills, your author statement will be a crucial tool for you to explain the rhetorical choices you have made in creating your book and how you intend for it to be experienced by your audience. In this statement you will explain the rationale behind your book, including content, remix, and design choices, and how they should appeal to your audience. Where the proposal will serve as the plan for your book, this statement will detail how that plan was executed and the reasons behind the particular features of the text.

Your author statement should be between 1,000-2,000 words in length. It will be graded based on its content—how well it responds to the questions addresses the issues above and the detail and thoughtfulness of the text—as well as on its formal correctness and how it frames the ethos of the author or authors.

Public reading (15%)

In the final week of the semester, you will showcase your book for the university community at a public reading of 10-15 minutes. (Time and location TBA.) You may choose to read sections of the book or give a talk about its contents, whichever is appropriate. Your reading should make use of the available presentation equipment to effectively showcase the unique multimedia elements of the book for your audience.

This project will be graded on its content and the quality of the presentation. That is, do you effectively and persuasively summarize or excerpt the content of your book and present that content in a way that takes advantage of the oral and visual presentation mediums available to you?

Grade descriptions

Course grades will be determined by the percentages above. The descriptions below will give you an indication of the the expectations that will guide my evaluation of your individual projects:

  • A (90–100) Outstanding: represents superlative participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed, with very high quality in all course work.
  • B (80–89) Excellent: represents above-average participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed, with consistently high quality in course work.
  • C (70–79) Average: represents good participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed, with generally good quality overall in course work.
  • D (60–69) Below average: represents uneven participation in course activities; some gaps in assigned work completed, with inconsistent quality in course work.
  • F (0–59) Inadequate: represents minimal participation in course activities; serious gaps in assigned work completed, or very low quality in course work.

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