ENGL 527:  Topics in Professional Writing:  Multimedia Writing

Instructor: Steven D. Krause

Office: 603F Pray-Harrold

E-Mail: (by far the best way to get a hold of me)

Office Phone: 734-487-0985 (I check my voice mail only once in a while, so I recommend emailing first).

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1 pm to 5 pm, and by appointment.


Multimedia Writing is a production-oriented and collaboratively intense course where we will learn about producing multimedia texts fitting for professional writing settings.  Much in the theme of the “Non-Designers Design” books by Robin Williams, we will be learning about and approaching multimedia production as non-experts.  We will read and discuss some of the theoretical implications of working with multimedia and we will produce multimedia with readily available tools.  Along the way, we will contemplate the basic question of the class:  what do writing professionals need to know about “non-print”/multimedia writing tools?


  • Through hands-on experiences and learning from/teaching with others, gain an introductory understanding of how to compose, evaluate, and revise multimedia in professional writing settings: that is, images, presentations, audio files (podcasts), videos, and other “non-words-in-a-row” writing.
  • Study and create examples of the common multimedia genres used in professional writing settings.
  • Learn about the rhetoric of multimedia by studying and discussing its theories, histories, and best practices.

Required Reading:

Halbritter, Bump. Mics, Cameras, Symbolic Action. Parlor Press, 2013. This is a link to, but you can obviously get this book from other places as well.

All of the other required readings will be available online or via eReserves, though see below about the ongoing contribution of “how to” texts about audio, image, and video production.

Required Services, Software, and Hardware:

There are a number of services, software, and hardware you will need to subscribe to/use/access for this class. There may be others that come along as the semester progresses, but here’s what you need to get started.


  • premium account on wevideo.  There’s a free version, but the premium account really will be necessary for us to accomplish some of what we will want to/need to accomplish with this easy to use cross-platform video editing software. Trust me on this. It’s $5 a month or $35 a year.
  • A Google account to share documents with each other and to post video/audio to YouTube. You might have this already.
  • A Dropbox account.  Not critical– especially if you have a large jump drive– but handy nonetheless.


  • Audacity, which is a free and cross-platform audio editing and recording software.


  • A computer that is less than about four years old. It’s of course most helpful if you have a laptop of your own you can bring to our face to face meetings as often as possible and we will be working in our face to face meetings frequently on projects.   But at a minimum, you’re going to need extremely regular access to a computer.
  • Headphones for working in class on projects (probably).
  • A jumpdrive/thumbdrive of some sort, the bigger the better (probably). We will be able to work with most of the audio-video files we’ll be creating online/”in the cloud,” but there will some times be a need to
  • Some kind of tool to record audio. A “smart phone” works great for this, as does a laptop with a simple microphone. A custom recorder works even better of course, but for our purposes, this probably won’t be necessary.
  • Some way to capture video. Again, a smart phone or digital camera is a good tool for this, and in my experience, most students either have or can get their hands on a tool like this relatively easily. EMU has some of this equipment as well and I have some cameras to loan.

The Implications of a Hybrid Course

This is a hybrid class, meaning it will meet face to face about half of the time and online the rest of the time (check the schedule!).  There are important implications about this arrangement:

  • This is not a class that meets “half as much” and/or merely “every other week.” Rather, this is a class where there will be an online discussion component along with the face to face meetings, and that online component is every bit as important as the face to face meetings.  You will note the calendar for the course indicates “online” activities and discussions, and I expect everyone to participate.
  • You will need to keep the schedule for the term straight.  This is particularly important for those of you who are taking ENGL 524 this semester as well– you don’t want to mix up the classes!
  • If you are taking this class with ENGL 524, always remember and never forget you are taking TWO courses.  One of the benefits of hybrid courses offered in pairs (like this course and ENGL 524) is it allows you to take two courses while only having to come to campus once a week for both of them.  However, this is not half a course!  So what this means is if you have taken two courses before in a semester and struggled with the workload, then taking these two courses at the same time is probably a bad idea.
  • Missing class would be bad.  After all, with only half as many f2f classes, it matters all that much more that you demonstrate presence in each and every one of those meetings.  If you miss more than one class meeting for this course, you will be docked a full letter from your final grade for the term.  Note there are no excused absences for any reason whatsoever.
  • Not participating in the online discussion would also be bad.  After all, half of the class is taking place online, and so it is equally important to the face to face meetings every other week.  If you miss more than one week’s worth of online discussion for this course, you will be docked a full letter from your final grade for the term.  “One week’s worth of online discussion means” participating in the electronic forum for the class for a week as designated by the schedule.  Note there are no excused absences for any reason whatsoever.

The work of the class

The golden rule: learn together, teach each other

Our primary directive this term is to learn together and teach each other. While this is true in most classes (particularly at the graduate level), I think this is especially true when it comes to making multimedia texts because we are experts at producing words in a row texts but working out of/at the edges of our areas of expertise when it comes to producing texts based on images, audio, and video. This includes me: I have had a fair amount of experience at making videos and podcasts and I am familiar with the scholarship about multimedia and writing studies, but I am well aware that just because you have a video camera doesn’t mean you can make a movie that anyone will enjoy watching.

I  think this lack of expertise needs to be acknowledged, but it doesn’t need to hold us back. Our focus is clearly on writing: that is, our class is about multimedia as it is used in professional writing settings, and it is about  rhetorics of multimedia. It’s not in multimedia expertise per se.  And as an aside, if you are interested in getting into the details of audio/video production and/or you’re interested in producing professional quality radio, television, or film productions,I’d encourage you to take one of the 400-level courses available for graduate credit in CTAT.

For this class to succeed and to live by this golden rule, we have an obligation to learn how to use these multimedia tools together and we to teach each other, too. Be open to getting advice and tips from your classmates, and be open to sharing your advice and tips with everyone too. We need to work together to make our individual multimedia creations as fine as they can be, and we also need to recognize how the limits of our expertise will impact our creations. A

As far as the grade goes, the work of the class is divided into two parts: online discussion and the multimedia projects.

Online discussion: 30%

By “online discussion,” I mean the discussion of readings and activities that will take place during the weeks we do not physically meet online.

You will see that I will begin the discussions online as prompts.  We’ll then discuss the readings/projects in the form of posts in threaded discussions online.  I am confident that you will get the hang of this as it goes along; essentially, these threaded discussions replace most of the kind of discussion we might have in a traditional “face-to-face” class.

For the most part, our discussion of readings will take place online so that we can devote our face to face time to working on multimedia projects.

Multimedia projects portfolio: 70%

The bulk of the grade will be connected to the multimedia projects you will complete this term.  Let me assure you I will provide more more detailed descriptions of these assignments as the term goes along.  But in brief, these are the projects:

  • The 50+ Ways To Tell a Story “About Me” assignment.  Making use of the many free tools available for story telling/producing multimedia available online (see the 50+ Ways Wiki), tell two otherwise identical versions of the same very brief (2 minutes or less) “about me” introduction story using two different tools. Deliverables will be the multimedia and a memo.
  • The short audio/podcast assignment.  Using Audacity, create a 5 minute or so audio/podcast that is either in the theme of a “This I Believe” audio essay or in the theme of a “Story Corps” interview. Deliverables will be the multimedia and a memo.
  • The “how to” video assignment.  Create a 2 to 5 minute video where you instruct an audience “how to” do something in an accurate, informative, and engaging way. Deliverables will be the multimedia and a memo.
  • A revision of at least one of the first three assignments.  See below under “Screening, Workshopping, and (at least one) Revising of projects.” Deliverables will be the multimedia and a memo.
  • The PSA assignment.  Working in small groups, you will produce a public service announcement about an appropriate topic– in this case, the undergraduate/graduate program in written communication or the first year writing program. Deliverables for this project will include a memo that defines the problem and the concept, a storyboard, a script, the video itself, and a memo.
  • The alumni interview/documentary assignment (TBA).  Working together as a class, we will interview a written communications undergrad and graduate alumni about their experiences in the program.  As a class, we will develop questions and themes for these interviews.  Individually and working in small groups, you will record and edit interviews into short segments (less than 5 minutes) around a theme from the interviews. One of the requirements for this project will include arranging interviews. Deliverables will include annotated video interview footage, a video that you made from the library of videos submitted by the class, and a memo.
  • The showcase presentation assignment.  For our final class meeting (either the last day of class or at the time of the final), there will be a “showcase” presentation TBA.

In order to pass the course, you must complete all of the major projects, regardless of the grades you receive on any of the other work of the course.

Creative Commons Licensing/Rights: All of the work you borrow/use from other sources (primarily images, audio, and video, though this could include other things as well) must have an appropriate Creative Commons License. Also, all of the work you create must be published with an appropriate Creative Commons License. Don’t worry– Creative Commons and issues of copyright in multimedia will be an early topic in our class discussions/readings, so this will all make sense soon if it doesn’t make sense all ready.

Presentation:  All of the multimedia projects will be presented electronically, mostly via YouTube and/or Vimeo, and publicly.  Where the “50+” assignment will be hosted depends on what tools you use to tell your story.  You’ll use Google Docs to post documents and collaborate on the PSA concept, storyboard, and script, and you will hand in memos to me using emuonline.

Screening, Workshopping, and (at least one) Revising of projects:  We will watch and discuss each others’ projects throughout the semester and as a class discuss them and offer constructive criticism and feedback.  Conveniently, all the projects we’ll be making this term are short– no hour long docu-dramas here!

For each assignment, you will have feedback in the form of comments from everyone and comments and a grade from me.  Taking advantage of this feedback, you will revise at least one(and up to three) of the first three projects and re-present it later in the term.  The revision(s) will both improve your grade and (hopefully) give you a chance to rethink the process of making successful multimedia.


So, given all this, here’s how grading works:

100-94=A | 94-90=A- | 89-87=B+ | 86-84=B | 83-80= B-

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