**Feel free to access a PDF copy of the syllabus here

Informatics / Writing Studies 303: Fall 2016

Writing Across Media

Section A


Instructor: Logan Middleton    

Please Call Me: Logan (PGPs: He/His/Him)            


Section: A

Tues./Thurs.: 9.30a-10.45a

Class Location: Gregory Hall 9  

Instructor Office: English Building, 4th Floor

Instructor Office Hours: Thurs., 11a-12p                                                                                                    

Course Description:

How do specific media change the way we write? What does it mean to “read” an image, video, or a sound? In what ways do technologies, both digital and analog, shape the way we communicate, and how do they open up new avenues for persuasion and inquiry?

These questions highlight how multiple types of media are critical to literacy, rhetoric, and culture in contemporary American society. In Writing Across Media (WAM), we will explore the intersections between these media—video, sound, and many more—as they relate to these issues. Along the way, we’ll develop an approach for understanding and composing multimedia products while attempting to identify, and just as importantly challenge, implicit assumptions about media. This course will additionally help us consider how writing (as an object and as a practice) is constructed by these multimodal interactions through theoretical and practical perspectives. Doing this work together will enable us to develop creative, innovative, and informed strategies for designing multimedia projects that integrate “text,” image, video, and sound.

Note: WAM is neither a lecture course nor is it a how-to course on particular software. It is, however, heavy on reading, writing, theory, and discussion. Writing Across Media also fulfills UIUC’s General Education Advanced Composition requirement.

Student Learning Outcomes for Writing Across Media:

After completing this course, students will be able to:

1.) Compose and present multimodal arguments across media and support said arguments with evidence, analysis, and sophisticated attention to audience, technology, design, and/or material

2.) Understand how writing technologies are mobilized across multiple media and how the affordances of writing depend on said media

3.) Thoughtfully engage with, analyze, and contest theories of media, communication, composition, rhetoric, literacy, and design

4.) Clearly explain, defend, and reflect upon your rhetorical decisions, processes, and products with regard to media and technology

5.) Revise your multimodal work in response to new ideas as well as peer and instructor feedback

Course Texts:

Most course readings and materials will be available online through our course website; you shouldn’t need to purchase any textbooks or supplementary materials. It is imperative, though, that you do have access to said course readings and media during our class meetings. Whether you print these materials out or access them via a laptop, tablet, or other electronic device is up to you.

Grade Breakdown and Major Assignments (*):

Every major project for this class will include both a media text (e.g., a map, a video, etc.) as well as a written rationale that explains and justifies the rhetorical decisions that guided your composition. For most group projects, every group member will submit the same media artifact (the same map, the same video) but turn in their own individual rationale. I will provide you with assignment sheets and rubrics for every project in advance.

*Digital Soundmap (15%)

Peer Review Workshop: Thursday, Sept. 8

Project Due: Thursday, Sept. 15

*Video Documentary (20%)

Peer Review Workshop: Thursday, October 6

Project Due: Thursday, October 13

*Twine Video Game (20%)

Peer Review Workshop: Thursday, November 3

Project Due: Thursday, November 10

*Final Theory Remediation Project (25%)

Project Proposal Due: Thursday, November 17

Peer Review Workshop: Project Slice: Thursday, December 1

In-Progress Presentations / Peer Review Workshop: Tuesday, December 6

Project Due: Tuesday, December 13

Leading Discussion (10%): Everyone will be responsible for leading discussion on one day of class with a partner. This task has two parts: you should engage your peers in the assigned readings for the day, and you should apply the ideas from said readings to some real world example(s). Possible approaches include creating a prompt for in-class writing, small-group discussion questions, a whole-class activity, bringing in objects for us to practice analyzing, sharing a recent and relevant news story, exploring how the reading applies to some issue in your major(s) or future career(s), or some combination of the above.

The point is not for you to lecture, but for you to gain experience in facilitating discussion and to help your peers gain a deeper understanding of the day’s topic. Plan your discussion or activity to last 30 minutes (a little less than half the class period). If you’re struggling to come up with discussion topics, please make an appointment to speak with me or drop in to see me during my office hours.

Participation (10%): Participation means coming to class prepared to talk about the assigned readings, discussing you and your peers’ works-in-progress, and actively engaging with in-class activities. In class, I expect you to listen attentively to your peers and to challenge, respectfully, the source material as well as the assertions of your classmates.

In addition to verbal participation, this grade also includes all homework and blog post assignments, the likes of which will be evaluated for thoughtfulness and on-time completion. Homework and blog posts turned in and posted late, respectfully, will not receive credit.

Digital Course Components:

*WordPress Course Site: Our course site is as follows: I will use this website to post announcements, assignments, resources, and other related content. The course syllabus and schedule are also available on this site. You are responsible for keeping up to date with our course site. Feel free to follow the blog if you prefer to receive e-mail updates when I post new entries (most likely homework assignments and the like).

*Individual Course Blog: You will all need to create a course blog as well, either through WordPress or another blogging site of your choice. Your blog will serve as a platform to post your own thoughts on class readings as well as homework assignments. In addition, your site will be attached to the course blogroll. In other words, it will be public to both me and your classmates, so be sure to keep that in mind when posting.

*Compass 2G: All written rationales will be submitted through Compass 2G since it is generally more secure and private than our WordPress course site. I will also use Compass 2G to post your grades and to provide feedback on your projects. In the chance that you produce a non-digital project (a hand-painted map, for example), please make arrangements with me to turn it in during class or office hours. If you’re unfamiliar with Compass 2G or don’t know how to submit files or access grades through this platform, please don’t hesitate to ask me for assistance.

*E-mail: On occasion, I will send brief e-mails to your university e-mail addresses with reminders, resources, and/or clarifications on assignments. I check my e-mail daily and usually respond within one business day; I expect you to do the same. Legally, I’m not permitted to give out or discuss grades via e-mail, so if you’d like to discuss these matters, please set up a time to meet with me face to face instead.

*Media Commons: UIUC’s Media Commons, located in the Undergraduate Library, can assist you with your media projects. It’s a great space for learning more about media technology, and it additionally houses top-notch video and audio recording studios. Feel free to check it out or make a media consultation appointment to take advantage of this resource.

*Loanable Technology : If you don’t have a voice recorder, smart phone, video camera, or laptop of your own, you can check out these technologies from the Media Commons at the Undergraduate Library. If you’re struggling to come up with the necessary technological resources to complete a project, please let me know ahead of time.

*—Since this class is not a “how-to” course in terms of learning the nuts and bolts of tech or software, you might find yourself a bit lacking in the requisite skills when it comes to creating media projects. Fortunately, UIUC offers free access to, an online software training service for software (Linux), video editing (iMovie), audio editing (Audacity), and more (Python, Twine). Follow the link and log in with your UIUC ID to access bajillions of video tutorials.

*WAM Wiki – Previous WAM instructors and their students have created a helpful, Wikipedia-esque online wiki that contains a glossary of course-related terms and discussions of relevant theoretical readings. I encourage you to refer to it as you see fit.

Grading Policy:

Each major assignment listed above will be graded out of 100 points. You will receive a corresponding letter grade based upon the quality of your work as well as a completed evaluation rubric and written feedback for each project. Letter grades for these assignments will be posted on Compass 2G. In addition, your final grade will be calculated on a 100-point scale and converted to a letter grade using this system:

A = 93-100           B+ = 87-89            C+ = 77-79            D+ = 67-69            F= Below 60

A- = 90-92          B = 83-86               C = 73-76               D = 63-66

                            B- = 80-82            C- = 70-72             D- = 60-62

Some of the major projects for this course are group projects. In the case of gross negligence of an individual group member, the rest of the group should get in touch with me. Together, we will work out a solution.

For those keeping track at home, the UIUC-wide GPA calculation is as follows:

A+ = 4.0         B+ = 3.6            C+ = 2.33           D+ = 1.33           F= 0

A = 4.0           B = 3.0               C = 2.0               D = 1.0

A- = 3.67       B- = 2.67           C- = 1.67          D = 0.67

Assignment Submission / Presentation Policy:

All projects and homework assignments will be submitted on your course blog or Compass 2G. When submitting files to Compass 2G, please title your files as follows: “LastName_SoundmapRationale.docx” (for example, “Middleton_SoundmapRationale. docx”). You will receive more specific submission instructions for all projects and assignments throughout the semester.

Whether submitting assignments for homework or delivering in-class presentations, plan ahead for technological requirements and potential pitfalls. Technology can be wonderful, but it is never reliable. Always have a back-up plan. I highly recommend backing up your multimedia files to a flash drive, external hard drive, or cloud storage.

You must be prepared to present and/or speak about your multimodal projects on the first date listed for presentations on the calendar. If you are asked to present and are not prepared, you will lose points for that project.

All major projects and their rationales are due on the specific due date as it appears on the course calendar. As noted below in this syllabus, projects not submitted by these deadlines will be docked ten points per day they are late.


Your presence and active participation in this course is critical to your success in Writing Across Media since most of the course consists of in-class discussion and peer feedback. Attendance at all class sessions is expected.

You can have up to three unexcused absences with no questions asked (whoa—a full week-and-a-half of class!). So if you have a cold or a personal emergency, you should probably just stay home for the day and catch up by looking at our course website or asking a peer what you missed. There is no need to give me an explanation of why you weren’t in class. Just be sure to use your allowed absences strategically.

If you have more than three unexcused absences, your final course grade will be lowered one-third of a letter grade for each additional unexcused absence. For example, if you finished the semester with a B average and you had four unexcused absences, your grade would accordingly be lowered to a B-. If you are absent for the equivalent of three weeks of class (six class sessions), you will fail the course for the semester.

If you are more than 5 minutes late you will be marked absent for the day. I keep track of all absences in the grade center of Compass 2G.

Excused absences, which are not counted against these totals, include religious holidays, University-sponsored events documented with an official letter, or a serious illness or family emergency excused with a letter from the Student Assistance Center. The Student Assistance Center does not provide absence letters for minor illnesses, job interviews, weddings, reunions, or emergencies outside the immediate family. The Center can be contacted via phone at 217-333-0050 or through e-mail at Notes obtained from the McKinley Health Center do not excuse absences.

For students who add the course after the beginning of the semester—The days you miss before you add the class do not count toward your absences for the semester, but you are required to complete all assignments and work since the beginning of the semester, including work assigned before you added the course. 

Late Work:

Everyone is permitted one extension for major projects. This means you may turn in one of this course’s major assignments up to 48 hours past the original deadline with no effect on your grade and no need for an explanation. If you use your extension for a group project, all group members may use their extension at once. Alternatively, some members may turn in their projects in on time and others may use their extension to turn in their projects late. These scenarios get tricky because many of these projects are group projects, so my best advice would be to work out a solution with your group members. Talk to each other and keep me posted.

If you choose to use your extension, please let me know by e-mail before the class period in which the assignment is due. The further in advance you do so, the better.

Extensions aside, unexcused late work will result in a lower grade. Projects turned in late will automatically lose 10 points per day (every project is graded out of 100 points). For example, a project due Thursday could receive a maximum of 90 points if turned in on Friday and a maximum of 80 points if turned in on Saturday. As noted above, late work that falls under your participation grade—presentations, short homework assignments, and in-class activities—cannot be made up. In addition, missing a day in which you are signed up to lead class discussion will result in a 0 for the assignment unless you have an excused absence documented through the Student Assistance Center (see above).

Personal Electronics Policy

It is abundantly clear that we live in an increasingly technology driven and enabled world. This is perhaps nowhere else as clear as in Writing Across Media. We are lucky enough to hold class in a room with a set of laptops, the likes of which you are encouraged to use during our meetings. Of course, you may bring your own laptop / tablet to class in order to read, annotate, write, and/or search for materials relevant to the course.

As far as cell phones and smartphones go, I’m putting a different policy in place for this course. For many of us, our phones are an integral part of our lives, and of course, we (unconsciously) check them dozens of times per day. I recognize these habits and urges, in part, as informed by new literacy practices, especially in a class like this where you might be very well using your phone as a media technology in its own right. As such, I do not wish to police or shame cell phone use during class. If you feel like you might be inclined to use your phone briefly during class, all I ask is that you leave your device on your desk and be acutely aware of when, how, and how much you use it during class.

That is not to say that you are permitted to tune out on Snapchat, Facebook, or Pokémon Go for the entirety or the majority of class. If I notice that you are more engaged with your phone, tablet, or laptop than with course activities, I will send you an e-mail after class to remind you that our sessions should be devoted to our daily discussions and tasks. Should this reminder not discourage “inappropriate” use of your device in the future, these habits will negatively affect your participation grade for the course.

If at any point this cell phone and smartphone policy proves to be distracting or ineffective, I reserve the right to change it or to outright forbid the use of such devices in class.

Classroom and Course Etiquette

I envision our class environment—both in its physical and digital iterations—as a safer space in which everyone feels welcome to participate. Please be respectful of your peers’ verbal contributions to and their multimodal work, as we will all be working together to promote a rich, comfortable learning environment. (Cis)Sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and/or xenophobic remarks or behavior will not be tolerated, nor will any additional form of harassment.

As noted above, classroom etiquette also extends into networked spaces, specifically with regard to e-mail communication and blog activity. In your e-mails to me and to your peers, please be sure to include a title explaining the subject of the message, a greeting (“Hi Logan”), a clear explanation of your question/concern, and a signature.

Please allow at least 24 hours for an e-mail response from me. By no means do I consider e-mail correspondence an appropriate substitute for office hour conversations (in-depth discussions about major assignments, talking through writing processes, etc.).

Academic Integrity Policy (Plagiarism)

The University of Illinois has high standards of academic integrity set out in Article 1, Part 4 of the University Student Code, which I uphold.

All written work submitted in this course is expected to be your own, with any wording and/or idea taken from any other source fairly attributed. To use phrases and/or ideas from any other source as if they were your own, whether accidentally or deliberately, constitutes plagiarism. Submitting your own work for more than one course without permission of both instructors can also constitute plagiarism. The Student Code sets out possible consequences of plagiarism ranging from failure on the assignment to suspension or dismissal from the University, and it specifies that ignorance of these standards is not an excuse.

Students in this class should familiarize themselves with the Code. If you have questions about fair use or documentation, please do not hesitate to consult me.

I realize that defining academic integrity is particularly complex in a course that involves writing across media firms that are visual, aural, video-based, and digital. Please contact me before you turn in a project if you have any questions about academic integrity as it relates to multimodality.

Students Requiring Accommodation:

Everyone learns differently and benefits from different kinds of support. Please get in touch with me if you would like to discuss your individual learning style and/or needs and how this course can best accommodate them, whether you have a documented disability or not. If you have a disability that requires accommodation for you to succeed in this class, you may want to contact the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) for additional support.

Writers Workshop:

The Writers Workshop provides free, one-to-one help to all UIUC writers. The Workshop’s consultants can help with any kind of assignment, in any class, and at any stage of the writing process. While the Writers Workshop is not an editing service, tutors will help students with anything related to their writing, including grammar, brainstorming, organizing, polishing final drafts, citing sources, and more. Bring a draft to revise or just stop by for help with getting your ideas together.

The Writers Workshop offers 50-minute sessions by appointment in five locations: the Undergraduate Library, Grainger Library, Ikenberry Commons, Burrill Hall, and the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls. You can drop-in for a quick 15-30 minute session in 251 UGL during the evening on M-R. The Workshop also sponsors writing groups and provides hands-on presentations about academic writing skills.

Main Location: 251 Undergraduate Library

Satellite Locations: Ikenberry, Grainger, Burrill, PAR


Phone: 217.333.8796                                         

Changes to Syllabus / Course Schedule

This course syllabus and its corresponding schedule are subject to change. You will be notified of any such changes in class and in writing (most likely through e-mail or the course website).