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This case study explores the efficacy of online environments for the teaching and learning of multimodal literacies. In our research, we seek to explore student learning between two groups who had experienced similar first-year composition curricula, one online and one face-to-face (f2f). Through an assessment of a pilot online curriculum taught at the University of New Mexico, which we call eComp, we explore the affordances and constraints of online and f2f learning environments for the development of multimodal literacies in first-year composition.
While we speculate that some of the differences are just a natural part of the world of online education (i.e., selfselection, the nonlinear environment), there are other practicesfrom our online curriculum that can perhapsinform best practices for multimodal composition in both the online and f2f classroom. For instance, from our student responses, we note the importance of the instructional assistants during the multimodal composing process. We believe there is enough evidence (both anecdotal and numeric) to suggest that they can help improve student learning of multimodal literacies. We hope to study the effects of IAs on student learning more in the future. We also want to challenge our readersto consider the inclusion of instructional assistantsin their online classes. With sufficient institutional resources, the use of IAs, or writing fellows, can also be incorporated into f2f classes, and thistoo can be studied to further explore the impact of peer tutoring on the development of multimodal texts. Other online practices such as the development of a robust nonlinear learning environment can also be transitioned more to the f2f classroom. For instance, when implementing a multimodal curriculum, instructors can create a supplemental platform using their university’s LMS, asking students to participate in frequent discussion boards throughout the multimodal composing process. Instructors can also add multimodal instructional tools to the platform, including videos that explain concepts, mini-lectures that offer advice regarding choosing the appropriate medium for communication, tutorials that explain software programs, and successful models of multimodal texts, either created by former students or found in popular culture. As we noted, the archival and nonlinear nature of the online course can help students return to concepts and “relearn” ideas; this type of platform may be beneficial in aiding students in acquiring multimodal literacies and can easily be added as an extra element of support for the f2f classroom.