“Student-Produced Multimedia Projects” by Jeannie Parker Beard

Student-Produced Multimedia Projects

This post will be dedicated to the work I am doing with multimedia projects in my composition classes. I have given multimedia assignments in most of my classes over the past several semesters. Even the students in my ENGL 0096 course seemed to benefit from the experience. I believe that adding a multimedia project assignment can be an exciting and engaging prospect in any course. Below you will find some theoretical support for this teaching practice as well information about the assignment and links to helpful resources. Much of what is provided here will be an excellent starting point for those who are interested in assigning multimedia projects in their own classes, regardless of the discipline.

About Me

Currently, I am working on my PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at Georgia State University. I have completed my coursework and will be taking my comprehensive exams this semester (spring 2010). The reading list for my exams is reflected in this annotated bibliography blog.

My primary focus is in digital and visual rhetoric, essentially the use of multimedia in the composition classroom. My seconary focus is in composition pedagogy, again with a concentration on technology and composition.  I will be researching student videos produced in my freshman composition courses for my dissertation. The tentative title is: Composing on the Screen: Student-Produced Multimedia Texts as an Extension of the Writing Process. I hope to demonstrate how composing multimedia texts allows students to apply and enhance the skills learned in their composition courses. I am seeking a permanent, tenure-track position that will allow me to continue my work in new media and composition studies.

Since I began teaching four years ago, I have incorporated student-produced multimedia assignments in my composition classes. In lieu of a traditional, academic paper, my students produce videos as a final project in my first-year composition courses. These videos are a culmination of the rhetorical skills they have honed throughout the course. By combining their own writing with music, images, and video, students are able to shift from being merely consumers of mass media to critical consumers AND producers of their own rhetorically driven multimedia texts.

Every semester I am surprised and impressed with their productions, and every semester we are faced with new obstacles and setbacks. Today I am going to discuss some of the theoretical foundations that support using video as academic text, outline the basics of the multimedia project that I assign (and its variations), and how I’ve attempted to address copyright issues that inevitably crop up with the use of new media in this way.


In his article, “Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media,” Jay David Bolter outlines how the image has come into a dominant role in our culture of digital media. The Web has integrated the many media of the 20th century and is restructuring the way we read and view information. He writes, “In short, the World Wide Web and other new media challenge not only the form of the book, but also the representational power of the printed word” (21). Bolter examines some of the challenges of new media, explaining how print is still the preferred medium for critical theorists. Here Bolter challenges theorists to examine new media from a more inclusive rather than exclusive lens by using new media as the delivery method of their critical theory. He writes, “These new media forms are available to us as producers as well as consumers, and they are available as forms of production to cultural critics and academics in general” (23). Jay Bolter is validating new media as an extension of academic writing, and this is valuable in my research as I am attempting to show how student-produced new media texts are an extension of the writing process.

Gunther Kress, like Bolter, argues that we have shifted from an age of print to the age of the screen. In his book Literacy in the New Media Age, Kress begins with the statement, “It is no longer possible to think about literacy in isolation from a vast array of social, technological and economic factors” (1). He argues that there is a shift from the dominance of print-based communication, specifically in the form of print based literacy through the medium of the book, to the dominance of image in conjunction with text through the medium of the screen. Taking a sociolinguistic and semiotic approach, he theorizes how literacy is changing due to the multiple modes available in the contemporary world.

Another important text is the collection titled Multiliteracies: Literacy and the Design of Social Futures. This book is a must-have resource for educators who wish to move beyond the so-called “Three Rs” and tackle the challenges of 21st century education head on. The members of The New London contributed to this volume representing a diverse group of scholars devoted to the social, historical, economic, political, linguistic and semiotic views of how literacy is changing in the digital age.

The concept of multiliteracies takes into account the influence of mass media and electronic media on the way we produce and consume knowledge. From the introduction: “Meaning is made in ways that are increasingly multimodal—in which written-linguistic modes of meaning are part and parcel of visual, audio, and spatial patterns of meaning” (5).

In this text The New London group explains the concepts of what they call “fast capitalism” in our “post-Ford” area.  No longer will workers of the future be required to perform routine tasks in an assembly line, but rather they will be called upon to filter, assimilate and navigate through virtual worlds of information in the most effective ways possible. Essentially, we are preparing students for a much different workplace than the traditional pedagogies of the past account for. They write, “Students need also to develop the capacity to speak up, to negotiate, and to be able to engage critically with the conditions of their working lives” (13). Part of the new pedagogy of multiliteracies is the idea that we are designers, and that critical analysis and interpretation of the multiple modes of meaning can lead students to the “design of social futures” in their working lives, public lives, and personal lives. Students must know what resources are available to them, know how to use those resources in the semiotic process, and understand how resources are “produced and transformed through Designing”

In “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,”  Dr. Mary Hocks writes, ““. . . new technologies simply require new definitions of what we consider writing” (630).  The discussion of the hybridity of new media is relevant to my research because it is important for me to validate my students’ videos as academic work. Their multimedia projects are time consuming, and they involve as much writing, research and editing as a traditional paper. In many ways, a multimedia text is much more complex and involves much more work. In most cases, the students become more engaged with their writing and research when they see it coming together visually and audibly. Hocks writes, “We need to recognize that these new media and the literacies they require are hybrid forms. Historical studies of writing technologies have demonstrated how all writing is hybrid—it is at once verbal, spatial, and visual. Acknowledging this hybridity means that the relationships among word and image, verbal texts and visual texts, ‘visual culture’ and ‘print culture’ are all dialogic relationships rather than binary opposites” (630-631).

The Assignment

Below you will find the details of the multimedia assignment that I give to my ENGL 1101 courses. These are the exact guidelines of the project as they are given to the students. The basic guidelines remain the same for the project, regardless of the course; however, some of  the project’s topic parameters do change according to the course subject matter. For example, a literature class project may be a book or movie review, a biography of an author, a critical analysis, or an overview of a time period, genre, or ideology.

Multimedia Project Final

ENGL 1101


You will be creating a multimedia production as the final project in this course.  These projects will be due the last day of class and should be appropriate for viewing in class. You will be taking a paper written for this class and converting it into a video using Windows Moviemaker or iMovie. You may also choose to use a different software program if you prefer.

You may work alone, or you may also choose to work in groups up to 4 members. If you choose to work in groups, you must coordinate within the group and delegate responsibilities accordingly. Every group member is required to participate and contribute equally to the project. You should decide as a group whose paper to convert into a video, or perhaps you will decide to collaborate and combine your paper topics to create a cohesive topic for your video. I am available to make suggestions and help you with your topics, and I will also provide some basic instruction in class on how to use the multimedia software.

Video Requirements:

  • Videos must be 5-7 minutes in length (no more than 10 minutes)
  • Video must contain all of the following: still pictures, video clips, student-produced writing in the form of text within the video, music from the site FreePlay Music (or music that does not infringe on copyright)
  • Video must present a clear thesis statement and show the development of a rhetorical argument, just as a traditional academic essay would
  • All source material must be cited in the credits or as the information is shown or given. All pictures used must fall under creative commons license and be given appropriate attribution. Any copyrighted materials appearing in the video (including the songs) must fall under fair use guidelines.
  • Video must be uploaded to  YouTube and a link must be emailed to the instructor no later than the due date
  • A hard copy of the video on CD as backup will be turned in on the due date
  • All videos must be contain content that is appropriate for class
  • If working in a group, all group members must turn in a group evaluation form that gives the following information: 1. State what each member contributed to the group 2. State the overall effectiveness of the group 3. State your overall opinion of the final product 4. State if you feel that everyone participated equally and explain why or why not 5. State your overall experience with producing a multimedia text

The evaluation is due on the due date and will be sent by email from each individual member.

Grade: Worth 100 points (10% of total grade in the course)

Does the video meet the requirements?

Does the video show accurate writing skills?

How effective is the editing, sound quality and overall appearance of the final product?

Do the groups report equal sharing of responsibility?


YouTube has proven to be an invaluable resource for this project. Last semester I discovered how to utilize the playlist feature to organize student videos by class, and they were then able to watch their classmates’ videos and leave comments for extra credit. I instructed them to be respectful, write in complete, correct sentences (a departure from the norm when it comes to YouTube comments!) and leave constructive feedback, commenting on both the strengths and weaknesses of their peers’ work. It was also obvious that many students were sharing their videos with others because after only a view days many of the videos had close to 100 views.

There are other sites where videos can be uploaded, but I prefer YouTube because I can organize the videos all in one place on my channel, and it’s a site that my students are usually already familiar with. I also use YouTube as a springboard for copyright discussions, and YouTube’s internal site has many valuable resources and tips for following copyright guidelines as well as tutorials on video production. It’s overall a great teaching tool when used to this end.

I really like the idea that although there is plenty of mindless silliness on YouTube, there is also a forum there for learning and sharing student work.

For anyone who is interested in using multimedia projects in this way, I encourage you to check out my YouTube channel where you can see videos I have made about the project and the playlists of student videos. The YouTube channel can be a great resource and starting point for organizing your own multimedia projects.

My YouTube Channel


Creative Commons

After initially going over the project’s details, I spend one class lecturing about the principles of copyright, the fair use test, and the Creative Commons license. I have put together a PowerPoint presentation using images under the Creative Commons license, and I also show a couple of the videos from the Creative Commons site. By using Creative Commons in my own presentations, students are able to see firsthand how to negotiate copyrighted materials, conduct the fair use test, and utilize the digital media that is available under Creative Commons. Students are able to see pictures found through a Creative Commons search, and we also spend time discussing the four-point fair use test. By giving attribution to each digital image or video used, students are able to understand how citing sources for multimedia sources is just as important as citing sources for their research papers. Because I emphasize the proper attribution of sources within their academic essays early in the semester, these concepts are easily transferred to their multimedia projects.

I do explain that it is okay to use copyrighted songs, as long as they do not use the entire song in the video. I also explain that if their video is pulled for copyright infringement, that they will either have to go through the dispute process or change their video to meet requirements. It is relatively simple to dispute a video as being for commentary or educational purposes, but students are warned that videos that have been disabled will not be graded. This usually results in students using original work, or using digital media that is properly attributed under the Creative Commons license.

At first students are disappointed that they will not be able to use their favorite songs in the videos; however, I emphasize that they are allowed to use copyrighted songs as long as they use them properly under the fair use guidelines. This requires students to consider the guidelines and make their own judgments accordingly. I also point students to sites where they can obtain music tracks that are under the Creative Commons license. The site freeplaymusic.com is a good source for music tracks ranging from acoustic melodies to electronic beats. I continue to add to my resource list every semester. As can be seen in the student videos produced in the fall of 2009, students had enormous success using various digital media appropriately and with proper attribution.

Copyright issues are not going away any time soon, but they should not impede us from using digital media for creative and productive ends in our classrooms.

I believe the best way to address issues of copyright is to begin by incorporating fair use guidelines in our own work and presentations.

When students see their teachers using fair use and Creative Commons in our own work, they can learn by example. As such, I have begun implementing fair use guidelines and digital media under the Creative Commons license in my own presentations. Likewise, I emphasize fair use and copyright laws as a continuation of the discussion of plagiarism and proper citing of sources that is commonplace in the production of traditional academic essays.

Creative Commons Search Engine:   http://search.creativecommons.org/

“How To”  Resources

How to Make Your Video Editing Easier


How to Make a Video Clip


Video Maker Training Workshops


YouTube: Making and Optimizing Your Videos


YouTube: Copyright


How to Capture Video from the Internet


How to Convert Videos


How to Take a Screenshot


Making Movies with Google Earth


How to Record Video in Google Earth


How to Use Audacity: Free Recording Software


How to Upload Video to YouTube


Resources for Digital Media

Fair Use Test


Freeplay Music


Copyright Free Image Archive


The Best Copyright-Free Photo Libraries


The Best Copyright-Free and Government Video Libraries


Internet Archive


Wikimedia Commons


Creative Commons Search


Waiver Form

I require all of my students to sign a waiver form when doing this project. I also require them to have anyone that appears in their videos to sign a form. They must also inform participants that their voice/image will be published to YouTube. Students are also given guidelines about making ethical decisions regarding these matters.

Consent and Waiver Form


I hereby grant full permission for students and instructors at Dalton State College to prepare, use, reproduce, publish, distribute and exhibit my name, picture, portrait, likeness or voice, or any or all of them in or in connection with the production of a motion picture film, television tap or film recording, sound track recording, computer or network distributed computer file, or still photography in any manner for educational, treatment, scientific, publication, informational and any other professional purpose deemed necessary.

I hereby waive all right of privacy or compensation which I may have in connection with the use of my name, picture, portrait, likeness or voice, or any or all of them, in or in connection with said motion picture film, television tape or film recording, sound track recording, computer or network distributed computer file, or still photography and any use to which the same or any material therein may be put, applied or adapted by Dalton State College, and any of its agencies, i.e. schools, departments, or divisions.

This consent and waiver will not be made the basis of a future claim of any kind against Dalton State College and any of its agencies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and seal this______________ day of ___________________ , 20 _____ .

NAME: ____________________________________

ADDRESS: ________________________________


SIGNATURE OF PARENT OR GUARDIAN:* _________________________
*When minor is recorded or when otherwise justifiable.