The Program for Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) is an innovator in digital composition, combining multi-modal composing, digital information literacy, and on-line and hybrid learning environments in a range of exciting undergraduate courses. PWR faculty are active in the national discussion surrounding digital composition, publishing research, attending national conferences, and offering regular workshops and seminars in broad range of digital technologies: web and video design, audio editing, poster and document design, digital storytelling, digital course delivery (including on-line publications, wikis, and blogs) among others. We are proud of the fact that recent student projects in multimodal composition have been featured in the Service Learning Showcase, the Reading Buddies website, the CU libraries, the Diversity Conference, and the Conference on World Affairs.

As digital media and social networking continue to redefine our literacy practices and transform the ways we communicate, the PWR seeks to apply its foundational knowledge in innovative course design, vertical curricular organization, instructor training, and digital assessment. To that end, digital pedagogies in the PWR are highly interdisciplinary, intersecting with initiatives in diversity and inclusion, sustainability, service-learning and outreach, creative non-fiction, and residential learning communities. We are deeply engaged in the praxis of Digital Composition and hold seminars with nationally known scholars, most recently, Cheryl Ball, in 2012. In coming years, as multimodal pedagogies becomes more deeply incorporated into mainstream practices in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, we believe the PWR will continue to be a leader in the field.

Current Digital Composition Highlights

Visual Rhetoric Poster Gallery in Norlin Library — Spring to Fall 2013

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Since the University of Colorado’s WRTG 1150, “First-Year Writing & Rhetoric” classes are intimate learning spaces in which CU students gain their introduction to university writing, it is essential to introduce innovative and effective technological pedagogies at this level. That Writing & Rhetoric courses invite the creative interplay of written, visual, and sound communications, further emphasizes the need for powerful multimedia pedagogies—not as add-ons or filler—but as a fundamental aspect of course content. The small class size of 18-20 students will allow us to achieve these goals with hands-on experiential learning that encourages a fearless attitude towards exploring new technologies in relation to persuasive writing and the extent to which they can help meet the overarching goals of WRTG 1150.

PURPOSE: To help students in WRTG 1150 develop the ability to see persuasive communication as the interrelationship between LOGOS and PATHOS across a range of interacting contemporary media: written, aural and visual. The classes hope to foster the perception that written persuasion must work to establish a creative interplay with visual images, video, sound, web 2.0 technologies, and social media, all of which have such a pervasive influence in contemporary social persuasion.

TECHNOLOGY & METHOD:  PWR Senior Instructor, Petger Schaberg, designed a short 3.5-week unit of Poster Persuasion and Written Reflection to meet these complex rhetorical objectives. For this Unit Two assignment, students designed two different 17” X 11” poster treatments of a specific and original organizational “call to action,” as well as a powerfully argued 3-page Analysis/Reflection of their poster goals and rhetorical strategies. Outcomes have been determined by asking students to submit all drafts of their posters, and more importantly, by emphasizing that students were graded 50% on their ability to reflect and analyze their overarching persuasive concept in written form, rather than exclusively on the profession quality of their final text/image design.

SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES: Working in the design medium of their choice—Powerpoint, Gimp, Photoshop, In Design, etc—students gained an understanding of “persuasive composition” as the skillful manipulation of text slogans (or “call to actions”) in relation to their 11” X 17” poster images. The holistic nature of human sight demands that these two seeming distinct forms of persuasion—TEXT SLOGAN and IMAGE—must be merged if the students’ chosen audience is to be persuaded in poster form. During this 3.5 week project, the classes consulted numerous real-world poster models; held in-class seminars in image/text poster design; created small group feedback teams; and discussed their developing work—both the written analysis and the two 11” x 17” poster treatments—in large group workshops. Atlas labs were available if students needed them, as will the mentorship of graphic designer Dave Underwood in OIT.


Sample Student Assignments

BoulderReads! Promotional Video

Students in PWR Senior Instructor Petger Schaberg's writing class created this video about the BoulderReads! Reading Buddies Program at Columbine Elementary School (conducted in partnership with the Boulder Valley Family Literacy Program), as a digital composition assignment.


City of Boulder's Open Space & Mountain Parks Informational Video

In collaboration with OSMP, CU student Kaitlyn Merriman and OSMP employee and featured hikerTopher Downham created this informational video about OSMP's challenges and solutions to providing accessible recreational trails for people of all abilities, especially those individuals facing disabilities, for PWR Senior Instructor Petger Schaberg's writing class.