Assigning Digital Projects

Students should understand why they are being asked to do something, especially if it is different from what they expect. (Why are we using Photoshop in a writing class?)

Even if they work in these media for their own purposes, doing something new for a grade can be stressful. However, most students ultimately find new media projects worthwhile. (Doing something new also requires a higher level of attention and thus increases the potential for learning).

Move from including an image or two in an essay or report to analyzing a visual argument to creating a short video.

Practice. Write instruction sheets.

Students learn as much from composing a 2-minute video as they do from composing a 5-minute video and with fewer problems. It is simpler to include a single sound-track on a video than to include both music and narration.

Know what software is available to students. Consider using cloud-based software and easily available equipment whenever possible. (Ask what students have access to.) For example, most computers have Movie Maker or I-Movie, but students can also create a video by using the slideshow function of Power Point. Students can make videos using still images they download or create with still cameras, bypassing the need for access to video cameras and enough computer storage space to work with the large files video creates.

Students may not inherently know how to save certain file types or how to locate them on their computers. Spend time during class going over the saving and uploading processes.

As with all writing assignments, provide opportunities for invention, drafting, feedback (from you and peers), and revision.

Students often assume that anything on the web is theirs for the taking. Copyrighted images should be cited. Most uses of portions of published material for educational purposes fall under the principle of “Fair Use,” but guiding principles are still evolving.

Make clear how the technical aspects of the project will be evaluated (just as you make clear how sentence style will count in relation to the conceptual work of writing assignments). Keep your expectations for final products in line with what students are actually able to produce. At the same time, don’t ignore the non-alphabetic aspects of an assignment. Evaluate students based on what you have taught them to do.

Asking students to reflect on their digital projects allows students to make connections to other projects/skills. It can also be a great place for them to explain their composing choices and to take a little of the pressure off the final digital product.

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