Assigning Digital Projects

Connect all composing projects to course learning outcomes.

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?)

Recognize that not all students will embrace digital writing projects.

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 potential for learning).

Scaffold skills when possible.

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

Start small.

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 how to do what you are asking your students to do.

Practice. Write instruction sheets.

Keep access issues in mind.

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.

Be prepared to tell students how and where to save files.

Build in enough time and instruction for students to have problems and to solve them.

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

Work out in advance how you will address intellectual property/citation issues when working with images and other online material.

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.

Think about your evaluation criteria when you plan your assignment, or work with students to determine the evaluation criteria.

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.

Give students a chance to reflect on what they’ve learned and count it as part of the final grade.

Plan ahead. Consult with the CDEx staff.

Send requests to Requests / Reserve form for advice about an assignment before you give the assignment.

Reserve the CDEx for your students to work on digital projects as early as possible.

Have a back-up plan if you are not able to reserve the days you want. See our calendar available at Then fill out a project order form by going to Requests / Reserve