I propose a conversation about incorporating multimedia assignments into humanities courses. As director of the University of Alabama Libraries’ Sanford Media Center, I’ve helped design and support a number of assignments in areas such as English, art, dance, and multiple modern languages classes. Although these assignments are across many divisions, the assignments have a common thread no matter the type of class or technological tool used; they are either asking students to make an argument (defining argument as a composition intended to convince or persuade) or demonstrate a skill outside the classroom.
Some examples of successful integration of multimedia assignments in humanities classes include an instructor in the art department who has dropped paper summaries of projects in favor of digital slideshows that exhibit the creation process, including planning, construction, and completion of a sculptural object, accompanied by comprehensive evaluation of the project. Instructors in English have students making websites to distribute their research and writing instead of traditional papers and instructors in modern languages have students filming themselves speaking in the assigned language for self-evaluation and instructor feedback.
In addition to using multimedia as a way to delivery the primary learning objective, students are also learning a valuable communication skill that is becoming more necessary as they enter the professional world–the ability to communicate beyond writing. As technology progresses and affects the workplace, the ability to successfully engage in multi-model communication will continue to increase inn value. These multimedia and communication skills are most clearly evident in the assignments that require students to present an argument of some type.
Possible suggested discussion topics include why even bother with media assignments, different types of assignments (e.g. video, audio, web, etc.), creating achievable assignments by determining useful expectations, rubric elements for assignment evaluation, and discussing some of the many tools that can be used for multimedia projects.