WAM syllabus


Instructor: Nicole Turnipseed

Please Call Me: Niki (PGPs: She/Her, or they/them)

E-mail: turnips2@illinois.edu

Meet via Zoom: Tues/Thurs 11am-12:15pm

Office Hours via Zoom: Wed 11am-12:15pm

This syllabus is interactive! Please read and respond to it asap so we can begin building this class together. Your responses here go straight to me, and inform how I support you. As a more general introduction to one another, please respond to the welcome post on our “activities” page.

(First, a note on the beautiful complexity of authorship! The design of this course, including this syllabus, has been greatly influenced by the continual collaborative work of WAM teachers and CWS directors dating back to 2008.  Intertextual echoes noted with gratitude 😊)

Course Description

How do you “read” an image?  Have you ever “heard” an author’s voice in their writing? What avenues for persuasion and inquiry are afforded by your word processor? …by the camera lens on your cell phone? …by a graffiti stencil?

In Writing Across Media, we’ll explore how we can utilize and create tools for understanding and communicating beyond the alphabetic. Our end goal will be to thoughtfully compose a set of multimodal texts that work together to spark change on an issue you find personally meaningful. To get there, we’ll begin by first cultivating our self-understanding and genuine curiosity about our worlds. Using theoretically grounded practices, we’ll test the affordances and limitations of a range of modes (linguistic, visual…), media (alphabet, photograph…), and technologies (pencils, Snapchat…).

Our class time together will hinge on discussion and workshopping; we’ll work together to speak back to utilize and build on theory, while also serving as interested and generative audiences for one another in the process of composing.  Along the way, we’ll develop a malleable toolkit for understanding and composing multimedia products while attempting to identify, and just as importantly challenge, implicit assumptions about media.

This course fulfills UIUC’s General Education Advanced Composition requirement.


Here are some things I hope you’ll cultivate in this class:

  • An understanding of “writing” as a multimodal product and process.

  • A broad and nuanced theoretical and practical understanding of modes of communication.

  • A view toward how texts are mobilized across multiple spaces and contexts and how modality, media, and technology offer affordances for authors’ intended purposes in creating those texts.

  • Some interest and comfort in thoughtfully engaging with, analyzing, testing and contesting theories of modality, media, communication and composition.

  • Skill in inventing, drafting, revising and presenting multimodal products with evidence, analysis, and sophisticated attention to audience, purpose, situation, technology, design, and/or material,

       o Including the vocabulary to clearly explain, defend, and reflect upon your rhetorical and design                    decisions, processes, and products with regard to media and technology

  • Professional/human collegiality in thoughtfully giving, receiving and taking up feedback.

Course Texts/Materials

All course readings and materials, aside from those you locate on your own to explore your chosen issue, will be available online through our course website; no need to purchase any textbooks. Depending on the media you choose to work with, there may be material costs throughout the course. I choose free, open access course texts in part so that if you so choose, you can use the money you would have spent on a textbook on materials to create interesting things, but you’re certainly not required to purchase materials or programs to do the work of this course. We’ll explore plenty of free, open-access programs you can use to compose.

Course texts are available in the “required reading” tab atop our course page, and linked directly on our course calendar.  It is imperative that you have access to course texts and your notes on those texts during our class meetings. Whether you print these materials out or access them via a laptop, tablet, or other electronic device is up to you, so find your preferred way to access them for reference during discussion. I suggest saving all of your work and materials to the cloud for easy access in case of tech blips.

The Work of the Course​

This course will be both a personal and collective learning journey. We will be composing and responding to one another’s compositions consistently, both in writing and virtually via Zoom. Each Monday and Wednesday, you’ll complete class activities asynchronously, which will serve as fodder for our Tuesday and Thursday virtual meetings. Outside of those designated class activities, you will complete both individual and group projects.

Participation: In order for us to work together as a community, we’ll all have to find ways to be “present” in the various places our course lives (our course site, Zoom, Google Docs…). Participation means showing up prepared to talk about the assigned materials, thoughtfully discussing your own and your peers’ works-in-progress, and actively engaging with class activities. The course offers multiple low stakes ways to participate outside of whole-class discussions, which I recognize can be overwhelming; know that I don’t expect you-all to communicate the same ways, I’m listening for your contributions, and I want to support your getting to know each other, and so am open to suggestions if you think of anything else I can do to support roads to participation that feel accessible for you. I expect you to listen attentively to your peers and to challenge, respectfully, the source material as well as the assertions of your peers.

Workload: Because this is a summer course, it is necessarily fast-paced. I’ve cut back and streamlined the semester course requirements to make it doable in this short time frame, but it will certainly require a concerted effort. I don’t assign busywork. Our work is highly scaffolded – so each task is designed to support your upcoming work. Further, our deadlines enable us to approach course materials as a community in real time. If you can’t finish work for any reason, chat with me in advance and we will figure out together how best to keep you on track with your own learning and how you can still support your peers.

Calendar: Each week, the course calendar will walk you through the various activities of the week and link you directly to required readings, activity/assignment prompts, submission spaces, virtual meetings etc.

Digital Course Components and Resources

*Our Course Site: Our course site is as follows: I will use this website to post announcements, assignments, resources, and other related content. The course syllabus and schedule are also available on this site, which you are responsible for keeping up to date with. Feel free to follow the blog if you prefer to receive e-mail updates when I post new entries (in-class activities, announcements, clarifications and the like).

*Portfolio platform: Typically, students in this course create an individual site (whether through WordPress, Wix or another blogging site) to house their three portfolios. This can be both time consuming and rewarding, so for our summer course, I offer this as an option but am also open to less labor intensive portfolio formats. We’ll discuss options in class.

*E-mail: On occasion, I will send brief e-mails to your university e-mail addresses with reminders, resources, and/or clarifications on assignments. I check my e-mail daily and usually respond within one business day; I expect you to do the same. Legally, I’m not permitted to give out or discuss grades via e-mail, so if you’d like to discuss these matters, please set up a time to meet with me virtually instead.

*Lynda.com—Since this class is not a “how-to” course in terms of learning the nuts and bolts of tech or software, you might find yourself a bit lacking in the requisite skills when it comes to creating media projects. Fortunately, UIUC offers free access to Lynda Online Training (access through: go.illinois.edu/Lynda). Lynda is a great resource for a wealth of training modules detailing software (Linux), video editing (iMovie), audio editing (Audacity), and more (Python, Twine). Follow the link and log in with your UIUC ID to access bajillions of video tutorials.

-Lynda is now migrating to LinkedIn Learning. If you have used your Lynda account, you can migrate your account here: https://web.uillinois.edu/linkedinlearning

I don’t imagine any of the physical spaces of following campus resources will be available this summer, but it’s at the very least worth knowing they exist for future work! And the Fab Lab has some great online materials!

*Media Commons: UIUC’s Media Commons, located in the Undergraduate Library, can assist you with your media projects. It’s a great space for learning more about media technology, and it additionally houses top-notch video and audio recording studios. Feel free to check it out or make a media consultation appointment to take advantage of this resource.

*Loanable Technology: If you don’t have the requisite software or hardware you feel like you need to succeed in this class, you can check out select technologies from the Media Commons at UGL. If you’re struggling to come up with the necessary technological resources to complete a project, please let me know ahead of time.

*Fab Lab: The CU Community Fab Lab is an awesome, affordable resource for learning and making. It’s an open and collaborative workshop space for computer-driven innovation, design and fabrication that houses a ton of cool tools and awesome people to help you work them.  I suggest familiarizing yourself with their resources and tutorials so when you have an idea for a project, you’ll have a start on ideas to make it come to life.  Here’s their website: http://cucfablab.org/, and here are a bunch of awesome tutorials and learning resources they post: http://cucfablab.blogspot.com/.

Classroom and Course Etiquette

Respect for diversity

In this course, as elsewhere in life, you will undoubtedly work with people who differ from you, whether in terms of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, language background, age, mobility, neurodiversity, modes of communication, what-have-you. Regardless of these differences, you must absolutely respect (ideally, value) the attitudes and contributions of your classmates, even if their perspectives differ from your own. (As they should; we’ve all had different life experiences!) As such, (cis)sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic or otherwise demeaning/disrespectful remarks or behavior will not be tolerated, nor will any additional form of harassment. These attitudes are not only counterproductive to a safe and inclusive learning environment, but they’re simply unacceptable and have no place in this classroom, much less anywhere else. So please be respectful of your peers’ verbal contributions to class and their work, as we will all be working together to promote a rich, comfortable learning environment.

Content warnings

It follows that I envision our class environment—both in its physical and digital iterations—as a brave space in which everyone feels welcome to participate. Should we encounter material that might be emotionally challenging or potentially traumatic, I will provide a trigger or content warning in advance. If you find yourself having difficulty dealing with a particular class discussion or reading, feel free to step out of the classroom and/or speak to me about it in person.

Networked spaces

As noted above, classroom etiquette also extends into networked spaces, specifically with regard to e-mail communication and blog activity. In your e-mails to me and to your peers, please be sure to include a title explaining the subject of the message, a greeting (“Hi Niki”), a clear explanation of your question/concern, and a signature.

Please allow at least 24 hours for an e-mail response from me. In-depth discussions are sometimes better served by verbal conversation, and I’m always happy to set up a time to chat.

Learning and comportment

Our different brain-bodies engage and learn quite differently, and video conferencing presents different challenges than in-person work.  Please do your best to honor your own learning needs while minimally interfering with your peers’ ability to focus and engage. We can talk more about this as we get comfortable online, but I have faith we can create a learning environment that works for everyone.

Students Requesting Accommodation

Everyone learns differently and benefits from different kinds of support. Please get in touch with me if you would like to discuss your individual learning style and/or needs and how this course can best accommodate them, whether you have a documented disability or not. If you have a disability that requires accommodation for you to succeed in this class, you may want to contact the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) for additional support.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism (Don’t skip please!)

The University of Illinois has high standards of academic integrity set out in Article 1, Part 4 of the University Student Code.  Unfortunately, some of that code itself is plagiarized…

Fun fact: if you do a phrasal Google search on the first sentence (“Every direct quotation….), you will find this sentence appearing in a number of institution’s policies. In fact, it is a direct quote from a legal journal article’s model policy (Pavela, 1978). However, that fact is not indicated in the university policy by either quotation marks or citation. (In fact, a general acknowledgement of the article that appeared in earlier versions of the code was removed at some point, and the sentence was left unchanged although the committee knew it was copied word for word from the article.) Based on the policy’s own definitions, the policy is intentionally engaging in plagiarism.

To complicate things further, the above section of text was cribbed from a white paper I co-authored with the Center for Writing Studies staff.  Where a use like this may be punishable under the university policy, it is common practice in many workplace settings to reuse boilerplate language without attribution.  So, does that mean you’re excused from any effort toward academic integrity or source citation?  Absolutely not. It DOES mean that the reality of authorship is more complicated than it tends to be represented in policy or understood in punishment.

There are, in fact, multiple norms for source use, citation, and authorship.  It is my responsibility as a teacher to help you develop sophisticated and flexible understanding and practices for source use, citation, and authorship, just as it is your own central responsibility to learn how to understand and employ norms, to determine what norms are in force in a setting, and to respect those norms in their work.  Cultivating this understanding is crucial to our shared goals of making knowledge and organizing learning, and we will work on understanding and enacting sound practices together.  I do not expect you to know and apply all norms perfectly the first time, but I do expect you to take responsibility for learning them, and I will not take lightly academic integrity violations with evidence of deception.

We will read and speak early in the semester about academic and course-specific norms.  Because it is so important, and since citation is particularly tricky in continually changing new media and multimodal contexts, we will carry this conversation through to the end of the semester.  Please raise questions about citation in your particular projects throughout the semester – we’ll all learn from figuring it out together.

Pavela, G. (1978). Judicial review of academic decision making after Horowitz. NOLPE School Law Journal, 8(1), 55-75.


Mandated Reporter Status and Sexual Assault Resources

Please know that, while I care greatly for my students and am happy to lend an ear in support when asked, under Title IX, I (along with your other teachers) am designated as a mandated reporter.  This means I am required to disclose reports of sexual misconduct to the University or law enforcement.  If you are a victim of sexual violence and are ready to speak to an advisor but unsure of whether you want to file a report, you do have access to confidential advisors and other confidential resources through the university and community.  You can find information about those and other related resources here: http://www.wecare.illinois.edu/resources/students/.

Writers Workshop

The Writers Workshop provides free, one-to-one help to all UIUC writers. The Workshop’s consultants can help with any kind of assignment, in any class, and at any stage of the writing process. While the Writers Workshop is not an editing service, tutors will help students with anything related to their writing, including grammar, brainstorming, organizing, polishing final drafts, citing sources, and more. Bring a draft to revise or just stop by for help with getting your ideas together.

The Writers Workshop offers online sessions, so feel free to make an appointment if you’d like to talk through your work with someone.

Main Location: 251 Undergraduate Library                                            E-mail: wow@illinois.edu

Website: https://writersworkshop.illinois.edu                                        Phone: 217.333.8796

Changes to Syllabus / Course Schedule

Our course syllabus and schedule are subject to change based on our needs. You will be notified of any such changes in class and in writing (most likely through e-mail or the course website).