EDC 534 Seminar on Digital Authorship


University of Rhode Island

This course introduces major theories of digital authorship as a pedagogical approach to digital literacy and includes a range of hands-on dynamic learning experiences that integrate digital media, technologies, and best practice strategies for teaching composition and authorship in a Web 2.0 world.

Instructor: Renee Hobbs

Context and Background

This course is designed as part of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy, a four-course sequence. The core learning outcomes of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy include the following:

  • Gain Knowledge. Deepen your ability to read and critically analyze the wide variety of texts available online and learn practical strategies that you can share with others
  • Gain experience in composing texts using digital media tools that facilitate the use of language, image, sound and interactivity for digital sharing in global networked spaces
  • Understand how digital media texts, tools and technologies reshape the nature of knowledge, impact personal and social relationships, and alter organizational practices in the workplace, school and community
  • Work collaboratively with educators, librarians and media professionals to design and create learning environments where digital media resources are accessed, analyzed and created in ways that contribute to learning
  • Develop and apply leadership and change management skills that enable them to promote and implement best practices in digital literacy education through direct impact in the community or workplace
  • Cultivate habits of mind that support an expanded conceptualization of literacy as it applies to digital media environments, including tenacity, reflection, creativity, flexibility, and lifelong learning.



Rationale. In this course, we examine the practice of authoring multimedia texts as a form of learning. Today, even very young children discover the power of digital authorship by developing their creative expression skills and reaching audiences with their drawings, stories and songs. Children make videos as a form of informal play, at home, in the neighborhood and on the playground. And teens and young adults may discover that their personal, social and emerging professional identity depends on how they represent their own lives through practices of curation and creation.  

To be literate today, one needs to be both a skilled reader and a competent writer, able to use a variety of technology tools (the Internet, word processing, graphic design software, digital camera, editing) in different social contexts (including for work, leisure and citizenship activities). You need the ability to access, analyze and compose messages using symbol systems (language, image, music, sound) across different modes (informational, narrative and persuasive) and genres (music videos, flyers, gifs, email, web pages, etc). And because literacy is a form of social action, it involves actively navigating a set of power relationships as a member of a discourse community (as a family member, a music fan, part of a team, etc).  

In this course, we’ll examine multimedia authorship through a variety of disciplinary and professional perspectives, including media literacy, media arts, youth media, writing and rhetoric, media studies and education. This semester, we focus on the intersections of two disciplines: youth media studies and education. As an expanded conceptualization of literacy, digital literacy depends on re-imagining the role of a host of related concepts: texts, voice, agency, expression, representation, process and product, and the role of the creative artist in a Web 2.0 world. 

But even as the variety of free or inexpensive digital tools continue to proliferate, nothing about the process of creating digital media is easy – like all creative processes, the practice of authorship requires intellectual curiosity, courage, confidence, tenacity and openness to risk-taking and experimentation. And although scholars may proclaim the empowerment that results from creative expression, there are also some risks and challenges involved in digital authorship. In this class, we explore the practice of digital authorship by considering creative work as an essential part of the inquiry process.


After completing this course, you will:

  1. Deepen awareness of yourself as a literate individual and reflect on your personal and social identity as an author in the home, workplace, for citizenship and daily life;
  2. Gain knowledge of how changes in society and technology are shaping approaches to writing, media production, multimodal media composition and media literacy in the context of K-12 and higher education, and in informal learning environments, including home, library and community;
  3. Develop digital media production practices for learning using free and low-cost platforms and tools for purposes of self-expression, communication and advocacy;
  4. Consider how authorship embodies ideologies about the relative value of creativity, identity, collaboration, authority, representation, power and social action;
  5. Strengthen research, reading comprehension, critical reading and synthesis skills in learning from texts in a variety of genres and forms;
  6. Deepen collaborative, organizational, problem-solving and leadership skills in working with others as a member of a creative production team;
  7. Gain a broader appreciation of the role of both scholarship and praxis as a member of an interdisciplinary knowledge community in digital literacy.




Hobbs, R. (2017). Create to Learn: Introduction to Digital Literacy. New York: Wiley.

Hobbs, R. (2010). Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin/Sage.

Readings and Videos

These are shown on the syllabus and available at the course website.

The instructor donates book royalty proceeds to the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), the national membership association of the field. In order to develop your critical thinking skills, you will be expected to engage in critical reading of these texts, including the identification of the limitations of the author’s arguments and ideas.


Educational Philosophy. This fully-online asynchronous course is based on the assumption that (1) learners are engaged and self-directed, able to make strategic choices in order to maximize all available learning opportunities. Another key assumption of this class is that (2) people learn best by making and doing things. A final assumption of this course is that (3) reflection is an essential literacy component that can be activated through social interaction in a challenging and supportive community where there are high levels of respect and trust. For the best learning environment possible, we will depend on every student to respect and apply these fundamental design principles. 

Format of the Course. This is an online learning experience so you’ll have an intense experience that will require self-direction and independent learning.

  • Online Community. We will use a combination of video chat, threaded discussion and other online tools to build and sustain a learning community. Each week, you complete activities to engage with an online learning community.
  • Creating media is a powerful form of learning. The instructor will provide, in writing, specific description of the assignments with expectations and criteria to be used for evaluation. Assignment materials for each of the assignments listed below will be available under “Assignments” on the course website. Written feedback is provided through email.
  • Reflection Matters. Experiential learning works best when learners engage in self assessment and reflection. You will be expected to notice what you are learning about yourself as a learner, a do-er, and a creative person this semester. Some weekly assignments will require written or video reflection.

Open Network Learning Environment.  The design for this course is a form of open network learning environment. Instead of using a learning management system like Sakai, you participate in a variety of online creative and collaborative endeavors, using a variety of digital tools and technologies. You will use a wide range of free and low-cost digital authoring tools during the semester. The skills you learn by doing this should directly transfer to your work as an engaged citizen and educational leader. Some of the work you create for this course will be private and some will be public. You will primarily share content to these locations: (1) your own course blog, (2) our closed Facebook group, and (3) Twitter.

Independent and Collaborative Learning. Most of the learning in this class occurs through reading and viewing, followed by interacting with instructor and peers to share ideas and interpretations. This is not a “sit and get” course where you listen and learn. You will learn by completing weekly reading, viewing and other assignments that require interaction with your peers. You are free to choose the activities that are most meaningful to you. However, it is expected that you devote approximately 6 – 9 hours to this course each week in completing learning activities. Please block out time on your academic calendar to complete the weekly learning tasks.

A Note about Technology Competencies. Everyone is on the journey of a lifetime: learning to learning new technology tools, as our cell phones, tablets, laptops become essential part of leisure, work and citizenship. But we all don’t begin this course with the same kinds or levels of skill. Many of the apps and digital tools we explore may be new to you. Some examples include: YouTube, Adobe Spark, FlipGrid, Screencast-O-Matic, Twitter, Padlet and Google Docs. You can learn from others and teach others by supporting your peers by being a helper, coach, mentor, colleague, collaborator, and critic. Each of these roles promotes learning.


Course Website: We are not using Sakai. All information for the course is available at

Private Discussion Board. Our threaded discussion and study group is located in a closed Facebook group: To share a message to this group without going to Facebook, you can compose and send an email to: 

Twitter. We share our learning with each other and with the world on Twitter using the hashtag #EDC534.

Optional Weekly Class Meeting. This is a fully-online class, which has an optional synchronous video class meeting for one hour weekly at a time convenient to most class members. Online: If you are unable to participate in the online class, you will be expected to watch the video recording and comment on one question or comment from the dialogue using our Facebook group.


LEAP Projects (450 points)

You will create media as digital authors and reflect on your learning experiences. Three LEAP activities are designed to support the development of your digital authorship skills and help you develop collaboration and project-management skills. Each of the LEAP experiences contributes to the development of your personal and professional identity.

LEAP #1. Critically Analyze a Mentor Text (150 pts)

LEAP #2. Create Media to Demonstrate Your Learning (150 pts)

LEAP #3. Digital Storytelling (150 pts)

Class Participation (250 points—20 pts per week)

Learning requires action and reflection on action. Each week, after reading, viewing and engaging in hands-on learning, you engage in activities designed to reflect on what you’re learning by participating in our knowledge community. We’ll use the Pathwright learning management tool to organize these activities. You will have some choice over which activities you engage in as a learner. Some weeks, you will annotate reading or video, participate in a threaded discussion, compose a reflective essay or create a bit of digital content in a particular form of media, posting it to your own blog. Choose the activities that help you learn best. The instructor may comment on work that is exemplary by offering public feedback. If your work is unsatisfactory, the instructor will offer private feedback. To get an A for class participation, you need approximately 20 points per week or 250 points. For a B, you should have at least 220 points over the course of the semester. Class participation is required. Those who do not participate in the learning activities will fail the course.

Final Paper/Project (300 points)

In graduate school, you develop your own unique expertise that helps advance your knowledge and career ambitions. In the final paper, you have maximum latitude to develop a paper/project to meet your own learning goals as a leader in digital literacy. You may work individually or with a partner. For this work, it’s best if you use this opportunity to develop your expertise in ways that advance your personal interests and professional career. Students may examine a specific research topic, create a curriculum, or develop a creative project. Work you complete should be integrally connected to the themes and issues explored in this course and created during the current semester.

With all this freedom, it is important to focus on something “doable” in just six weeks. It could be: (a) a creative media project; (b) a curriculum project; (c) a proposal for a research project; (d) a literature review; (e) something else entirely. You will create a creative brief and a scope of work plan to structure your project and get feedback from the instructor.

To facilitate sharing of your completed work, all students compose a video Ignite presentation (pecha kucha) that describes your completed work in a short 20-slide video screencast. This is posted online and shared via Twitter with the #EDC534 hashtag.


What’s Public and Private. In an open-network learning environment, you are expected to maintain a public identity as a learner, as the course aims to develop competencies that directly apply to your emerging identity as a leader in digital literacy education. We use both private and public dialogue for our learning this semester. Some online discussion and dialogue is restricted to the Pathwright and the closed Facebook group. Some is intentionally public as you develop your voice as a leader in digital literacy. For this, you may use an existing Twitter account or create a new account using a pseudonym. For the major work you create in this course, you may choose to use an existing blog or create one just for this class. Class members give and receive feedback in a constructive, authentic and responsible manner. The instructor offers feedback and grading privately via email.

Accommodation for Disabilities and Special Needs.  Any students who have a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss the specific situation. Contact Disability Services to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities at 330 Memorial Union, 401-874-2098,

Plagiarism, Copyright and Fair Use.  Students are expected to make use of remix creativity in this course and produce original writing and creative work. Human creativity depends upon the ability to summarize, use, and rework the creative contributions of others as part of our own learning experience. It is expected that you will carefully select images and multimedia to illustrate, contextualize and comment on ideas. It is expected that you will be the author of all the work you submit. Citation norms depend on the type of media you are creating and you are expected to use appropriate norms based on the medium. On your blog, you will be expected to use both appropriately-selected hyperlinks as well as a Works Cited list that presents citations in American Psychological Association (APA) citation format. Penalties for plagiarism may range from a reduced grade on an assignment to failing the course.

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