Considering Print-Based Challenges for Online Literacy Instruction: Creating Access and Opportunity through Multimodal Literacy Practices

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Best in Track Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

Seeking to move the mountain of (over)reliance on print-based teaching and assessment in her asynchronous graduate reading program, one faculty member studied her teaching and student learning, redesigned courses, then studied changes. Findings demonstrate how multimodal teaching and learning created innovative ways for learners to access, generate, and share knowledge.


Dr. Christi Edge is an Associate Professor and teacher educator in the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service at Northern Michigan University. She also serves as Extended Learning and Community Engagement Scholar for online teaching and learning in NMU's Global Campus.

Extended Abstract

Multimodal learning may be a word buzzing in the literature, but how can instructors utilize technology to enable diverse adult learners to access and to generate knowledge in asynchronous online courses? How can instructors, especially teacher educators and professional development leaders model multimodal learning so that learners may experience--not just to read about or talk about multimodal, design-based, collaborative learning in an online environment? This presentation will detail a two-phased case study of an instructor and program leader who studied the use of multimodal learning, made design changes, and then studied the teaching and learning in the redesigned courses. Zooming in to focus on one graduate course, this presentation will:

  • Describe the research methodology and process a faculty member used to study her teaching practices and student learning in an asynchronous, online graduate course;
  • Share and explicate instructor-produced and learner-produced artifacts that demonstrate innovative ways to move the mountain of learning through multimodal literacy practices;
  • Provide an opportunity to consider the use of multimodal literacy practice in course/program design;
  • Launch a discussion focused on possible affordances and challenges to engaging diverse adult learners through multimodal design and delivery and through multimodal ways to demonstrate course competencies/learning objectives in online courses.



As a product of the American school system, I recognize I have been enculturated to value linguistic texts as the authoritative medium for learning. As a result, I have become skilled at the ability to learn from and teach through print-based texts. However, as a teacher educator, I also value the authority of lived experiences captured through multimodal means. I recognize that “every instance of making and sharing meaning is a multimodal event involving many sign systems in addition to language” and that “when we limit ourselves to language, we cut ourselves off from other ways of knowing” (Harste, 2000, p. 4). Therefore, as a teacher educator leading a fully online graduate reading/literacy program, I puzzled about how I might provide access and opportunity for others to learn through multimodal literacies in the online environment, and I wondered what I might learn about my own teaching by exploring the “pedagogic potentials of multimodal literacy” (Walsh, 2009) in an online graduate-level course for teaching reading in secondary (6-12) classrooms.

To explore these wonderings, I utilized case study, self-study of teaching practices and action research methodologies to systematically study my teaching practices with the goals of improving teaching for purposes of student learning and contributing understandings situated in practice to the larger knowledge base (LaBoskey, 2004; Vanassche & Kletchermans, 2015).

This presentation will provide examples of the two-phase research process, examples of data from the course design and learner-produced artifacts, and insights into how studying my teaching practices generated innovation and course redesign. Phase One consisted of an exploratory study around the question, “How can I use multimodal literacies to re-see my teaching practices? Phase Two details the action research process for course redesign around the question, “How can I use multimodal literacies to empower others to construct and to communicate meaning in the online course platform?”

Findings illuminated (1) the generative power of transmediation—the act of translating meanings from one sign system to another (Siegel, 1995) in the online environment; (2) additional, often overlooked, “entry points” into learning about oneself as a lifelong learner, course topics, and about others’ diverse perspectives, experiences, and understandings; (3) tensions and shifts in the dynamics of ownership of knowledge.

One challenge for teaching and learning in online classes is text reliance focusing heavily upon the written word and requiring written responses, discussion, papers, etc. to support instruction and demonstrate learning. This presentation will provide an overview of the research methodology, course redesign goals, use of technology and andragogy in multimodal teaching and learning, and demonstrate how learners both responded to and composed multimodal texts in the context of an asynchronous online, graduate course.



            Following the 30-minute presentation focused on the methodology, findings, and examples, the presenter will launch and facilitate a discussion beginning with the following prompt:

In this case, phase 1 of the study revealed a reliance on written forms of communicating in teaching and learning events. Findings from phase 2 revealed ways learners and the instructor accessed, generated, and communicated knowledge using multimodal literacy practices and technology.

  • In your institutions, how can you create opportunities for diverse learners to experience course content and/or to demonstrate learning outcomes through multiple modalities?  
    •  What technologies or tools might help?
    • What challenges or barriers might exist?
    • What solutions or innovations might aid instructors’ abilities to create authentic multimodal course design and delivery that enables diverse adult learners to generate, communicate, and disseminate their learning in authentic ways?