The Expert’s Guide to Multimodal Projects

Posted on: June 14, 2022 | By: shan2 | Filed under: Disciplinary Writing, Invention Techniques

Hello, my name is Rylee McKinney. I am a Writing Center Consultant and Elon Teaching Fellow. After college, I plan to use my English Education major and minors in Coaching and TESOL to teach high school students.

Freshman year of college is a big adjustment, and most of us have been told that college is no walk in the park. We come to college with a thousand worries in our heads. The scariest thought: college papers.  However, in the age of technology, the lengthy college paper has begun to take on new forms.

Many first years are introduced to the term “Multimodal” in their foundational classes. As a first-year student, I was completely lost when I heard this term for the first time. It was hard to imagine replacing the standard ten-page paper with something more creative. I had spent most of my high school preparing for college papers. I was taught how to write formally. I never expected college to challenge me to think outside the box and communicate differently!

So, what does ”multimodal” mean, exactly? Multimodal literally means “more than one mode.” To break it down, there are five different modes: linguistic, visual, aural, spatial, and gestural. Different types of projects use different modes to convey information.  Instead of a traditional research paper (linguistic), students might present their work in the form of a podcast (aural), presentation (linguistic, visual, spatial, gestural), website (linguistic, visual, spatial), video (visual, aural), etc. Multimodal projects allow students to consider elements of writing such as tone, audience, and interactivity when approaching a project, and use them in different ways to accomplish different goals. .

I know what you’re thinking. Thanks for the definition, but where do I start?. I am going to provide you with some tips on how to successfully develop a multimodal project.


  1. Picking a Genre:
    a. When picking a genre for a multimodal project, it is most important to consider your audience and purpose. If your project is meant to inform students, then creating a video or social media campaign might be the most effective option. Or, if your project is more focused on academic research and points of discussion, a podcast might be the better route because the format allows you to get into more depth.
  2. Altering Design Principles:
    a. Multimodal projects contain many different elements that you as a designer can control. Elements such as color, volume, size, and placement of visual elements have a big impact on the effectiveness of your project. These features all play into the overall impact, communication of message, and audience’s understanding.
  3. Look for Examples:
    a. Multimodal projects are innovative even for us tech-savvy college students. It is important to use available resources to glimpse at examples of multimodal projects. These examples will not only give you some useful models, but they will also inspire you to explore different creative choices

Drafting your first multimodal document can be overwhelming, but I hope having somewhere to start reduces that feeling. As long as you understand the definition of multimodal and understand what each of the modes entail, you will be successful in creation. At Elon, consultants in The Writing Center can help you explore your modes of choice as well as focus your project to cater to your audience. We look forward to seeing you soon!


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