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IIInteroperable Activities

This is an instructional design blueprint for integrating digital project work in college courses according to a 3-unit sequence devoted to “materials,” “methods,” and “products,” respectively. It makes use of the International Image Interoperability Framework.

Published onOct 05, 2022
IIInteroperable Activities


This is an instructional design blueprint for integrating digital project work in college courses according to a 3-unit sequence devoted to “materials,” “methods,” and “products,” respectively. It makes use of, and is inspired by, IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework), a standard of digital content delivery that enables “interoperable” swapping of substance while fixing tools and platforms (e.g., digital collections site, learning management system, digital project platform) in functional sequence.

Literacies & Competencies

The lessons are proficiency-focused and aligned with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. Two ACRL frames explicitly addressed are “Information Has Value,” and “Information Creation as a Process.” The sequence design draws upon instructional design principles from Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (UBD), as cited in the ACRL Framework, and makes use of Joseph Bizup’s B.E.A.M., an alternative to the primary/secondary/tertiary source distinction for research materials (Wiggins and McTighe; Bizup). The key concepts or “enduring understandings” involve working with digitized collections of items, such as cultural artifacts or scientific specimens, and drawing upon curatorial expertise in the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). The highlighted proficiency in annotation as a skill and discursive act in the example course is informed by historical scholarship of annotation, marginalia, and reading practices, as well as current definitions from the W3C Web Annotation Data Model


The immediate readerly audience for this text are librarians, faculty, instructional designers, and technologists, but the sequence is ultimately intended for undergraduate students at all levels of instruction, with particular emphasis on first- and second-year courses. 

Integrated hands-on instruction provides students early exposure to scholarly methods of inquiry with authentic institutional collections of digital specimens and cultural artifacts and for advanced, upper-division research seminars and capstone projects. The strategic address to undergraduate students early in their period of study achieves two purposes: 1) it develops foundational proficiencies and understandings in often-marginalized content domains (such as visual studies), so their perspectives are widened before they elect topics for individual research; 2) it normalizes rich media content of all kinds within an institution’s curriculum.

Curricular Context

The curricular integration model described here is appropriate for courses across academic disciplines. The particular examples provided here come from an 80-student lecture course on the history of medicine, but other courses using the same structure are in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The lesson sequence is designed for hybrid (online and in-person) implementation, with active use of the learning management system (LMS). The sequence is fixed as 3-part, but is variable in scope and intensity relative to the base course with which it is integrated. For example, the course could be entirely devoted to a scaffolded collaborative research project, or it could be a high-enrollment lecture class with an occasional series of hands-on digital learning activities. The learning activities are conducted primarily in the LMS, taking advantage of its rich media page structure and interactivity. Online work is designed to flip information literacy and technical proficiencies instruction outside of class time and reduce the instructional burden on course faculty.

Instructional Partners

Because of the scope and holistic approach to curricular integration, it is suggested that this construct be approached collaboratively by multiple partners in institutional settings that support curriculum innovation, including libraries, digital technology groups, and academic departments.

Many collaborators guided, informed, and/or contributed to the sample materials, including:

  • Chien-Ling Liu Zeleny: example course faculty (UCLA History and Institute for Society & Genetics)

  • Greg Steinke (UCLA Canvas Transformation / Instructional Design); Annelie Rugg (Humtech/Canvas Transformation)

  • Muriel McClendon, Tawny Paul, Chloe Bell-Wilson (History/Public History Initiative/Public History Toolkit)

  • Russell Johnson (UCLA Library Special Collections); Anthony Baniaga (UCLA Herbarium)

  • Francesca Albrezzi, Wendy Perla Kurtz, Anthony Caldwell, Ashley Sanders Garcia (3-Unit Template / Digital Humanities)

  • Dawn Childress (IIIF/Digital Library Program/Library Digital Collections)


The outlined 3-part sequence hinges upon transition from one technology to the next, but does not specify the tools. The three technologies represented in the examples here are in sequence of use:

  1. IIIF as an image delivery standard with particular technical affordances

  2. Canvas, an LMS with modular and interchangeable units 

  3. Scalar, a web-based online multimedia scholarly authoring platform 

See Appendix 1: Technology Details for more information. 


Although the three distinct systems listed above share certain interoperable properties and principles, the point to underscore is that their purpose is functional, and other systems would work as well. For example, the function of Scalar in this particular sequence is that it can generate a public-facing student work product as a culminating set of activities. Omeka could serve this purpose, as could TimelineJS, or ArcGIS StoryMaps. Similarly, the functional rather than essentialist conception of a particular technology would allow Scalar, for example, to serve as a mechanism for teaching fundamental methods, and not just generating products. The key aspect of technology use is to punctuate workflows and transition overtly from one instructional unit to the next to activate knowledge transfer. 

The examples and illustrations are drawn from an actual course on the history of medicine. This course is inherently interdisciplinary, involving both social sciences/humanities and science. The lesson sequence is readily applicable to a wide array of disciplines that make active use of content sets. The instructional design principles employed in this sequence use IIIF, but do not depend upon IIIF as the format of digital content, nor must the content necessarily be digital at all. And the sequence construct upon which an LMS course template is based can be applied to other, non-object varieties of information analogous to finite collections, such as datasets.

Learning Outcomes

Learning activities are designed to generate evidence of student learning, which is conceived as a combination of demonstrable proficiencies and foundational understanding. Learning outcomes are cumulative and iterative, taking advantage of a 3-unit modular structure to articulate, instruct, and assess discrete sets of learning objectives for each unit before advancing to the next. 

The general learning outcomes addressed in the 3 units are, respectively:

  • Understand and be able to use digital and physical collections as sources of information for scholarly inquiry

  • Develop proficiency in and understanding of inquiry methods as a means to create new knowledge

  • Demonstrate awareness of public audiences as a guiding principle for authoring multimodal digital scholarship.



Student learning

Formative assessment of student proficiencies and related enduring understandings serves as a structural component of the 3 modular units. Students are presented with unit learning goals at the outset of the module on the overview page; learning activities help them achieve the learning goals, and a summative assessment assignment for each unit completes the module. 

Assessments determine whether each student has demonstrated full proficiency and metacognitive understanding. Assigned performance tasks for the first two units are scored according to a credit/no-credit rubric (see figures x,y, and z for example), and students must repeat submissions until they receive full credit. The third unit project submission is peer-assessed for unit proficiencies and group revision of collaborative and individual work products.

A rigorous, low-stakes articulated assessment tool can help faculty ensure that proficiencies and understandings transfer and develop iteratively from unit to unit and minimize “snowballing” of missed marks hurting students in later work. The simplified assessment also makes scoring easier for instructors, reduces stress, and makes intensive, technology-, and media-rich project work scalable in the curriculum to medium and high-enrollment courses.  

Implementation Fidelity

The IF assessment model is based upon JMU’s “Assessment Implementation Fidelity,” adapted for consistency with principles outlined elsewhere in this document. Thus, a granular articulation of required components evaluated in (yes/no) terms or quantified number wherever possible replace ratings by facilitators or external evaluators. A focus on live instruction, measured typically in hours, is redirected to the interactive digital spaces that manifest user experience. Countable learning activities that involve in-person sessions are fully scripted in the learning management system (or other documentation) for backup redundancy and to produce a trace of student learning work as evidence of learning (e.g., submitted annotations, commentary, etc.) in the respective platforms featured in each unit. For that reason, assessment of implementation fidelity can be used formatively during the instructional design and development process, as well as summatively after implementation. These shifts to align programmatic assessment for implementation fidelity with best practices in assessment-driven curriculum development can facilitate the instructional design process and help instill a shared culture of assessment among collaborating instructional partners.

A checklist-style table (see Appendix 2: Checklist) adapted from JMU’s example will assist instructional partners in the design process to ensure all functional components are in place (preferably in the learning management system) before implementation and to touch base at benchmark moments during a term before summative assessment post-term. A qualitative score of “Quality” can be used to address both the clarity and comprehensiveness of written instructions in LMS activities and the coherence and effectiveness of live instruction. Student responsiveness, similarly, can be understood both in terms of written submissions and in engagement with in-class instruction. The critical factor for student responsiveness, however, is their successful completion rate of all activities and assessments.


The 3-unit construct has been implemented in several different curricular contexts. Part of the rationale for taking this hybrid flipped approach to instruction is to help future-proof curriculum in uncertain times, when students and faculty may not know whether a given course will be delivered in person, online, or some combination of both. 

Direct assessment of student work, formative course feedback in the learning management system, and student course evaluations after two-quarters of implementation using this approach indicate that:

  • Students are impressed by the size, breadth, and quality of digital collections and wish they had been introduced to them earlier.

  • Students appreciate the structure and regularity of scaffolded digital learning activities.

  • Student achievement in technical proficiency, methodological practices, and understanding of information literacy and disciplinary concepts was consistently high, with minimal performance gaps between students.

  • Student engagement with physical materials was enhanced by their learning experiences with related digital materials.

  • Student feedback in parallel courses taught in different disciplines with different content is consistent, indicating that the structure of the curriculum is a key component of its effectiveness.

  • Students generally liked the courses, and many indicated they were their favorites.

Lesson Outline

Instead of a single lesson outline, this document presents a blueprint for a 3-unit sequence of online/hybrid learning activities using content sourced from digital collections to teach students information literacy, methods of comparative analysis, and public multimedia project authorship in the context of a standard lecture content course. It is inspired in its design by the concept of “interoperability,” and preferably makes use of digital materials in the IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) standard. It suggests a rigorous structure for course-length integration of digital learning activities, illustrated with examples from one actual course. Emphasis is not upon particular lessons and their materials, tools, and steps, but on the standardization of overall form, so component elements can be swapped in and out interoperably. The key construct is a punctuated transition between discrete units of instruction devoted to materials, methods, and products, in that order. Variants of this sequence are common in many project learning scenarios. Here, project work is redistributed for iterative development of student proficiencies in different settings to facilitate metacognition and knowledge transfer from one domain to another.

The Lesson Outline follows the “backward design” approach of Understanding By Design (Wiggins and McTighe). The fixity of structure provides flexibility for swapping technologies, methods, and content interchangeably, while still addressing the same learning goals. Units 1-3 are outlined below with learning activity titles, brief annotated descriptions, and illustrations from an actual course, HIST 179B “History of Medicine: Foundations of Modern Medicine,” taught by Chien-Ling Liu Zeleny. 

Learning Environment (Canvas)

Screen capture of a course in the Canvas learning management system. A historical pharmaceutical trading card appears in the background of course information like title and date.

Figure 1. Canvas course screenshot

The lesson sequence is designed for online/hybrid “flipped” implementation using the learning management system as an integral functional component. In the course example, we used Canvas, which was modified with a course template for three instructional units added to a base lecture course. Canvas operates on a modular system for managing course content, so it is well-suited for bundling ancillary learning activities. Each module is comprised of several component elements, based upon the affordances of Canvas and the particular template of the university’s LMS instance:

  • Overview page w/ module checklist

  • Content page(s)

  • Discussion page(s)

  • Assignment page

Pages in Canvas are authored in HTML, enabling rich media and iframe-embedded interactive features (such as Mirador) directly on the page.

Within these constraints, a “Unit” provides a general description with learning goals on the overview page; presents multimedia content, including text, imagery, and embedded interactive tools and viewers on content pages; conducts interactive learning activities on discussion pages; and culminates in an assessment of proficiencies and understanding in an assignment page with an included rubric. The course home page graphically represents the modular structure of the course, its relative commitments to weekly lecture and discussion topics, and the integrated 3-Unit project sequence (see Figure 2).

Screen capture of Canvas learning management course. Historic pharmaceutical trading cards are used to illustrate three separate units.

Figure 2. Canvas course home page.

Sample Module Sequence

The 3-unit sequence facilitates the deepening of student understanding of key concepts and proficiencies through a process of iterative recontextualization. In Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe explain:

Understanding is about transfer, in other words. To be truly able requires the ability to transfer what we have learned to new and sometimes confusing settings. The ability to transfer our knowledge and skill effectively involves the capacity to take what we know and use it creatively, flexibly, fluenty, in different settings or problems. (Wiggins and McTighe 40)

The core proficiency addressed in the sequence is scholarly annotation. Using this series of learning activities, student understanding of this practice should transform from a narrowly mechanical and historical conception of annotation as the inscription of brief textual commentary to a passage in a book or an image to a fundamental practice of knowledge production in a networked digital information universe. John Unsworth (2000) identified annotation, alongside comparing and five other practices as “scholarly primitives.”

The emergent definition of annotation that informs IIIF content and tools is specified in the W3C Web Annotation Data Model from 2017:

Annotating, the act of creating associations between distinct pieces of information, is a pervasive activity online in many guises. Web citizens make comments about online resources using either tools built into the hosting website, external web services, or the functionality of an annotation client. Comments about shared photos or videos, reviews of products, or even social network mentions of web resources could all be considered as annotations. In addition, there are a plethora of "sticky note" systems and stand-alone multimedia annotation systems…

An annotation is considered to be a set of connected resources, typically including a body and target, and conveys that the body is related to the target. The exact nature of this relationship changes according to the intention of the annotation, but the body is most frequently somehow "about" the target. This perspective results in a basic model with three parts, depicted below.

Graph with three bubble. One bubble, labeled "annotation," has two arrows pointing from it to two other bubbles, one labeled "body" and another "target." A dotted line and arrow connects the "body" and "target" bubble with the text "related to."

Figure 3. Web annotation model from W3 Web Annotation Data Model

The technical frame of this standard speaks volumes about matters of knowledge transmission that long predate electronic digital phenomena. Contemporary studies of readership, marginalia, etc. are broadening our collective understanding of societies and cultures through much more inclusive ideas of voice, originality, etc. availed by digitized rare books. Here the notion of annotation from the W3C document points to a range of combinatorial and linking practices that can be taught to students as a key literacy for writing scholarly multimedia texts for the web. This idea and practice are developed in three distinct “settings” (to use the terminology from UBD), or “contexts ” that comprise each of the units of instruction.

Unit 1: Materials > Digital Collections > UCLA Library Digital Collections

Screen capture of the UCLA Library Digital Collections. Various historic photographs and postcards illustrate the links to their collections.

Figure 4. UCLA Library Digital Collections

Screen capture of a digital collection from The New York Academy of Medicine. A text block introduces the collection and is followed by thumbnails of pharmaceutical trading cards.

Figure 5. William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards digital collection

Unit 1 focuses on the digital collection as both technology and “setting” (to use Wiggins & McTighe’s term). Students are introduced to the UCLA Library Digital Collections site as a general resource. There, they learn how collections differ from other library information sources, such as catalogs of books, and databases of periodicals. For most students, a curricular introduction to Library Digital Collections may be the only occasion in four years of undergraduate study to learn of their existence. The designated collection for the sample class here is Patent Medicine Trade Cards, curated by Special Collections Librarian Russell Johnson.

Unit 1 Learning Goals (Aligned with ACRL Frame “Information has Value”)

  • Understand how and why digital and physical objects are organized in collections.

  • Critically evaluate institutional practices of collecting: who collected items, from whom, and for what purpose? What items were included, what was excluded, and by what criteria? What costs and values were assigned to items? What comparable materials exist in other collections?

  • Consider copyright, access, and usage permissions in engaging collections and their materials.

  • Curate materials for comparative inquiry, using browse, search, and filter processes; locate items using visual and verbal strategies.

  • Read, interpret, and create metadata.

Unit 1 Learning Activities

  • Introductory Zoom presentation: “The Gain in Pain: UCLA History of Pain Collection” by UCLA Special Collections Librarian Russell Johnson. The collection curator introduces students to the concept of “ephemera” as a category of collections items; provides an overview of the collection, and presents selected examples; contextualizes the collection process, objectives, sourcing (e.g. eBay), and items costs. 

  • Content page: “Sourcing Content from Digital Collections.” General overview of library and museum digital collections, how to use them, and their position relative to other library departments, functions, and materials.

  • Content page: “Resources of Ephemera, Patent Medicines, Trade Card Collections, Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). A curated list of sources for project research during the course and thereafter.

  • Online Discussion: Sourcing from a Digital Collection "Patent Medicine Trade Cards" in UCLA Library Digital Collections. Having learned about GLAM institutions and digital collections, students explore "Patent Medicine Trade Cards" in guided browsing searching, broadly viewing pages, and looking closely at descriptions and metadata. Using the affordances of IIIF content and Universal Viewer, such as deep zoom, they inspect sample items for details, visual, verbal, and graphic information (Figures 6 and 7). They write an 80-100 word discussion post to reflect on this exploration and their discoveries.

  • Online Discussion: “Medical Ephemera.” Students learn the definition of “medical ephemera” and explore collections sites related to  medical ephemera in the scholarship of the history of medicine: 

  • Assignment: “Browsing Patent Medicine Trade Cards Digital Collection.” Students individually curate a selection of 10 items from the full collection for subsequent project work and submit links to a spreadsheet.

  • Assignment: “Categorizing the Patent Medicine Trade Cards.” Students assign hashtag terms to their selected items in the spreadsheet for grouping by common interests.

Screen capture of item display and metadata in UCLA Library Digital Collections.

Figure 6. IIIF item page in UCLA Digital Collections.

Screen capture of item display and metadata in UCLA Library Digital Collections. The item is zoomed in several levels to show the detail in one part of the image.

Figure 7. Zoomed in view of IIIF item page in UCLA Digital Collections.

Unit 1 Assessment 

  • Content Page: Students are introduced to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, and read the full text of the ACRL Frame “Information has Value.” 

  • Assignment: Students submit an assignment comprised of two linked digital images from UCLA’s Library Digital Collections (Figure 4), and the Helfand Collection (Figure 5) as well as a reflective statement about collections and practices of collecting in relation to the Frame “Information has Value.” 

  • Rubric: See Table 1.




Using UCLA digital collections

Demonstrates proficiency in browsing, searching, and using materials and metadata within UCLA digital collections

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Using non-UCLA digital collections

Demonstrates understanding of digital collections at GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) institutions; demonstrates proficiency in locating relevant collections and browsing, searching, and using materials and related metadata

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Linked open content

Demonstrates proficiency and understanding of linked open media content through the import function

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Multimedia authorship

Demonstrates proficiency in composing a coherent multimedia assignment that includes media in combination with text

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Visual communication

Demonstrates proficiency and understanding of formal design decisions, such as relative image size and placement, on viewer reception of visual communication with media

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Information literacy

Demonstrates understanding of unit learning goals, subject matter, and inquiry practices in relation to information literacy

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

5 pts

Table 1.

Unit 2: Methods > Comparative Analysis/Annotation > (Mirador/MISE, Canvas, Exhibits)

Unit 2 shifts the setting from digital collections to the pages of Canvas. By contrast with the public collections websites, the LMS provides a password-protected environment for collaborative, group engagement with media and related concepts. The finite and manageable number of items and inherent commonalities of curated content serve effectively as material for comparative inquiry and socialization of methodological practices. Here students can experiment with, and refine their skills in interpretive analysis and annotation with peer feedback on the originality of insights and plausibility of assertions.

Unit 2 Learning Goals (Aligned with ACRL Frame “Information Creation as a Process”)

  • Recontextualize, manage and view interoperable (IIIF) digital content in multiple viewers and presentation systems.

  • Visually inspect digital and physical items, using technical affordances (e.g., deep zoom), and correlating enhanced qualities, such as high resolution, with tangible materiality.

  • Annotate items: select, describe, interpret and draw inferences from details.

  • Share, discuss, and evaluate interpretive commentary with peers; distinguish perspectives and variable points of view; refine interpretation to a standard of plausibility.

Unit 2  Learning Activities

  • Assignment: “Open Imagery”
    The initial assignment prompts students to comment upon a cropped collection item stripped of metadata as if it were any web-based image. It instructs students in the process of importing linked media into the LMS rich media text editing field, using the image URL, and reveals the HTML code they generated in the process. This activity introduces open access content and serves as a hook for subsequent visual analysis, and the practice of working with linked media rather than media files. (See Figure 8) 

  • Content Page: “Image in Contexts (Patent Medicine Trade Cards)”

    The second activity is an immediate follow-up to the opening assignment. The first section (“Deepening your Inspection”), provides a full view of the IIIF item from the previous assignment in an embedded Universal Viewer, enabling deep-zoom views of both sides of a sample trade card. The second section (“Thinking With Your Hands”), presents an IIIF manifest link for the same item, and another from a different collection for comparative viewing in an embedded Mirador Viewer. (See Figure 9)

  • Content Page: “Comparative Analysis”

    A scrolling page with three sections presents image details from the same sample card, demonstrating various relational properties of imagery, graphics, and text on the card, e.g., front-back, image-text, and print-stamped. The final section embeds a MISE viewer, which is a variant of the Mirador viewer for shared projects, with 4 pre-loaded cards for comparative viewing. (See Figure 10)

  • Assignment: “Close Viewing and Spatial Annotation”

    Students are introduced to the practice of scholarly annotation as a method for detailed analysis. A built-in option for assignment submission in Canvas allows image annotation. Students view an embedded viewer with the same item they have been studying, then submit multiple annotations consisting of title, observation, and interpretation of each outlined detail. This specified breakdown of annotation components is compatible with Scalar annotations in Unit 3. (See Figure 11)

  • Discussion: “Making Observational Notes”

    Upon resumption of in-person instruction after COVID-related closures, students visit the  Special Collections and inspect the Patent Medicine Trade Card collection as physical artifacts. A discussion activity provides guidelines for taking field notes. Students reply to the discussion with images of their hand-written notes and sketches and compare experiences with tangible primary sources with digital facsimiles. 

  • Discussions: Annotations Discussion on Patent Medicine Trade Cards

    In two paired discussion activities, students use an embedded online spreadsheet (Google Sheets) to peer-evaluate the plausibility of each others’ annotations of patent medicine trade cards according to a rubric. Students reflect upon their learning about annotation as a process of inquiry in a social setting. 

Unit 2 Assessment

  • Assignment: “Exhibit Your Knowledge & Skills”

    Students create an online “Exhibit” of 15-20 annotated image views, using 3 selected patent medicine trade cards. Exhibits is a free, web-based tool developed for the University of St Andrews, Scotland by the design firm Mnemosyne for presenting IIIF image content in sequential zoomed-in detail views with captions serving as annotations. (See figure 12)

  • Rubric: See Table 2.




Zoom views

Demonstrates proficiency in zoom-based images cropping through 8-10 detail views of an item

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in media annotation through 8-10 brief captions (approx. 20-40 words)

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Narrative sequence

Demonstrates proficiency in sequencing media details to create a visual narrative

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in relating detailed views and annotations to an overarching thesis or argument

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in accessing and using an IIIF URL for interoperable presentation

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

1 pts

Reflective statement

Demonstrates understanding of unit learning goals through verbal reflection on proficiency-based tasks of comparative analysis

This area will be used by the assessor to leave comments related to this criterion.

5 pts

Table 2.

Unit 3: Products > Digital Project > Scalar

Scalar is a free, open-source scholarly digital authoring platform that presents linked rich media content in long-form text. A project in Scalar is called a book, but its pages of multimedia content can be considered analogous to an academic article, journalistic essay, or term paper. Using Scalar in curricular projects typically entails a full-term investment of lab time and carefully sequenced technical instruction to ensure that students can navigate the site and produce content effectively. The greatest challenges to integrating Scalar into the curriculum, however, involve fundamental proficiencies and understandings that are achieved and transferred in the 3-unit model from other contexts: 

  • Sourcing high-quality open access content with metadata

  • Linked media import (rather than file upload)

  • Comparative analysis of visual objects of inquiry

  • Detail analysis through annotation

As the third technology “setting” in the 3-unit sequence of instruction, a Scalar page with annotated media and metadata thus serves as both a final product of an academic term and assessable evidence of student proficiencies and understandings transferred from the previous two units. These proficiencies are supplemented in the third unit by focusing attention on practices of writing for the web, and multimedia rhetorics in page design and layout. 

Screen capture of Scalar interface with patent medicine trading card image and text.

Figure 13. Scalar mockup.

Unit 3 Learning Goals

  • Redirect voice and address from instructional settings to the general public. 

  • Understand and use strategies of multimedia rhetoric, such as sizing, placement, juxtaposition, and sequence of items.

  • Share materials, observations, interpretations, and arguments with public audiences.

  • Apply principles of linked, open content for scholarly analysis and intellectual expression.

Unit 3 Learning Activities

  • Content Page: “Scalar Book - ‘America's Pastime: Treating Pain & Patent Medicine Trade Cards’”

    A long-scrolling page in multiple sections and embedded web pages introduce and illustrate features of the authoring platform, beginning with the Alliance for Networked Visual Culture website Scalar description. Subsequent sample pages from Scalar demo sites illustrate visualizations and typical content design.

  • Discussion: “Scalar Group Page”

    Discussion forums and linked group Google Docs support collaborative group projects and page writing tasks. 

  • Discussion: “Scalar & Visual Rhetoric”

    A long-scrolling page introduces visual rhetoric as a critical competency for authoring multimedia pages in Scalar and provides examples in embedded demo Scalar pages. Students are prompted to peer-review each other’s pages and suggest revisions based on four concepts: ostension, juxtaposition, composition, and annotation.

Unit 3 Assessment

  • Assignment: “Peer Assessment: Multimedia Rhetorics”

    For the final project assessment, students submit complete Scalar project pages, and then each peer-assess 2 pages submitted by their classmates according to a rubric of multimedia rhetoric. Feedback is used by students to iteratively revise their final projects.

  • Rubric: See Table 3.





Demonstrates proficiency in prominently displaying media representation of an object of inquiry with metadata as a means to define it

1 pts


Rhetorical device is present and used effectively

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in positioning media next to each other to suggest connections and relationships, or to make commonalities stand out

1 pts


Rhetorical device is present and used effectively

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in configuring media in meaningful ways, using size and location to prioritize what is most important, and sequence ideas

1 pts


Rhetorical device is present and used effectively

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

1 pts


Demonstrates proficiency in attaching text and/or media to highlighted portions of things to create meanings through commentary and detailed analysis

1 pts


Rhetorical device is present and used effectively

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

1 pts

Writing with Multimedia

Body text connects in meaningful ways with related media and supports effective use of multimedia rhetorics

1 pts


Writing effectively supports multimedia rhetoric

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

1 pts


Demonstrates understanding of unit learning goals through verbal reflection on the proficiency-based exercise of multimedia rhetoric of public digital scholarship project components

5 pts


Demonstrates fundamental and transferable understanding of Unit proficiencies

0 pts


Hasn’t yet demonstrated proficiency

5 pts

Works Cited

  • Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 27, no. 1, 2008, pp. 72–86, doi:10.1080/07350190701738858.

  • Wiggins, Grant P., and Jay. McTighe. Understanding by Design. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998.

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