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Incorporating Multimodal Assessment into Your Course

By Amanda Leary and Brianna Stines

What is Multimodal Assessment?

Multimodal assessments are alternative, often digital, assessments that allow students to demonstrate skills and knowledge in a new way by presenting them in multiple forms. Kress and Van Leeuwen define multimodal as “the use of several semiotic modes in the design of a semiotic product or event, together with the particular way in which these modes are combined–they may for instance reinforce each other…[,] fulfill complementary roles, … or be hierarchically ordered…” (20). These assessments ask students to work effectively and critically with multiple modes of presenting information. This can refer to the use of video or graphical elements, as well as alternatives to more traditional essays and exams, such as portfolios, websites, and blogs. Multimodal assignments can either stand alone as an independent assessment or ask students to re-envision an existing assignment, like an essay, into a different format, like a podcast or infographic. 

Common types of multimodal assessments:

  • App development 
  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Portfolios 
  • Research posters
  • Podcasts
  • Social media 
  • Videos 
  • Websites 

Why Use Multimodal Assessments?

Using alternative assessment allows students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a way that is often more relevant and authentic. Multimodal assessments can leverage students’ prior skills and expertise, or provide them with transferable skills to use throughout their studies and beyond. 

How to Incorporate Multimodal Assessment into Your Course:

When incorporating multimodal assessments into your course keep the following in mind: 

  • It is not necessary to overhaul all of your assessments. Picking one is a good start.
  • Begin with the end in mind by having clear expectations for the final product.
  • Remember that multimodal projects like podcasts or videos can take a lot of time for students to do well. Consider the level of technical skill that you’re looking for as you create the assignment.
  • Digital projects often have different rhetorical concerns than traditional assessments. Will students be designing for a particular target audience, purpose, or context? 
  • Will the assignment include re-presenting another assignment in a new format or a standalone assessment?
  • Having scaffolds in place for students is paramount to their success. Consider the following: 
    • Provide non-limiting exemplars
    • Build in time for students to familiarize themselves with any specialized software, tools, etc. they may need to use
    • Break the process down into smaller chunks
    • Provide in-class work time and/or progress check-ins when possible 
    • Take advantage of campus resources and opportunities to provide students with further training and support

Providing Feedback on Multimodal Assessment:

As with any assessment, providing feedback is crucial to the learning experience. Using a rubric increases transparency about assignment expectations, grades, and simplifies the grading process for the instructor.

Things to consider for multimodal assessments:

  • The rubric can evaluate everything from the design and drafting process to the final outcome.
    • Are you expecting a perfectly designed final product or looking for a demonstration of learned skills?
  • Separate content from form with clearly defined criteria.
    • How will you assess effective communication vs. subjective stylistic choices?
  • If the assignment has a targeted audience, the successful reception for that audience should be defined in the rubric.



Kress, Gunther and Theo VanLeeuwen. Multimodal Doscourse, The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. New York: Oxford UP 2001.


Further Reading: