Practical, Lucrative, Digital…English? Adapting the English Major to the Digital Age

By Alison Witte and Sarah Young.

Published by The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: October 30, 2015 $US5.00

Stuart Selber’s "Multiliteracies for a Digital Age" argues that educators are responsible for teaching students functional, critical, and rhetorical literacies in text and digital formats. Our newly designed Professional Writing and English Studies (PWES) curriculum draws on Selber to transform a traditionally text-based major. The English major at Trine University was cancelled because it was seen as unviable for job placement. In response, the PWES major, consisting of composition and literature cores, was collaboratively designed to prepare students for work and graduate study in the digitalized age. Composition courses integrate multimodal composing (Selfe 2007) and digital composing theories and tools. To increase financial viability and enrollment, literature courses will be offered in conjunction with our branch campuses. These “eight-plus-eight” hybrids will provide students in eight-week branch campus courses with a fully online literature class, while main campus students will be enrolled in a sixteen-week hybrid course providing additional major-specific instruction. In addition, our web and social media presence recruits new students and provides current ones with professional opportunities. Our approach, which combines study and production of text-based and digital genres, convinced university administrators that PWES was a productive major, providing a legitimate career path. As humanities departments struggle for funding and students, adapting traditional majors to increasingly digital contexts is a sound strategy not just to survive but to thrive.

Keywords: English Major, Digital Writing, Multiliteracies

The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies, Volume 14, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.33-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: October 30, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 318.313KB)).

Dr. Alison Witte

Assistant Professor, Humanities and Communication, Trine University, Angola, IN, USA

Sarah Young

Instructor, Humanities and Communication, Trine University, Angola, Indiana, USA