Undergraduate students' experiences with learning with digital multimodal texts.
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The study emerged from my interest in understanding the multimodal learning practices and multiliteracies of the current generation of students, especially with the increasingly new genres of texts finding their way into the education landscape. Designed as a pedagogical intervention, it sought to understand the different ways first year undergraduate students at the University of Mauritius experienced learning with and through varied forms of digital multimodal texts (DMTs) within the context of the module Mauritian History (HIST1002Y) included in their programme of studies. A phenomenographic approach was used to describe and interpret the qualitatively different ways participants experienced two learning situations (LS1 & LS2) involving the use and creation of DMTs. A purposeful sample of 19 participants was involved. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, participants’ written reflections, a focus group discussion and a consideration of the DMTs (a video assignment) they produced. The phenomenographic analysis produced two sets of categories of description, one for each learning situation, moving from least to more comprehensive ways of experiencing the phenomenon. As consumers of DMTs in LS1, participants expressed their experiences in five different ways. DMTs were seen as authentic sources of information; as a novelty to the learning approach; as an opportunity to break learning monotony; as emotionally engaging; and as effective and useful learning support. As for LS2 involving participants as authors or producers of their own DMT the findings revealed that such a task was conceived of in six different ways. Making a video was seen as an assessment to be completed for the purpose of grades; a new way of learning and assessment; a journey of ups and downs; an opportunity to widen one’s horizons; an opportunity for personal growth and development; and a process of multimodal orchestration. The categories were further analysed to highlight their logical relationship based on dimensions of variation in the way DMTs were experienced. The overall findings indicate that the implementation of pedagogical practices supported by DMTs could revitalise the teaching and learning of history despite some noted challenges. This calls for a reconceptualisation of higher education pedagogies in alignment with our students’ changing literacy practices so that from passive receivers of knowledge they become active knowledge producers.