Giving students the opportunity to write for online publication can help them think seriously about audience and purpose. One option is to ask students to write articles for a web site that welcomes user-submitted content designed to meet a particular goal.
One example is WikiHow.com, which is a popular and active site that features articles with instructions on how to do a variety of tasks, from the mundane to the abstract. The site is managed by a thriving community of volunteers and is visited by several thousand viewers per day. Students can study the site as a sample discourse community, do rhetorical analyses of existing articles, identify some instructions topics the community would like to see addressed in new articles, post their own articles, and comment on their classmates’ articles.
Students can also write and post their own instructions articles, paying particular attention to how they appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos. Once approved, their submissions will be visible to the general public, which allows them to receive feedback from anyone who visits the site and reads their instructions. They can also easily share their “published” articles with family and friends, which creates a sense of pride in their work.
Well-written instructions generally reflect strong awareness of audience and purpose, so the instructions assignment is particularly effective at introducing the concept of rhetorical awareness. You can see my assignment for WRTG 1150 students here: Instructions Assignment for Spring 2010.
Another site that accepts user-submissions is SlideShare.net, which features presentations created in presentation software such as PowerPoint or free web-based alternatives. As with WikiHow, the SlideShare web site also yields good opportunities for rhetorical analysis of both individual presentations as well as the site as a whole.
A third option is Wikipedia, which invites contributions from college classes under certain conditions. See the: Wikipedia: School and University Projects page.
If you have students create multimodal projects, they can post them on YouTube, either on their own accounts or on a class account you set up. You can change the settings for the video so that only people who have the link can view it, which means it will be viewable to students and anyone you send the link to, but not the general web viewing public. But to get the full benefit of showing students how to communicate with wider audiences, make the videos public!
Wikis and Blogs
Other options include creating a public blog or wiki that features student writing.