Engagement (30%)

Engagement entails preparation, focus, asking questions, specificity, and presence (synchronous and/or asynchronous). This is made most concrete in weekly annotations of readings and synchronous or asynchronous discussion.

Defining Engagement

For the purposes of this class, “engagement” will be evaluated by considering preparation and presence, both of which include focus, specificity, and asking questions.


In most weeks, the preparatory homework consists of critical reading and annotation. In others, it might mean ensuring you have media objects ready to share with peers or completing other assigned tasks on time. These tasks are found in the “Preparation” section each week.

Critical Reading

Do the assigned reading from the preparation section of the schedule. Approach each reading with an open mind. As you read, make note of passages that stir feelings, spur thinking, or spark imagination, as well as those that are challenging to understand. Make connections between the text and your world. Identify questions raised by this reading. Note connections between the reading and any assigned artwork. Mark up your copy of the text and keep notes to help you prepare better annotations.


Each week, choose two to three short passages of the assigned reading to annotate. If there is more than one reading, feel free to divide your annotations between them. Annotations might explain why you find a passage interesting, ask questions about the text, grapple with difficult passages, or connect to other readings or artworks. You might also respond to the annotations of your peers, offering answers to questions, adding context, or teasing out nuance by asking them questions of your own. The idea is to develop a community of reading around the assigned texts.

Find your group and the appropriate reading in the Annotations folder and add your annotations to the text using Box’s selection tool. Groups of five students will annotate the same copy of the text. Unfortunately, Box does not have threaded commenting, but if you wish to reply to someone else’s comment, use the “@” and their name to make it clear you are responding to someone else. You can also experiment with using the markup option with comments in order to make responses more explicit.

These annotations also provide an opportunity to ask questions, demonstrate focus, engage with specificity, and participate in asynchronous presence.

You should complete annotations by 4pm each Tuesday, regardless of whether you plan to attend the synchronous meeting for the week. The TA will give you feedback on your annotations for the first few weeks to help you develop critical habits of annotation.

If you are new to Critical Media Studies courses, and especially if you were permitted to take this class without having completed the pre-requisite, I strongly encourage you to read the two “explore further” texts for week 2. They are Shore’s “How to Dissect a Text” and DiYanni’s “An Approach to Critical Reading” (esp. pages 3 – 12). The Shore will help you be more efficient in your reading and the DiYanni will give you a sense of the kind of engagement I want to see from you.


There are two modes of presence in this class, asynchronous and synchronous. But it is not so easy to actually define presence. Presence is making your voice heard and your contributions w, in this case in the process of engaging with course materials and one another.

Each week after the class has completed its first round of annotations, you will engage in deeper exploration of course materials by joining a class meeting or completing an extended annotation.

If you have no strong preference for either format you can move between these as is convenient for you in a given week.  If you intend to only participate asynchronously, it is a good idea to let Dr. Knight know and to plan to visit her during office hours at least twice during the semester.

Synchronous - Class Meetings

Join the synchronous class meeting on In Class or on Teams for guided exploration of the course materials. This may include mini-lectures, breakout sessions, rapid tasks and prototyping, or short group presentations.

Other Ways of Being Engaged

Other ways of being engaged include:

  • posting and/or answering questions in our Questions channel on Teams
  • adding additional annotations to the reading after attending synchronous meetings
  • responding to extended annotations of peers
  • posting to the Tools Wiki on Teams
  • sharing videos, explainers, works by similar authors, or other related course materials on Teams
  • visiting office hours
  • sharing news and opportunities in Ye Olde Coffee Cart channel on Teams
  • and probably lots of other means that we’ve not yet thought of

Grading and Evaluation

You will determine how much the Engagement grade is weighted in your final course grade.

Engagement will be evaluated based on preparation, asynchronous and/or synchronous presence, focus, specificity, and asking questions.

You will receive a preliminary evaluation of your engagement in the middle of the term. If you are encountering difficulties in any way, I urge you not to wait for this and see Dr. Rheams.

Late Work

Because the success of your peers depends on being able to respond to you, it is a detriment to everyone’s engagement if you are late with your annotations, both Tuesdays and Fridays. For other modes of engagement, time is a bit more elastic though it is worth noting that a flurry of engagement in the last week of the class rather defeats the point. I encourage you to reach out right away if you sense you are having trouble staying engaged.