Computer-Based Collaborative Multimodal Writing in the French as a Foreign Language Context

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Fall 2021


In recent decades, a plethora of empirical work has indicated that collaborative writing (CW) affords more opportunities for collective scaffolding and language negotiation (Li & Kim, 2016; Li & Zhu, 2013; Storch, 2019) and promotes the development of second language (L2) writing skills (Bikowski &Vithanage, 2016; Storch, 2013; Strobl, 2014). Concurrently, previous studies have also demonstrated that multimodal writing (MW) benefits L2 learning as it increases learners’ awareness of metafunctions of semiotic modes (Shin et al., 2020) and overall writing proficiency (Oskoz & Elola, 2016; Vandommele et al., 2017). Although many studies have investigated students’ MW processes (e.g., Hafner, 2015; Shin et al., 2020; Smith et al., 2017), research examining finished multimodal products holistically in various semiotic aspects is lacking. Moreover, as an innovative writing pedagogy, work on collaborative multimodal writing (CMW) is still in its infancy and barely explored, especially in non-English learning settings. To bridge these gaps, this dissertation study sets out to explore computer-mediated MW completed collaboratively in the French as a foreign language (FL) context.Seven elementary-level French FL students worked in three small groups to complete a MW task in which they jointly created digital postcards describing their vacation activities. Using a multiple-case study design, I closely examined the following key areas: (1) the process by which the students collaboratively worked to complete the MW task; (2) the quality of their writing products; and (3) their perceptions. The triangulation of multiple data sources (i.e., audio- and screen- recordings, Google Docs history records, students’ finished multimodal texts, pre-and post-task questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews) revealed several findings. First, the groups made strategic modal choices by drawing on various semiotic resources, including written texts, images/drawings, and hyperlinks, to co-construct their multimodal products. Second, three distant patterns of interaction were identified: Group 1 (Collectively contributing/Mutually supportive), Group 2 (Dominant/withdrawn—Cooperative), and Group 3 (Active/Passive), and the patterns of interaction were found to be connected to the qualities of the writing products. Finally, several themes emerged concerning perceived affordances (e.g., enhanced writing skills, awareness of semiotic resources, and convenient synchronous writing via Google Docs) and constraints (e.g., unequal participation, difficulty with co-ownership, and technical difficulties).


Mimi Li

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Linguistics | Social and Behavioral Sciences