Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Joyce Neff

Committee Member

Rochelle L. Rodrigo

Committee Member

Avi D. Santo

Committee Member

Cynthia L. Selfe


At this study's research site—a small, Virginia community college—faculty, staff and students use digital technology to share information daily, which could cause a problem for some students: students may need digital literacy instruction before the college requires those courses. Another potential problem is that scholars (Stephens, Houser, and Cowan) indicate that some instructors across the academy treat students negatively if students do not demonstrate digital, rhetorical dexterity when communicating—particular digital skills that some students lack.

For this study, I surveyed basic writing (BW) instructors and students at the research site to learn more about their digital experiences. The surveys yielded results that complicate BW. For example, many students have some digital skills, but may also want simultaneous digital and word literacy instruction in their course. And, most students and instructors value digital technology. Also, instructors have digital experience but may be reluctant to teach digital, rhetorical dexterity despite their potential ability to do so.

I conclude that the site needs a hybrid BW (HBW) course. In the HBW course that I propose, instructors and students share digital experiences; instructors help students build digital and word literacy simultaneously; and students' assignments help them practice and develop digital, rhetorical dexterity.