Integrated Writing Online: Tools for Faculty and Students

Sherry Linkon (English) · Round 3

As Georgetown establishes the new Integrated Writing requirement, faculty will give added attention to writing in courses that emphasize disciplinary content and practices. They need resources to support this work, including guidance on implementing best practices in the teaching of writing and materials to which they can direct students. At the same time, students would benefit from access to writing support beyond the one-on­one tutoring provided in the Writing Center. Students could benefit from independent support for some of the challenges of writing, like revision and editing, and for some specific writing genres, like proposals and scientific papers.

The Georgetown University Writing Program, led by Principal Investigator Sherry Linkon, proposed to create and then test four online modules: a guide to online peer review for faculty and interactive online tutorials for students on revising, writing proposals, and writing in the sciences. By developing four online modules and a writing portal, marketing these resources to faculty and students, tracking usage, and gathering data on their effectiveness, this project sought to answer two core questions: 1) Do the faculty and students find the online modules useful, and what difference do they make in student writing? and 2) Which approaches to online module design work best for users, and which are most manageable for designers?

We are learning some new technical skills, and we are being forced to think more deeply about how independent but guided learning works.

Sherry Linkon

The project aimed to determine whether online modules about writing are a manageable and effective way of supporting writing instruction, especially writing within the majors. Along with determining whether the modules being designed help users, the Writing Program considered how best to design such modules and test whether students and faculty will use these materials on their own, outside of course assignments.

By Spring 2015, the project team had completed and posted two modules and designed but not yet produced the others. However, the development process and analysis of user interactions with the first modules suggest that the project should not be completed. The team identified a number of significant lessons from the project. First, they found that designing and producing high­quality modules was significantly more difficult and time­consuming than they had predicted. Second, data reflecting usage (both number of views and how users interact with the modules) raise questions about whether video­based modules work well for students or reach the intended audiences. Instruction that faculty usually provide over time, through interactive discussion with students about their own writing, does not translate easily to video, and most users will not watch an instructional video that runs longer than a few minutes.