Today’s post comes courtesy of Dr. Sarah Prince, of Walden University. Together with Beth Nastachowski, MA, Dr. Prince is starting a new discussion group–the OWC email discussion list. Today’s post is about the OWC–stay tuned for part two, coming next week, about best practices for online centers!
The idea for the listserv grew out of a SIG we presented at the 2015 IWCA conference titled “Refocusing the Conversation: Creating Spaces for Online Writing Center Community, Support, and Discussion.” After talking through possibilities for community building during the SIG, many ideas were on the table—an annual conference and/or a possible affiliation group within IWCA (much like the current regional affiliations rooted in specific geographic locations). Post conference, to follow up with these ideas, we sent out a survey to all who attended the conference and others at the conference who signed up to receive more information. Based on the group’s voting, it was decided that we would initially start with a listserv, or discussion list, to promote communication about what centers are doing and how we could all better serve students in a fully-online capacity.
We hope that this listserv does in fact start as a building block that generates wider conversations about the state of current online writing centers, common issues among fully online centers, and possibilities for future collaboration among these centers. We would love to see our group gain the support and membership to work toward a separate affiliation under IWCA one day or even create an academic conference around issues specific to tutoring writing in a virtual environment.
We are advocating for further conversations among staff and tutors that serve students online, so we can, as a group, come up with best practices. Because such a community is still in its infancy, perhaps a better discussion would be how we’ve come to the practices that work for our center– through trial and error, gaps we perceived in our services, ideas for conveying information about writing in new ways, etc. In other words, we can talk about how we have a lot of this stuff, in part, because we don’t really have many discipline-wide best practices and, consequently, we’ve had to experiment. Our guess is that other centers are in the same boat, so we’d like to really advocate for a space where important discussions on innovation and new technologies can take place.
Some of the conversations we’d love to see started are as follows:
- What services/initiatives have other online centers have implemented?
- What services/software are useful? What has been successful? What has been a failure?
- What are challenges specific to online students and centers working to create successful writing relationships?
- How, specifically do Centers engage with English Language Learners and Multi-lingual students in a virtual writing environment?
- How do Writing Centers establish a sense of place and credibility in a virtual environment.
- How do virtual tutors/consultants/staff engage writers during asynchronous and synchronous virtual sessions?
- How do virtual tutors/consultants/staff engage differently with tone in online synchronous and asynchronous sessions?
- How has the notion of a fully online writing center turned the pedagogy behind Writing Centers on its head?
- What philosophies must be rewritten? Which ones still hold true?
…the questions and possible directions for conversation are really endless!
Eventually, we hope such discussions spark innovation and help us all to better serve the online, geographically diverse student population, which continues to grow across the country and abroad.