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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA adds online writing credit to gen-ed system

    General education courses as students know them now are undergoing change.

    A team of UA instructors and software programmers is currently developing an online writing course that will soon be paired with general education classes across campus.

    The course will be introduced as a one-credit supplement to the typical three-credit general education class. It is intended to provide an interactive and self-paced online environment in which students’ writing skills are diagnosed and improved.

    The course will be funded with a TRIF (Technology Research Initiative Fund)grant, which is awarded to projects that propose to improve education through technological means,

    Maggie Werner, graduate student and team leader of the project, emphasized that the courses will not replace gen-ed classes, but instead will support them with needed writing instruction that is not available in the typical 50 minute lecture period.

    “”Teachers are overworked, and there is not a lot of time for one-on-one instruction,”” she said. “”There is high enrollment in gen-eds, so teachers don’t have time for individualized feedback in writing.””

    The online course will offer tutorials on topics in writing not ordinarily covered by professors, such as grammar, drafting a thesis and style and craft.

    Writing proficiency will be tested by a diagnostic system that will, depending on the student’s score, direct him or her signed to target a given problem area. These modules will feature flash animation and other interactive software tailored to the specific skill level of the student.

    “”If the student already demonstrates mastery, he can test out if ready,”” Werner said.

    Thomas Miller, English professor and associate provost of academic affairs, pointed out that the online course will help deal with problems in writing essays before it’s too late. He said that students all too often realize they have significant problems in writing only after their papers are returned with a poor grade.

    Students often complain, “”Boy, I wish you would have told me that beforehand,”” Miller said. “”The idea here is to have more formative feedback before writing the paper even begins.””

    Miller added that research on writing pedagogy shows that “”students do not read teachers’ comments on their papers. They often do not understand comments they read and do not apply them.””

    The online course is intended to remedy this problem by developing students’ writing skills before a paper is even assigned to them.

    The course will “”take them through the writing process,”” Miller said. “”It will help them draft a research question or thesis and will include strategic visits to the writing center.””

    Werner states that the project will help identify students who are at academic risk before they face significant problems in their college career.

    “”How can we get to these students and not leave them behind?”” she said. “”How can we support them in some way?

    “”Almost all of the members of the team have experience teaching writing. This gives us perspective to ask: what do students struggle with in writing?”” Werner said.

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