Bedford Bibliography of Research in Online Writing Instruction: Principle 9

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OWI Principle 9: OWCs should be capped responsibly at 20 students per course with 15 being a preferable number.


Blakelock, Jane, and Tracy E. Smith. “Distance Learning: From Multiple Snapshots, A Composite Portrait.” Computers and Composition, vol. 23, no. 1, 2006, pp. 139-61. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2005.12.008.

Blakelock and Smith trace important institutional attitudes and labor practices that contributed to the state of distance learning in 2005. Their findings are based on a survey they distributed to a diverse array of intuitional types.  They also followed-up with participants to ask personal interview questions and compared their findings to previous national studies on the subject. In their discussion, they point out several patterns and trends that relate to actual—not theoretical—distance learning practices that teachers and students are exposed to in writing classrooms.  They are also attentive to administrative treatment of distance learning. They pay particular attention to the misconceptions that distance learning is often embroiled in and how those do or do not play out in writing classrooms. Further, they offer a logistical breakdown of course caps, the teachers, and the technologies used for distance learning. Their conclusions suggest that 1) fears and myths about distance learning are often not realized, 2) while circumstances for online teachers are improving, rising course caps remain a concern for students’ educational quality and instructors’ labor conditions, 3) technical help must remain constant for teachers, 4) “incentives and compensation need to be more commensurate with workload” (159), 5) we need to conduct formal research on assessment of online writing courses, and 6) we must continue to encourage quality online courses departmentally and as a field.

Keywords: academic labor, pedagogy: English, composition, faculty workload, distance learning, surveys, interviews, course caps

OWI Principles: 7, 8, 9, 15

Bourelle, Tiffany, et al. “Teaching with Instructional Assistants: Enhancing Student Learning in Online Classes.” Computers and Composition, vol. 37, Sept. 2015, pp. 90-103. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2015.06.007.

This article describes a pilot program undertaken at Arizona State University wherein undergraduate peer mentors, called “instructional assistants (IAs),” were incorporated into online first-year composition courses in order to “enhance students’ experiences and reduce instructors’ workload” (91) despite a rising student-to-teacher ratio. The authors describe the hiring and the ongoing training of the IAs, which included an orientation, a “portfolio workshop,” bi-weekly meetings with the course instructor, and an in-service practicum. IAs were each assigned a cohort of up to 15 students to work with under the supervision of a first-year composition instructor who had up to 96 total students in a “mega-section” of the course, and IA responsibilities included facilitating online discussions, responding to student drafts, and managing students’ peer reviewing of each other’s work. The authors conclude by discussing the success and subsequent growth of the program, suggesting that other institutions consider a similar program for its pedagogical advantages rather than its money-saving benefits. They additionally question the potential ethical issue of using unpaid undergraduate interns and recommend that care be taken to ensure such an internship is pedagogically sound and beneficial to the interns’ future careers. This article is important because it offers an alternate model for effectively managing enrollment caps.

Keywords: internships, mentoring, teacher training, teaching assistants, workshop, course caps

OWI principles: 3, 4, 9, 10, 15

Charles, Cristie Cowles. “Why We Need More Assessment of Online Composition Courses: A Brief History.” Kairos, vol. 7, no. 3, 2002,

Charles believes the problems with online composition courses have arisen because a thorough evaluation of their effectiveness has not been done. Large-scale distance learning programs often are based upon a corporate model that places the student as the consumer that excludes faculty input and control over curriculum. In contrast to the corporate model, Charles explores the development of online courses through individual instructor design. She suggests these online courses are more student-centered. However, instructor-developed courses are not often formally assessed. Charles sites the American Federation of Teachers’ 2001 proposal to provide “basic standards that will ensure a quality distance course.” Among some of the top recommendations were 1) that faculty control the curriculum, 2) that faculty are trained to teach online, 3) that students are prepared for distance learning, 4) that class size is determined by best practices in the field, 5) that assessment of student learning should be similar to what is done in face-to-face courses, and 6) that the courses should cover the same content. She suggests these proposals should be areas of evaluation for online composition courses in addition to assessing student writing.

Keywords: assessment, distance learning, evaluation, faculty development, student preparation

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Hewett, Beth L. “Grounding Principles of OWI.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 33-92.

Hewett provides the theoretical background that supports the OWI Principles. She explicates each OWI Principle and addresses it within the context of the first principle regarding access and inclusivity. Each OWI Principle is presented in its full text along with the rationale the OWI Committee had originally provided for each principle. Hewett then offers a discussion that provides the committee’s historical research and discussions regarding the principle; its theoretical rationale; its connections to replicable, aggregable, and data-supported (RAD) research; and its general importance to those who study, research, and teach with OWI.

Keywords: accessibility, asynchronous interaction, hybrid, research, synchronous interaction, CCCC OWI Committee

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L., and Kevin Eric DePew, editors. Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015.

This book addresses the questions that OWI instructors and writing program, writing center, and other administrators should consider when developing viable OWI programs that have potentially effective practices. Each chapter corresponds to concerns raised in the 2013 A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices published to the NCTE website by the CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in OWI. The five parts of this book address relevant issues for a principle-centered OWI: (1) An OWI Primer, (2) OWI Pedagogy and Administrative Decisions, (3) Practicing Inclusivity in OWI, (4) Faculty and Student Preparation for OWI, and (5) New Directions in OWI. Hewett and DePew emphasize a future academy where most writing courses will be taught or otherwise presented in some type of online setting, which makes it a core text for the next generation of composition theory and praxis and valuable for those who teach and/or tutor students writing in online settings.

Keywords: accessibility, inclusivity, praxis, research, theory, writing program administration, online writing programs, student preparation, faculty development, tutoring: English, online tutoring, writing centers, CCCC OWI Committee

OWI Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L., and Kevin Eric DePew. “Introduction: A Research History of the CCCC OWI Committee.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 5-30.

Hewett and DePew outline the history of the CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in Online Writing Instruction (OWI) and its research. This historical background enables readers to understand the empirical quantitative and qualitative research that grounds the 2013 A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices published to the NCTE website by the CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in OWI. They begin by defining the work of the OWI Committee per its charges from the CCCC Executive Committee upon its 2007 constitution and 2010 reconstitution, and it outlines the vocabulary that the committee has used in its discussions of OWI. They continue by explaining the committee’s general research methods that included 1) determining core research questions, 2) developing an annotated bibliography of the extant literature up until 2008, 3) conducting site visits and personal interviews, 4) developing and launching two national surveys, 5) analyzing and reporting on those surveys through a report of the contemporary state of OWI in both fully online and hybrid settings, 6) developing an expert/stakeholder’s group that could advise the committee, and 7) writing the OWI Principles. They describe the importance of understanding all of its work in the context of a new understanding of access and inclusivity. Finally, they end by outlining the rest of the book by sections and chapters. This unique book has the potential to serve OWI administrators, teachers, and tutors as they assist and teach students through online media.

Keywords: CCCC OWI Committee, faculty development, research, literature review, interviews, surveys, accessibility, inclusivity, writing program administration, online writing programs

OWI Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L., and Scott Warnock. “The Future of OWI.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 547-63.

Hewett and Warnock claim that the future of OWI is intimately connected to the future of composition “writ large.” They further argue that in the future, all composition will be taught in hybrid settings—if it is not already done so—and that there will be fewer distinctive features between OWI and onsite composition instruction. The term “OWI” may become something with meaning only to WPAs while what currently is considered hybrid and fully online OWI may just become “composition.” They define the potential for what they call “good OWI” by several features: 1) being a good teacher in any setting, 2) including both text-based and digital/multimedia-based compositions, 3) rethinking the nature of the students, 4) using technology thoughtfully for both alphabetic and digital text, 5) publishing the good teaching strategies that instructors have developed, 6) addressing core problems in writing research and assessment such that composition instructors and not outside bodies and companies determine the field’s future, and 7) being ethical and moral instructors fully aware of and responsive to issues of access and inclusion. Hewett and Warnock conclude by stating that “Good OWI should help the field of composition be better.”

Keywords: accessibility, assessment, literacy, research, composition, hybrid, multimedia, student preparation, research, inclusivity

OWI Principles: 1, 7, 9, 13

Meloncon, Lisa, and Heidi Harris. “Preparing Students for OWI.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 411-38.

Trying to fill the void in understanding the issue of student preparation and success in online writing classes, Meloncon and Harris gather literature across fields and specific to OWI to provide a current portrait of what we know about student preparation for online courses. They then provide recommendations for preparing students for online writing classes at the institutional level and instructor level. Institutionally, the authors propose the following recommendations: 1) create orientation modules, 2) use existing data to identify student preparation for online writing classes, 3) cap class sizes, 4) provide training and paid support for faculty, and 5) increase support structures for students. Orientation modules should be created to help students understand what resources may be available as well as specific technology-related orientations to ensure students are prepared to use the technologies they will need to succeed in class. Also, existing data should be leveraged to help understand their student population and learning needs better. Class sizes should be “capped responsibly” with a recommendation of 20 students per course.  Finally, institutions should provide and fund training for OWI teachers and more support structures for students. Instructors need to incorporate accessible elements into the design of their courses, build community within the courses, and prepare students for the online experiences of their writing courses. The authors give examples of how instructors can achieve these recommendations. The chapter  includes an appendix, “Student Preparation Checklist,” that instructors can modify and easily add to their online courses to help better prepare students for their online writing experiences.

Keywords: student perception, student preparation, orientation, community, pedagogy: English, online resources, course and program design: English, accessibility, class caps

OWI Principles: 1, 4, 9, 10, 11, 13

Minter, Deborah. “Administrative Decisions for OWI.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 211-26.

Minter argues that WPAs must make smart and ethical decisions for online writing instruction in their programs and should look to the CCCC Position Statement of Principles and Examples of Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI) for direction. Factors that WPAs should consider include class size and student preparation. Class size is pertinent for the same reasons class size matters for onsite courses; however, Minter references current OWI research that argues reading for both teachers and students in online writing courses can increase significantly with each new student, as both students and teachers read more for each student actively participating in the course. Student preparation for online learning is also a crucial consideration. WPAs should advocate for ethical support and professional development for online writing instructors, which extends to student preparation for online learning. Student orientations to online writing courses and comparable support, such as online writing consultation and access to library faculty, are crucial to student success. Minter closes with a brief discussion of the need for WPAs to advocate for financial support of online writing instruction and financial incentives for teaching online courses.

Keywords: writing program administration, course caps, reading, faculty workload, online resources, online writing programs, faculty satisfaction, student preparation, orientations,

OWI Principles 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13

Qiu, Mingzhu, et al. “Online Class Size, Note Reading, Note Writing and Collaborative Discourse.” International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, vol. 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 423-42.

Mingshu Qiu, Jim Hewitt, and Claire Brett studied the “relationship between class size and note reading loads, note writing locas, and collaborative discussions in online graduate-level courses” (424). Because student participation and interaction are crucial to a successful online course, students can experience information overload in large online classes. Their researchers used a mixed-methods approach which demonstrated a positive correlation between class size and the number of notes that students read. However, “when the number of notes that students were meant to read increased beyond a certain point, the percentage of notes they actually read declined, mainly because of information overload” (429). Some students, when faced with more notes to write, chose to write more notes with more simple language. When asked about the instructor’s notes in discussions, students indicated that when instructors did not write enough notes, the students considered them “absent” (432). The researchers concluded that the ideal class size for online graduate classes was between 13 and 15 students; fewer students would lead to slow class discussions, and more students lead to information overload for both students and instructors. This study is important in demonstrating the correlation between class size and student performance in online classes.

Keywords: graduate classes, course caps, collaboration, discussion: English, reading, student engagement, student-to-student interaction, instructor interaction, research, mixed methods, qualitative research

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 9, 11, 12, 15

Remley, Dirk. “Writing in Web-based Disciplinary Courses: New Media, New Disciplinary Composing Expectations.” Computers and Composition, vol. 32, June 2014, pp. 1-18. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2014.04.002.

Remley’s article surveys writing instructors who teach writing intensive courses (WIC) across the disciplines to ascertain the differences in assignments and modalities required in face-to-face WIC courses and web-based WIC courses. In addition, Remley sought to understand faculty perceptions of where they think students should learn digital literacy skills and what, if any, professional development resources were available to faculty in WIC classes who sought to implement multimodal assignments. He designed two surveys that elicited feedback from faculty who taught WIC classes and non-WIC classes in each modality. He concluded that faculty who taught web-based WIC classes were more likely to incorporate multimodal assignments in their classes. Fewer web-based WIC instructors indicated assigning the research paper. Only some of the classes mentioned grading for digital literacy skills in their assignments. Disciplines with greater numbers of online offerings were more likely to require multimodal assignments, but only about half of faculty across disciplines assumed that students would come to their classes with digital literacy skills. Overall, over 80% of respondents thought that first-year writing students should be learning some slide-show-related literacy skills. Remley concludes that a factor in the differences between web-based and face-to-face digital literacy expectations may be related to class size in that those programs which offered online classes had larger online classes, and therefore did not require as much writing from students. He also concludes that faculty from across the disciplines need knowledge and professional development to help students develop digital literacy skills across the curriculum. This article helps researchers understand the similarities and differences in the types of assignments required in online WAC and WID courses and to help support faculty in developing multimodal assignments and assessments in these courses.

Keywords: multimodal, faculty development, WID, WAC, research, surveys, qualitative research, course caps

OWI Principles: 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 12,

Snart, Jason. Hybrid Learning: The Perils and Promise of Blending Online and Face-to-Face Instruction in Higher Education, Praeger, 2010.

This book offers a thoroughly researched and critical exploration into hybrid teaching and learning. While not a “how-to” book for online and hybrid teaching and learning, readers looking for ways to create and/or improve their online or hybrid classes can find a plethora of ideas for classroom application through the thought-provoking discussions about the historical, political, financial, technological, and pedagogical aspects of online and hybrid classes. Snart provides an insightful and critical examination into the most controversial issues facing higher education that many administrators think will be solved by online classes, such as increasing enrollment, retention, and completion rates, and increasing profit.  The book is divided into seven chapters that address challenges in higher education; reasons for increased interest in hybrid classes; cultural motivations; profiles of hybrid classes, programs, and student experience; the use of technology to build community and increase collaboration; and speculation about the future of hybrid delivery.  

Key words: hybrid, blended, computer-mediated classrooms, educational technology, pedagogy: English, culture, online writing programs, collaboration, teaching with technology: English

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13