Bedford Bibliography of Research in Online Writing Instruction: Principle 14

Document created by Heidi Skurat Harris on Oct 24, 2016Last modified by Karita dos Santos on Feb 7, 2017
Version 3Show Document
  • View in full screen mode

OWI Principle 14: Online writing lab administrators and tutors should undergo selection, training, and ongoing professional development activities that match the environment in which they will work.


Anderson, Dana. “Interfacing E-mail Tutoring: Shaping an Emergent Literate Practice.” Computers and Composition, vol. 19, no. 1, 2002, pp. 71–87. Science Direct, 10.1016/S8755-4615(02)00081-6

Anderson argues that the new literacy practices of email “invite—perhaps even require—new literate behaviors, behaviors that, in turn, invoke correspondingly new conceptions of literacy in the writing center” (72). Anderson demonstrates ways in which the new interfaces require different types of literacies and then analyzes the e-mail interface of twenty-one online writing labs (OWLs) to understand how the interface shapes students’ expectations experiences in this medium. The language of the OWL sites indicates specific parameters about the type of student and the type of writing acceptable for the OWL. These limitations, Anderson argues, shape a writer’s goals and expectations about the OWL. Faculty administering OWLs should, therefore, design e-mail portals to reflect the goals of their overall writing center literacy practices. Anderson concludes by introducing language that distinguishes “between first- and second-level representations within OWL email tutoring interfaces (83). She hopes that introducing such language will start a conversation about how OWLs integrate theory and language with literacy practices.

Keywords: literacy, online writing lab, interface, tutoring: English

OWI Principles:  13, 14, 15

Anderson-Inman, Lynne. “OWLs: Online Writing Labs.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 40, no. 8, 1997, 650–54.

Anderson-Inman traces what resources Online Writing Labs (OWLs) offered students and teachers in the late 1990’s. She creates a taxonomy for OWLs and categorizes them as providing “resource materials, online tutoring, and information gateways.” For each category, she lists examples of institutions that are utilizing each type and highlights what they offer students. Research material types provide students with sources for teachers, students, and tutors alike; they range from grammar handouts to handbooks for writers. Online tutoring types offer wider accessibility to students who can’t make it to campus; it can provide “synchronous” one-on-one tutor to student help or it can be used as a “grammar hotline” or email feedback service. Information gateway types serve as a means of guiding students to helpful resources that are housed outside of the OWL on the Internet and lead students to helpful grammatical or punctuation information. The author encourages these online mediums as a means of increasing access for online writing students to on-campus resources.

Key words: online writing labs, writing resources, tutoring: English,

OWI Principles: 1, 14, 15

Ascuena, Andrea, and Michael Mattison. “(Re)Wiring Ourselves: The Electrical and Pedagogical Evolution of a Writing Center.” Computers and Composition Online, Spring 2006,

This web text narrates the experience of refashioning (or “re-wiring”) a little-used OWC at Boise State University around three primary concerns: “How can we design the most efficient, accessible web site for our service? How can we schedule e-mail consultations so as to utilize our consultants’ hours without infringing on their face-to-face sessions? How can we best respond to the essays we receive through e-mail?” Ascuena and Mattison extend the metaphor of working with electricity to name the “circuits” of their re-writing: technology, administration, and pedagogy. They modeled their re-wiring around Temple University’s OWC and implemented a dropbox system for student submissions. They also added web pages for quick questions and for welcoming and thanking the students for using the OWC. The webtext identifies the process the tutors undertook to administer the OWC as student submissions increased. Students who were surveyed about their experiences were positive about the help they received in the OWC. Finally, Ascuena and Mattison outline the process of training their peer tutors for online tutoring, providing a written guide to help the tutors move away from in-text responses and toward more global comments focused on higher-order concerns, just as they would give in face-to-face consultations. This webtext provides a concrete primer for writing centers and writing labs seeking to implement online components of their services and models good practices for responding to student texts in the OWC.

Keywords: online writing center, tutoring: English, web design

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Bell, Lisa. “Preserving the Rhetorical Nature of Tutoring When Going Online.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, edited by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood, 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, pp. 351-58.

In this chapter, Bell recounts her experience as a new writing center coordinator who navigates and reframes an existing but not functional OWL. She narrates her experience, beginning with returning to the foundational principles of writing center theory espoused by Stephen North, Mary Dossin, and Joan Hawthorne. She then reviews the current state of the OWL, which consisted primarily of email submissions. Without the face-to-face interaction and meaning making involved in the traditional writing center, Bell felt that some of the tried-and-true methods of tutoring would be difficult to implement in an OWL. In particular, she found that the conversational nature of tutoring, so crucial to the experience of shared meaning-making, was lost when questions were added to a student’s paper and the tutor received no reply. Because synchronous online tutoring sessions take more time to complete, tutors found themselves getting straight to the point of the writing, which took away relationship-building that was the heart of the face-to-face tutoring sessions. Bell also found out that tutors in OWLs needed different types of training than their face-to-face colleagues. She concludes by calling for more research into what makes OWLs effective, research that others have done since this chapter was first published. This article provides those chronicling the shift from face-to-face to online writing centers a snapshot of a single center at a point of transition, a valuable narrative in the longer history of understanding OWLs.

Keywords:  writing center, online writing lab, synchronous interaction, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 11, 13, 14

Blythe, Stewart. “Why OWLs: Value, Risk, and Evolution.” Kairos, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 1996,

Blythe provides a hypertext in this first article of the first issue of Kairos that provides an overview of the hows, whys, and why nots of online writing labs. The hypertext covers basic considerations of beginning an online writing center, the modalities that OWLs might take, and invites interrogation of the ways that we view theories of technology and how we talk about computers as a part of the discussion of OWLs. This early hypertext, while dated (not all of the hyperlinks still go to active pages), does provide insight to scholars researching the history of OWLs in terms of concerns that scholars and researchers voiced as the OWL moved from the 20th to the 21st century.

Keywords: online writing lab, modality, hypertext

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Bourelle, Tiffany et al. “Assessing Learning in Redesigned Online First-Year Composition Courses” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation, edited by Heidi McKee and Danielle DeVoss. Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State Press, 2013.


Tiffany Bourelle, Sherry Rankins-Robertson, Andrew Bourelle, and Duane Roen describe a model of online course delivery that was developed in response to budget cuts at Arizona State University. The authors created the Writer’s Studio, a first-year writing curriculum focused on “post-process pedagogy, learner-centered pedagogy, multimodal instruction, and eportfolios that showcase[d] self-assessment in response to the course learning outcomes.” The Writer’s Studio utilizes coordinators (non-tenured, full-time faculty), instructors (part-time, contingent faculty), and instructional assistants (upper-level English majors and graduate assistants) to deliver pre-designed course content and both “facilitate instruction and provide feedback.”  All aspects of the course design and delivery were collaborative and learner-centered. Designers used the Quality MattersTM rubric to ensure effective course design, and learners were introduced to their courses and facilitators through video introductions. Classes used the WPA Outcomes Statement and the “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” to develop course learning outcomes, and instruction in the class was multimodal. The article provides examples of instructional videos, multimedia learning objects, and portfolio prompts and sample responses. Finally, the authors share their portfolio assessment scores and how they used those scores to revise and improve the Writer’s Studio. This article provides a sound, research-based and learner-centered model of how large-scale first-year writing courses and programs can use research-based and professional standards to respond to budget fluctuations while simultaneously remaining engaging and learner-centered.


Keywords: learner-centered, Quality MattersTM, collaboration, contingent faculty, multimodal, video: English, writing program administration, pre-designed courses, portfolios


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

Breuch, Lee-Ann. “The Idea(s) of an Online Writing Center: In Search of a Conceptual Model.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, 2005, pp. 21-38. Print.

Breuch recaps the challenges that online writing centers face and the difficulties in finding effective models due to variation. More specifically, varying models do not create a consistent idea of the way online writing centers operate. Conceptual models are explained as an integral piece of online environments that predict and help people to understand the way in which things work. The article divides ideas from conceptual models by three characteristics: 1) people always have an understanding of how things work due to conceptual models, 2) frustration is likely to occur as multiple attempts lead to failure when trying to apply conceptual models, and 3) conceptual models are encouraged to be revised as new technology is released and can be utilized to benefit ideas. Conceptual models are always present, yet not all models work. Thus, some online writing centers struggle. Directive and nondirective ways of learning restrict student learning in online writing centers because student absorb only what is on a screen.  Breuch ends by indicating opportunities for improvement so that learners can benefit from tutoring that involves modern advancements in media and technology.

Keywords: online writing centers, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 3, 13, 14

Breuch, Lee-Ann Kastman. “Enhancing Online Collaboration: Virtual Peer Review in the Writing Classroom.” Online Education: Global Questions, Local Answers, edited by Kelli Cargile Cook and Keith Grant-Davie, Baywood Publishing, 2005, pp. 141-56.

Breuch identifies the ways in which face-to-face peer review is both the same as and differs from online peer review. Commonalities include the assumptions that writing is a social act and that writing is a process. The differences in peer review involve space, time, and interaction. Asynchronous technologies for peer review require that students participate in peer review at both different locations and different times, and this fact affects how the students interact in both positive and negative ways. Breuch provides concrete steps to help facilitate peer review for brainstorming, providing reader response, and addressing strengths and weaknesses in the writing. This perspective on peer review demonstrates how similarities and differences in peer review between face-to-face and online environments can lead to equal or more productive experience and calls for additional research to deal with accessibility.

Keywords: tutoring: English, writing process, asynchronous interaction, synchronous interaction

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 11, 14

Breuch, Lee-Ann Kastman. Virtual Peer Review: Teaching and Learning about Writing in Online Environments. SUNY P, 2004.

Kastman Breuch explores the question of what is gained and what is lost in moving writing instruction online through the concept of peer review. In doing so, she first investigates the definitions of peer review and virtual peer review, indicating that virtual peer review supports that philosophy that pedagogy must drive technology while also establishing virtual peer review as a “remediation” of traditional, face-to-face peer review (borrowing from Jay Bolter’s concept of remediation). Kastman Breuch then demonstrates how virtual peer review, rather than being better or worse than face-to-face peer review, is different but that those differences, primarily in terms of time, space, and interaction, can be seen as either challenges or benefits. Identifying these differences illuminates how “computer technology privileges written communication over oral communication”--or did so in 2004 and before (52). Because computer technology privileges print and the traditional peer review practice focuses on oral communication, Kastman Breuch argues that the tension between the two paradigms identifies virtual peer review as “abnormal discourse” (55). She identifies the ways in which the literature surrounding face-to-face peer review defines that review around oral discourse, and then argues that “virtual peer review does not rely on the distinctions of speech and writing that were so carefully built in terms of traditional peer review” (70). She coins this new way of thinking about virtual peer review in terms of a “literacy of involvement” that “includes actively reading, writing, and interacting in virtual environments” (79). She provides examples of types of virtual peer review to describe how the collaborative activity involves responding to writing, editing of texts, and the negotiation of shared writing tasks. In addition, technology challenges further complicate the virtual peer review. Finally, Kastman Breuch uses various scenarios for virtual peer review to demonstrate how the “goals we have for writing tasks drive our choices and uses of technology” (110). She identifies how peer review can serve a “transitional role” for instructors moving from face-to-face to computer mediated or online classrooms and how virtual peer review is key to evaluating student writing, in forming and sustaining online writing centers, in writing across the curriculum programs and in workplace writing classrooms. Indeed, many of her predictions have come to pass, while her challenge to consider technology in terms of goals to be accomplished is the bedrock for solid online writing course design.

Keywords: peer review, collaboration, online writing centers, computer-mediated communication, remediation, WAC, technical and professional writing, course and program design: English

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 14

Breuch, Lee-Ann M., and Sam J. Racine. “Developing Sound Tutor Training for Online Writing Centers: Creating Productive Peer Reviewers.” Computers and Composition, vol. 17, no. 3, Dec. 2000, pp. 245-63. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/S8755-4615(00)00034-7.

Based on experience, Breuch and Racine argue that online writing center tutors need training specific to the task and medium of online writing response. Face-to-face tutoring skills do not directly transfer to successful online writing center responses, especially in a text-only or asynchronous environment. Online tutoring is its own viable learning space and needs its own practices to support student-centered, process-oriented writing center pedagogy. Breuch and Racine recommend that those training online tutors should 1) believe that a text-only environment can invite conversation; 2) develop dialogue-based responses for text-only tutoring; 3) place comments in the front of the text, within the text of the paper, and at the end for best results; and 4) have tutors practice procedures within the online learning environments in which they will perform their duties.  OWI embraces the idea that online tutoring is a worthwhile tutoring option and continues to study best practices and emerging pedagogies among ever changing technologies.

Keywords: tutoring: English online writing center, peer review, tutoring training, asynchronous interaction

OWI Principles: 14

Cargile Cook, Kelli, and Keith Grant-Davie, editors. Online Education 2.0: Evolving, Adapting, and Reinventing Online Technical Communication. Baywood, 2012.

The chapters in this collection were solicited ten years after those for the editors’ previous collection, Online Education: Global Questions, Local Answers. Given the changes in online education over this decade, this collection focuses on how online writing instruction has changed, what online instructors have learned, and how online programs are sustained. Chapters are organized into three sections: 1) Evolving Programs and Faculty, 2) Adapting to Changing Student Needs and Abilities, and 3) Reinventing Course Contents and Materials. This collection provides insights into innovative instructional strategies, encourages experimentation with and critical reflection on technologies, and suggests that online instructors’ classrooms will thrive with continued training, mentorship, and practice in these environments.

Keywords: course and program design: English, technical and professional writing, instructional design, faculty development, course evaluation, program evaluation: English, mentorship, online writing programs

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14, 15

Carlson, David A., and Eileen Apperson-Williams. “The Anxieties of Distance: Online Tutors Reflect.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, edited by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood, 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, pp. 285-94.

Carlson and Apperson-Williams studied how online tutors negotiated the sterile territory of online tutoring sessions without the face-to-face contact and rapport building that on-campus tutoring provides. The authors review various methods of online tutoring, including email and chat features, and conclude that “tutors must readjust their conceptions of how to develop interpersonal relationships when tutoring online” (286-287). Interviews with online writing tutors revealed some of the anxiety that online writing tutors face when interacting with online students, including worries about appropriating student writing and building relationships with students. However, the interviews also highlighted what tutors see as beneficial in online tutoring--the ability to alleviate concerns about prejudice and focus on the student writing and the student’s approach to the text. The authors conclude that, as students become more familiar with online tutoring, their anxieties will lessen. This article demonstrates some of the basic concerns of transitioning tutors from face-to-face to online tutoring.

Keywords: tutoring: English, online writing center, email, interviews

OWI Principles: 10, 13, 14, 15

Chandler, Sally W. et al. “On the Bright Side of the Screen: Material-World Interactions Surrounding the Socialization of Outsiders to Digital Spaces.” Computers and Composition, vol. 24, no. 3, 2007, pp. 346-64. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2007.05.007.

Sally Chandler, Joshua Burnett and Jacklyn Lopez contribute to research that examines how “outsiders” resist Internet discourses shaped by a western perspective. Their ethnographic case study explores how those outside of discourse communities enter those communities. First, they provide a history of research on how individuals acclimated to new communities. They then investigate “how mindset differences affect teaching and learning when students and teachers are from different digital generations” (350).  The study extends strategies used by gamers to initiate an “outsider” named Sally, a digital immigrant, into the world of gaming. The authors provide concrete examples of the discourse that surrounded Sally’s acclimation to the gaming culture, suggesting that these strategies can be used by instructors to help students who are “cultural outsiders” engage in classrooms and writing centers. In particular, the authors recommend that online writing instructors and online peer tutors, “help students to seek out, create, and enhance effective support” by “emphasizing the importance of self-directed, peer-supported learning, validating learners’ needs to connect to learning practices they bring to the new community, acknowledging the difficulty and importance of making shifts in mindsets, and alerting students to the discomfort and frustration they may encounter” (362-363). This article provides a set of strategies for bridging the gaps between the language and learning strategies that novice writers use in online worlds and the language and learning strategies that will help them be successful in the online writing classroom.

Keywords: tutoring: English, gamification, online writing centers, ethnography

OWI Principles: 1, 11, 13, 14, 15

Cooper, George, et al. “Protocols and Process in Online Tutoring.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, edited by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood, 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003, pp. 255-66.

Cooper, Bui, and Riker question whether moving tutoring from face-to-face to online platforms hinders the foundations of writing center practice, namely the relationship between the tutor and the student. They conclude that, “Though principles of face-to-face tutoring [student control, interpersonal communication, and dialogue about writing] do not transfer completely to online tutoring, we can still retain a sense of collaboration and humanity in the online forum” (310). In particular, they recommend 1) setting an appropriate tone in the introductory remarks to a student, 2) establishing a dialogic relationship with the student through questions, 3) limiting remarks on grammar and punctuation, and 4) providing a summative comment in order to close the session. While these methods will not completely mitigate frustration with online tutoring nor replicate fully the face-to-face dynamics of on-campus tutoring, gathering student feedback about online tutoring sessions will help tutors to adjust their methods to reach online students. This chapter establishes some basic guidelines of good practice in online tutoring for those individuals struggling to move from face-to-face to online modalities.

Keywords: tutoring: English, feedback, tutor training, asynchronous interaction

OWI Principles: 10, 13, 14

Crump, Eric. “At Home in the MUD: Writing Centers Learn to Wallow.” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, edited by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood, 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003, pp. 242-55.

Crump explores the opportunities offered to writing centers through online learning communities, which he calls multi-user dimensions (MUD). The article begins with an explanation of the operation of these online spaces. He continues by analyzing two of his own online communications with students in three “glances.” The first glance sees MUDs as a divergence from the oral boundaries of the writing. The second glance sees MUDs as a translation of writing center practices to an online arena, with little to no change. The third glance challenges the hierarchical model of the writing center. He posits that MUDs offer the chance to break down the barrier between student and consultant and create a community in which equal communication and sharing of ideas is encouraged.

Keywords: MUD, writing centers, community

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 13, 14

Ehmann Powers, Christa. “A Study of Online Writing Instructor Perceptions.” The Online Writing Conference: A Guide for Teachers and Tutors, edited by Beth Hewett, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015, pp. 174-82.

This study examines some of the experiences of online writing tutors at Smarthinking, Inc. in 2009 in an attempt to understand their attitudes about OWI and the roles they take as online instructors (also called e-structors at that time). Tutors primarily conducted asynchronous interactions where they commented on Web-delivered texts using a framework that called first for global comments with the addition of a few embedded local comments. Some tutors also provided synchronous conferences via a whiteboard and co-located chat box. Although unsolicited in the survey, many tutors remarked that they had pedagogical challenges when teaching using text (i.e., not voice) and struggled with the lack of instant feedback from students regarding whether the tutorial had been helpful. Tutors also spoke to what they saw as distinct features of OWI, including the ability for online writing instructors to self-reflect and assess their own work and the need for students to engage with different levels of cognitive processing. In terms of attitudes toward OWI, the online tutors expressed some concerns regarding whether OWI was pedagogically valid and potential political issues about the uses of OWI in educational institutions. Respondents claimed that OWI could have significant learning benefits for students and their writing processes while framing these benefits in terms of affect and the practical aspects of working online. Ehmann Powers ends with a series of implications for this research and the need for ongoing study of these issues.

Keywords: tutors: English, online writing center, asynchronous interaction, synchronous interaction, faculty perceptions, research

OWI Principles 13, 14, 15

Harris, Muriel. “From the (Writing) Center to the Edge: Moving Writers along the Internet.” The Clearing House, vol. 69, no. 1, 1995, pp. 21-23.

Harris analyzes what were, in 1995, the three most common methods of electronic writing center work: (1) email, (2) Multi-user domain Object Oriented (MOO) environments, and (3) the Internet. Email allows students to more easily send writing to tutors, MOOs enable quick conversations, and the Internet provided some mix of each. This is one of the earliest theoretical explorations of OWI in the writing center setting.

Keywords: online writing center, MOO, email, tutoring: English, community, computer-mediated communication

OWI Principles:  13, 14

Harris, Muriel. “Using Computers to Expand the Role of Writing Centers.” Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum, edited by Donna Reiss et al., National Council of Teachers of English, 1998, pp. 3-16.

An early discussion Online Writing Labs (OWLs), this chapter discusses the value of developing a central online site (hosting a variety of Internet communication platforms) for achieving the mission of university writing centers. Starting with how a tutoring session might go with and without access to an OWL, Harris recounts many other features and functions of various OWLs, especially the Purdue OWL. In particular, she examines how OWLs can serve as hubs for distance collaboration, as repositories for student and instructor resources, and as highly visible channels for outreach to developing writers across the globe and across the educational spectrum. Harris notes, however, that there are many institutional challenges to establishing a successful OWL, not the least of which includes acquiring funding for trained personnel who can develop and maintain the site’s writing resources within ever-changing electronic environments.

Keywords: online writing labs, writing centers, online resources, collaboration, WAC, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 11, 13, 14

Healy, Dave. “From Place to Space: Perceptual and Administrative Issues in the Online Writing Center.” Computers and Composition, vol. 12, no. 2, 1995, pp. 183-93. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/8755-4615(95)90006-3.

Healy argues that OWLs raise the issue of what the “space” of a writing center should be and whether the OWL is part of a decentring process that started as writing centers moved into dorms and other campus spaces. He provides a history of the debate regarding the “space” of the writing center, indicating that  “virtual writing center may be perceived differently by clients than the traditional, place-bound center” (185). He outlines the ways that decentralized, partially-online writing centers might affect the “scheduling, supervision, and ethos” of the writing center director and writing tutors. The article outlines a benefit of OWL work, the possibility of having a transcript of the tutoring sessions, a record of the “talk” of the conference (188). However, the “panopticon” effect that bringing technologies to the writing center conference would lead to is seen as both a positive and a negative. The article ends with a call from Healy to “preserve their semi-autonomous space” (191) of the writing center conference and to continue to focus on the human experience in any writing center modality.

Keywords: online writing labs, writing centers, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Hewett, Beth L. “Theoretical Underpinnings of Online Writing Labs (OWLs).” The Owl Construction and Maintenance Guide, edited by James A. Inman and Clinton Gardner, International Writing Center Association Press, 2002, CD-ROM,

Hewett analyzes online writing labs (OWLs) both theoretically and practically, considering them not only natural outgrowths of the traditional onsite writing center but also sites of often misunderstood or unconsidered theoretical constructs, some of which do not fit the online model. Theoretically, she finds that OWLs tend to align with current-traditional, neo-classical, neo-Platonic (expressivist), and social constructivist positions. Practically, she finds that OWLs connect to the same theories: static learning materials can be connected to current-traditional thinking, for example, but this connection does not imply a negative utility for student learning even though contemporary scholars typically reject current-traditional thinking. Hewett finds theoretical complexity in both asynchronous and synchronous online tutorials and their resonance with the previous theories; she does not judge one as better than the other but sees each as a way of teaching students what they need to learn. She also considers OWLs through their utility as sites that support student and teacher publication, professional development, community outreach and support, writing across the curriculum (WAC), and inclusive learning support. Finally, Hewett provides offers her a vision of the OWL's as having a necessary place within a writing program in the same way that onsite, traditional writing centers have such a place, as critical to the writing program as a whole.

Keywords: current-traditional rhetoric, expressivism, neo-classical, online writing labs, social constructionism, asynchronous interaction, synchronous interaction, faculty development, writing centers

OWI Principles 3, 4, 13, 14

Hewett, Beth L. “Synchronous Online Conference-Based Instruction: A Study of Whiteboard Interactions and Student Writing.” Computers and Composition, vol. 23, no. 1, 2006, pp. 4-31. Science Direct, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2005.12.004.

Hewett reports on describes a small-scale, empirical study of synchronous conference-based OWI using an electronic whiteboard, where the tutorials were conducted by Smarthinking, Inc. tutors using their electronic whiteboard. She analyzed the talk of students and tutors involved in each tutorial using a previously tested linguistic analysis tool. Participant talk indicates that the interactions were focused on developing writing ideas and content and oriented to the task at hand as opposed to being oriented toward social exchange. However, despite the educationally transactional nature of the interactions, many interactions consisted of detailed dialogue in primarily declarative language. Nearly half of the talk was oriented toward communicative needs such as achieving interpersonal connections, facilitating the interaction, and communicating about the whiteboard's workspace. Most of the traceable writing and revision changes were meaning-preserving from the students’ original ideas and of minimal insignificant to moderate rhetorical force in terms of argument development. Hewett ends with suggestions for tutor training, preparing students for whiteboard use, and further research. The study suggests potential best practices for online instructor training, a need for student preparation to use whiteboard platforms, and ideas for future research into synchronous, text-based conferences.

Keywords: revision, empirical research, tutoring: English, synchronous interaction, revision, quantitative research

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 7, 10, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L. “Generating New Theory for Online Writing Instruction.” Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 2, 2001,

In an article containing what may be the first published use of the term OWI, Hewett includes “computer-mediated communication (CMC) for classroom and writing/peer group situations, computer-based literary study, as well as individualized writing instruction such as that found in online writing lab (OWL) tutorials” under this term. This webtext specifically considers online writing labs and online writing courses (also known as CMC at that time) as examples of online settings where practice-based research is necessary for finding best practices in OWI. She outlines how the theories that ground OWI and OWLs particularly stem from the current-traditional, expressivist, neo-classical, and social constructivist constructs. Further, she provides examples and explications of tutorials from both asynchronous and synchronous (whiteboard-based) environments as tutored through Smarthinking, Inc. Finally, Hewett provides examples of tutor-to-tutor discussion threads that both demonstrate the educational principles of association and reveal self-reflective discussions.

Keywords: online tutoring, research, empirical research, online writing labs, theory, expressivism, constructivist, asynchronous interaction, synchronous interaction, tutoring: English, reflection, discussion: English

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L. “Fully Online and Hybrid Writing Instruction.” A Guide to Composition Pedagogies, edited by H. Brooke Hessler et al., 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 2013, pp. 194-211.

In this article, Hewett provides a synopsis of OWI in both hybrid and fully online settings. Beginning with an historical view of literacy education, she considers early distance education and how OWI has caused specific concerns about quality, student learning, and empathetic interpersonal connection particularly. Hewett identifies six building blocks of OWI that, once defined for any institutional setting, can be moved about to form a unique OWI program or online writing course: (1) course setting, (2) pedagogical purpose, (3) digital modality, (4) medium, (5) student audience, and (6) technology availability. She purposefully addresses issues of technology last to demonstrate that despite its changeability, nearly any technology choices can be adapted to the online writing program or course purpose once the other five components are fully identified. She suggests some core resources that have been written with OWI’s earlier history in mind. Further, she considers issues of access, the need for more and better OWLs, and the development of financially compensated or otherwise rewarded training for teachers and tutors to be among the most critical concerns as OWI moves to the future.

Keywords: hybrid, literacy, distance education, pedagogy: English, modality, audience, accessibility, teaching with technology: English, online writing labs, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14

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. “How Do You Feel? — Attitudes about Tutoring Online.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, edited by Sue Mendelsohn and Eliana Schonberg, Feb. 2004,

This article addresses issues that prospective online tutors should consider when preparing to tutor in online settings. Before making a decision, Hewett suggests that tutors determine their attitudes and comfort levels with technology. Although tutors need not be technology experts, the higher their skill levels with simple things like word processing tools, the better they can coach students in ways to change their writing. Hewett also asks tutors to consider their confidence in their abilities to work through a technological problem and their willingness to be uncomfortable while they learn. She also addresses the tutor’s attitudes about the relative values of working with technology for educational purposes. Specifically, Hewett asks prospective online tutors to consider whether they are skeptical about how well students can learn when tutored online, whether they think online tutoring is inferior to face-to-face tutoring, and whether they are open to new possibilities for what students can learn in online settings as opposed to traditional writing centers.

Keywords: technology, online tutoring, identity, tutoring: English

OWI Principles: 2, 13, 14

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 Christa Ehmann. Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction: Principles and Processes, National Council of Teachers of English, 2004.

Using common educational principles that evolved in traditional onsite settings, Hewett and Ehmann outline what they call their “principle-centered” approach to developing best practices for the training and on-going professional development —both teachers and tutors. They outline five common educational principles—(1) investigation, (2) immersion, (3) individualization, (4) association, and (5) reflection—that they use to undergird their training program and practices at Smarthinking, Inc. Even though these practices are used in one for-profit, online learning assistance center, they are sufficiently broad as to be useful in developing professional development for online teachers and tutors at a wide variety of online educational institutions, regardless of their traditional or corporate structures. The book outlines the five principles, and Hewett and Ehmann use these principles to demonstrate experiences, difficulties, and successes in online writing instruction.  These principles, as well as a discussion about contemporary theories and philosophies relevant to OWI and what they call the “training spiral,” reveal a one-to group and one-to-one process of teacher/tutor training that can be used both asynchronously and synchronously. Hewett and Ehmann believe that such grounding makes their training approach educationally and practically sound regardless of the technology in use. The book is replete with examples, illustrations, and sample training materials.

Keywords: faculty development, online tutoring, mentoring, tutoring: English, synchronous interaction, asynchronous interaction

OWI Principles: 7, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L., and Christa Ehmann Powers. “How Do You Ground Your Training: Sharing the Principles and Processes of Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction.” Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, vol. 10, no. 1, 2005,

In this webtext, Hewett and Ehmann Powers contend argue that, like students, educators need acculturative and supportive training in online writing instruction (OWI). In particular, they need time and space for supportive professional development and mentoring. The authors review the available literature surrounding online training and professional development, and they discuss the five training principles first articulated in Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction: Principles and Processes--(1) investigation, (2) immersion, (3) individualization, (4) association, and (5) reflection--breaking them down to constituent parts and offering example scenarios. Their dual focus is on practical strategies of implementing the five principles and offering untapped areas of research into the strategies. They end the webtext with a call for program administrators and online instructors to dialogue more fully about their experiences and join together “to articulate, define, and theorize online training processes for both writing instructors and other educators.”

Keywords: writing program administration, faculty development, research

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15

Hewett, Beth L., and Robert Lynn. “Training ESOL Instructors and Tutors for Online Conferencing.” The Writing Instructor, Sept. 2007,

Using published literature to make the case that multilingual students need more support and intervention than may be common in contemporary tutoring practices, Hewett and Lynn argue that instructors who conduct one-to-one, online conferencing with multilingual students (ESOL) can experience particular challenges that require them to approach the students differently from what they would do with native English speakers. Particularly because online interactions have qualities of both talk and text, multilingual students may need different strategies that online instructors (both teachers and tutors) should receive in training. They suggest that training should be considered in terms of modality (asynchronicity and synchronicity) rather than one of selecting and using particular technologies. Hewett and Lynn offer example ESOL case studies to exemplify ten training points.  They additionally provide two ESOL examples in the appendixes. The ten strategies are 1) know how to give face, 2) sell yourself as an instructor, 3) make an art of clockwatching, 4) find out what the student wants, 5) learn how to talk to a particular student, 6) know what you’re talking about, 7) contexualize the conference, 8) use clear language, 9) proofread, and 10) teach by doing.

Keywords: ELL, ESL, multilingual writers, L2, asynchronous interaction, synchronous interaction, tutor training, tutoring: english, instructor interaction, faculty development, teaching with technology: English

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 7, 14

Inman, James and Donna Sewell, editors. Taking Flight with OWLs: Examining Electronic Writing Center Work. Routledge, 2000.

Inman and Sewell collect a variety of essays that take various positions on the development of the Online Writing Lab, both theoretically and practically. These essays explore the development of an OWL, discussing the theoretical groundings and institutional needs required for a successful OWL. The research then explores the ways OWLs maintain and diverge from analog writing center pedagogy. Some researchers argue that OWLs diverge from writing center pedagogy, failing to create dialogic models for their students, and as such, encourage readers to reexamine OWL practices to greater reflect accepted pedagogy and theory. Other researchers, however, see OWLs as an opportunity to expand and adapt pedagogy to the need for students to be technologically proficient and skilled writers in a digital age. Both groups, however, believe that as technology changes, the role of the writing center within the university should continuously evolve, establishing itself as part of the learning community, especially in the technological age.

Keywords: online writing labs, writing center, theory, online tutoring, praxis, community

OWI Principles 1, 3, 13, 14, 15

Inman, James A., and Clinton Gardner, editors. OWL Construction and Maintenance Guide. International Writing Centers Association P, 2002, CD-ROM,

This guide discusses the many factors that must be addressed in OWL construction and maintenance. The guide explores the “Contemporary OWL” by providing histories of predominant OWLs as well as examining a variety of other OWLs, including those at smaller schools. This examination looks at OWLs’ effectiveness through their web interfaces and self-reported data. In the construction and maintenance sections, articles provide the reader with a guide to OWL development. The articles provide ideologies and approaches to consider when beginning or continuing the work of an OWL. These sections discuss data collection, institutional support, and training, among other topics. The guide offers many positions, so readers develop their own theoretical framework for the OWL based on scholarly engagements. Each section also includes a summative checklist that readers can use to plan and evaluate their OWLs. The guide concludes with an annotated bibliography for additional readings helpful for OWL construction and maintenance.

Keywords: online writing lab, online writing center, research, administration, assessment

OWI Principles 1, 13, 14

Jacobs, Geert, et al. “A Multilanguage Online Writing Center for Professional Communication: Development and Testing.” Business Communication Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 1, 2005, pp. 8–22.

Geert Jacobs, Liesbeth Opdenacker, and Luuk Van Waes describe the Calliope Online Writing Center at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. The authors detail how Calliope is constructed around social-constructivist, problem-based learning that “combines learner-guided learning and system-guided learning” (9). Calliope allows users to follow a less-linear process in dealing with the inherently recursive nature of writing. In a preliminary assessment of student self-efficacy after using Calliope, Jacobs et al. found that Calliope was effective on twenty-six separate measures of self-efficacy on post tests. They also found that peer feedback in Calliope showed a “relation between the level of confidence and the quality of the feedback” (17) and that learners made more comments and felt more knowledgeable in those comments “(18). The authors indicate that they are encouraged by these preliminary assessments and will continue development of the project.

Keywords: feedback, teaching with technology: English, online writing center, constructivism, research

OWI Principles: 1, 13, 14, 15

Johanek, Cindy, and Rebecca Rickly. “Online Tutor Training: Synchronous Conferencing in a Professional Community.” Computers and Composition, vol. 12, no. 2, 1995, pp. 237-46.

Johanek and Rickly argue that, while scholars have paid significant attention in the field of computers and composition as of the mid-90s, not much work had been done on the relationship between computers and writing centers, in particular, synchronous online conferencing in writing centers. In particular, the authors review the scholarship behind and their use of Daedalus Interchange (a part of the Daedalus Integrated Writing System) and the Ball State University Writing Center. The article first reviews the Daedalus Interchange, then describes how this product is used in this particular context. They then reviewed four transcripts from the writing center staff from Fall 1993 and Spring 1994. They point out several benefits of using synchronous online conferencing for peer tutor training,  including 1) a willingness for tutors to challenge each other's’ ideas, 2) tutors speak more frequently in the synchronous online conference, 3) and the ability to share experiences and archive those sessions for use with future tutors. Johanek and Rickly also conducted a survey of tutors using Daedalus and found the responses to be favorable. The article ends calling for more writing centers to consider synchronous tutor training, not only because of the previously-listed benefits but also to assist tutors who need to become comfortable using online tools in the classroom.

Keywords: writing centers, online writing centers, synchronous interaction, Daedalus, tutoring: English, online tutoring, tutor training

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Johnson, J. Paul. “Writing Spaces: Technoprovocateurs and OWLs in the Late Age of Print.” Kairos, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 1996,

This short hypertext document provides an overview of the primary OWLs that were available online at the turn of the 21st century. While the article is dated and not all of the hyperlinks go to active pages, the article provides an overview and basic theoretical structure for the movement of OWLs from a focus on print-text-only medium or an online space that points to a physical campus location to what Johnson (through Eric Crump) calls “technoprovocateurs,” or “a writing space ‘where quietly subversive activity can emerge.’” Johnson notes that more of the OWLs he outlines fall into the former rather than the latter categories. However, he does nod to the fact that these OWLs embody Bolter’s concept of the “late age of print” in that they are remediations of more traditional writing center spaces that are solely focused on print. This hypertext provides a description of several early OWLs and, while not all of them exist in the form they were at the time of publication, provides insight to scholars researching the history of OWLs in terms of concerns that scholars and researchers voiced as the OWL moved from the 20th to the 21st century.

Keywords: online writing labs, research, hypertext

OWI Principles: 13, 14, 15

Jones, Rodney H., et al. “Interactional Dynamics in On-Line and Face-to-Face Peer-Tutoring Sessions for Second Language Writers.” Journal of Second Language Writing, vol. 15, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1-23.

Rodney Jones, Angel Garralda, Davis C.S. Li, and Graham Lock examine two types of peer-tutoring and compare online tutoring interactions with face-to-face tutoring interactions. Using Halliday’s functional-semantic view of dialogue, the logs of online tutoring sessions were coded and compared with those from face-to-face interactions. The results showed that online tutoring fostered greater participation on the part of the student being tutored, while face-to-face interaction tended to result in hierarchical structures of communication controlled predominantly by the tutor.

Keywords: online tutoring, qualitative research, tutor training, online writing centers

OWI Principles: 1, 13, 14, 15

Kargozari, Hamid R., and Hamed Ghaemi. “Web-based Writing Instruction and Enhancing EFL Learners’ Writing Quality.” Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, vol. 12, no. 3, 2011, pp. 36-45. Education Research Complete,

This study questions the role of technology on students’ writing skills. Specifically, the authors ask whether technology incorporated in traditional face-to-face courses significantly improves the writing skills of EFL learners. The authors compared student test results from two classes that used the same textbook and assignments. However, the experimental class provided students with a supplemental website where students could interact and discuss concepts via asynchronous forums. The instructor also aided students in the technological component of the course, offering extra credit to students if they used the online course platform to communicate and create written assignments. Students in both classes took an essay test at the end of the course, and based on holistic scoring, the authors determined that the experimental class outperformed the traditional class. As such, the authors suggest using web-based instruction to improve the writing skills of EFL learners and assert that EFL trainers should be trained to use online instructional tools to effectively teach EFL students, providing sample training materials.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, ELL, multilingual writers, online tutors, asynchronous interaction, empirical research, quantitative research, teaching with technology: English

OWI Principles: 1, 7, 14, 15

Kavadlo, Jesse. “The Message is the Medium: Electronically Helping Writing Tutors Help Electronically.” Praxis, vol. 10, no. 2, 2013,

Kavaldo addresses the general skepticism she sees in the field concerning online writing centers by presenting the way she trains her tutors to approach online tutoring. She identifies both dangers and advantages of online asynchronous tutoring over face-to-face tutoring. On the one hand tutors may have difficulty connecting with students when only the writing is present. On the other hand, the tutors can take time crafting their responses and thus focus their remarks on larger purposes rather than on any and all problems that may arise during an initial reading. She then presents one tutor training methods, beginning their training with a template for responding to student writing asynchronously that helps them avoid its dangers and capitalize on its advantages. From there, her tutors practice responding effectively to student writing, and Kavaldo tutors her tutors electronically, responding to their work using the same medium to enable greater reflection and thus improvement. To illustrate this, she presents and discusses one tutor’s work over a year, along with her own responses, which show continued growth and development. She concludes by noting she is a “cautious convert” to the idea of online writing centers.

Keywords: online writing center, tutor training, asynchronous interaction, reflection, online tutoring

OWI principles: 14

Kimball, Sara. “Cybertext/Cyberspeech: Writing Centers and Online Magic.” Writing Center Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 1997, pp. 30-48.

Kimball details how she used a MUD, in an online writing lab (OWL). Because of the nature of writing in a synchronous environment, she addresses how a conversation and what she calls the “magic” identity in online spaces can lead to online anonymity. The article argues that online communicating online can assist student writers and can give writing centers chances to engage with their constituencies in new ways. The article ends with a call for study of online mediums for online writing labs, including how identity is constructed in OWL environments and the promises of how these environments help students through anonymity.

Keywords: MUD, online writing lab, synchronous interaction, identity

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Langston, Camille. “Resistance and Control: The Complex Process of Creating an OWL.” Kairos, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 1996,

Langston’s hypertext gives a concrete example of the struggle for control of OWLs at a university in the late 1990s. While Langston assumed that putting resources into an OWL would be the biggest challenge in starting an OWL for commuter and non-traditional students at Texas Women’s University, she soon found that because the office of Academic Computing controlled the websites, she had to adjust how the question and answer discussion-list component of the OWL operated. Her example provides a glimpse into the institutional struggles one OWL faced in creating an early OWL. This hypertext is dated and contains several broken links (including the link to the original Texas Women’s OWL) but provides insight to scholars researching the history of OWLs in terms of concerns that scholars and researchers voiced as the OWL moved from the 20th to the 21st century.

Keywords: online writing labs, hypertext, administration, non-traditional students

OWI Principles: 13, 14

Martinez, Diane, and Leslie Olsen. “Online Writing Labs.” Foundational Practices of Online Writing Instruction, edited by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, WAC Clearinghouse, 2015, pp. 183-210.

Martinez and Olsen offer a comprehensive overview of OWL services, offering advice on accessibility infrastructure, function and pedagogy of services, and the essentialness of tutor training. This article emphasizes the idea that OWI must be supported by corresponding OWL services, concluding that all services and resources must be accessible to all students to insure inclusivity and that all services should be provided by highly qualified and well-trained online tutors who understand the specifics of online tutoring services. Faculty training is another key component of success for OWL services and support. This article supports OWI by insisting that OWI be accompanied by online support services.

Keywords: online writing lab, accessibility, inclusive, tutor training, synchronous interaction, tutor training, online tutoring, online resources

OWI Principle:  1, 7, 13, 14

Moberg, Eric. “The College Writing Center: Best Practices, Best Technologies." ERIC, 7 Mar. 2010,

Moberg describes the key attributes that make writing centers successful, whether they are on-ground or online. The article highlights the importance of having a mission of lifelong learning; the necessity of well-trained tutors, organized services, and clearly defined leadership; and the benefits of technology. Moberg describes on-ground and online tutoring as fundamentally the same, the latter emerging to grant students greater access to services. Student-centered tutoring methods such as collaboration and modeling support adult, college-level learners. In the discussion about technology and in the section on Online Writing Labs that follows, Moberg explains how technology has improved the student learning experience with greater access to scholarly sources, making research easier and encouraging writing as a process. Tutors can also work with students at a distance using online tutoring rooms such as Adobe Connect. Institutions benefit by having fewer overhead expenses as tutors work from home. Even with these benefits, Moberg’s main point is clear. Technology is not more important than the quality of instruction.

Keywords: writing center, online tutoring, educational technology, best practices, technology, teaching with technology: English, student success, online resources, research writing

OWI Principles: 2, 13, 14

Neaderhiser, Stephen, and Joanna Wolfe. “Between Technological Endorsement and Resistance: The State of Online Writing Centers.” The Writing Center Journal, vol. 29, no. 1, 2009, pp. 49-77.

Starting with identifying the various definitions of the term “online writing lab” (OWL) and discussing the types of online services often provided in these spaces, this article lays a foundation for past and current practices of OWLs. The authors identify each type of service, explain the type of technology needed for each service, and explain the benefits as well as potential problems of certain technological services. The authors then discuss the results of a 2006 survey conducted by The Writing Centers Research Project that included 1,286 respondents from the US and Canada. The results conclude that the creation of OWLs  is increasing across institutions. However, the infrastructure of the OWL is sometimes expensive and not often supported by institutional funding. For some centers, this financial challenge has led to outsourcing online services to companies such as Smarthinking. The findings also concluded that 90% of OWLs still rely most heavily on asynchronous or email based services despite the advancement of synchronous online communication applications and that research institutions were more likely to try new technologies for an online writing conference.

Keywords: online writing lab, asynchronous interaction, writing center, technology, research, surveys, qualitative research

OWI Principle:  13, 14, 15

Olsen, Leslie.  “A Genre of its Own: Training Tutors for Asynchronous Online Conferencing.” 2002. Unpublished MS. Department of English, University of Washington.

The author shows online tutoring as its own distinct genre in need of its own practices in order to fully support asynchronous online tutoring as a beneficial educational endeavor. This study uses both qualitative and quantitative data to trace improvement in peer tutor responses to asynchronous paper reviews after instituting a two phase tutor training program.  As part of the training, peer tutors utilized a two tutor written response method modeled after a business SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis called a SNO (strengths, needs, opportunities) response.  By implementing incremental changes over time with the two phases, tutors improved their response methods. After training, tutors began focusing on qualitative explanations to students and stopped editing student papers.  The online spaces became a valuable as a result of the established feedback model. This early study of online writing center practices supports OWI studies idea of the importance of training to establish value and best practices for quality online student learning.

Keywords: writing center, online writing center, asynchronous interaction, online tutoring, tutoring training, genre

OWI Principle 14


Palmquist, Michael, et al. “Network Support for Writing Across the Curriculum: Developing an Online Writing Center.” Computers and Composition, vol. 12, no. 3, 1995, pp. 335-53.

Michael Palmquist, Dawn Rodrigues, Kate Kiefer, and Donald Zimmerman review their previous research on writing across the curriculum (WAC) efforts and argue that “computer-network technologies make it possible to consider an alternative to the indirect, top-down pedagogy used in most WAC programs” (335). By expanding the audience considered in WAC programs to not only faculty but also students themselves, Palmquist et al. insist that an integrated model of teaching, including team-teaching and content and writing specialists is the soundest model for WAC programs. However, because many campuses lack funding for such a robust WAC model, the article recommends instead centering the initiative in an online writing center (OWC). They then outline the process of developing their “network-supported writing-center-based WAC program” (340). They developed modular media courseware that was accessible by students using the Asymetrix Multimedia Toolbox 3.0 (344). In addition, they developed reference programs and tutorials to assist writers working at multiple stages of the writing process. Palmquist et al. conclude with a list of benefits and challenges to their model, and they encourage others seeking to implement this approach to begin with campus-wide conversations about the importance of writing at each individual campus.

Keywords: WAC, online writing center, research, literature review

OWI Principles: 13, 14, 15

Reiss, Donna, and Art Young. “WAC Wired: Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum.” WAC for the New Millennium: Strategies for Continuing Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Programs, editors Susan H. McLeod, Eric Miraglia, Margot Soven, and Christopher Thaiss, WAC Clearinghouse, 2011, pp. 52-85,

Reiss and Young start their article by coining the term ECAC—or “Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum”—as “another approach to literacy, communication, collaboration, and community outreach for educational programs and institutions” (53). They provide a history of departments across the curriculum that are actively using computers and digital spaces to supplement and enhance their writing and communication instruction. They do so with three goals in mind: “1) an increase in information technology to support the activities of WAC/CAC programs, 2) an increase in alliances between instructional technology programs and WAC/CAC programs, and 3) additional emphasis on communication-intensive uses of technology, or ECAC, among teachers and institutions that emphasize active learning and the development of communication competence in all their students” (56). The history that the authors detail spans four decades from keyboarding classes in the 1970s to the fully-online classes of the 2000s. In particular, they focus on classes, instructors, and programs that use digital technologies to improve the writing-to-learn focus of classes across the curriculum. Reiss and Young also briefly recount the background of online collaboration and teaching and learning centers that have a focus on ECAC. They end with a section that predicts increased use of e-portfolios, an increase in the use of computer technologies to teach and to learn, and warnings about the possibility of unequal access to high powered computers and networks and challenges to faculty seeking tenure and promotion and job security as they teach in digital spaces. This article provides an important historical perspective on work in WAC and WID disciplines and identifies challenges and opportunities that may or may not have come to pass as writing and communication classes in the disciplines move fully online.

Keywords: WAC, WID, collaboration, faculty development, writing-to-learn, portfolios, instructional technology

OWI Principles: 1, 3, 4, 6, 14

Rubin, Lois. “‘I Just Think Maybe You Could . . .’: Peer Critiquing through Online Conversations.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, vol. 29, no. 4, 2002, pp. 382-92.

Rubin points to then-recent studies that demonstrate the benefits of peer review, including peer review using computers, to argue for why she prefers her students to do computer-mediated peer-review. She finds that peer-review done online lead to longer, more conversational, more robust commentary. The article outlines the various politeness techniques that her students used and the language that demonstrated that they believed themselves to be part of a group. Student surveys indicated that a majority of students in her three classes gave positive evaluations of computer-mediated critiquing. They indicated that the increased distance between themselves and the students they were critiquing helped them to focus on responding to the text and kept them from venturing into “off topic” conversations (389). Overall, Rubin concludes that the online critiques were “lively and personable” in contrast to the flat marginal comments of hand-written peer review.  

Keywords: peer review, computer-mediated communication, feedback, surveys, qualitative research

OWI principle: 11, 13, 14, 15

Sidler, Michelle, et al. Computers in the Composition Classroom: A Critical Sourcebook, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

Michelle Sidler, Richard Morris, and Elizabeth Overman Smith bring together research surrounding the use of computers in the composition classroom. The book is divided into six sections: 1) the earliest theoretical frameworks for the field of computers and writing; 2) literacy and access; 3) writers and identity; 4) writers and composing; 5) institutional programs; and 6) upcoming “New-Media” multimedia composition writing and pedagogies. The text, available free to educators through the publisher, is a potentially valuable collection that will assist with program development and teacher training regarding OWI.

Keywords: literacy, accessibility, multimedia

OWI Principles:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14

Simpson, Katherine. “Collaboration and Critical Thinking in Online English Courses.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, vol. 33, no. 4, 2006, pp. 421-29.

Simpson details her efforts with piloting an “online peer-tutoring program that included synchronous… and asynchronous discussion” (421). She encouraged the tutors to facilitate their own discussions, to coach students through the drafting process, and to act as guides for students in the learning process. She demonstrated success with the program in a number of ways, including student testimony, increased numbers of students completing the tutor training, and positive responses from students in regards to their confidence. She then reviews how she implemented an embedded tutor structure in her online first-year writing courses. She encouraged tutors and students to connect synchronously through a school resource called “Tapped In,” which students and tutors seemed willing to learn in order to connect with each other. Simpson provides examples of chat transcripts to demonstrate how students were able to work to develop critical thinking and research skills with the help of the embedded tutors. The article ends with Simpson encouraging other instructors to employ synchronous chat in their classes with the help of tutors when possible.

Keywords: online tutoring, discussion: English, writing process, tutor training, synchronous interaction, critical thinking: English, research writing, embedded tutors, two-year colleges

OWI Principles:  3, 11, 14

St. Amant, Kirk, and Rich Rice. “Online Writing in Global Contexts: Rethinking the Nature of Connections and Communication in the Age of International Online Media.” Computers and Composition, vol. 38, no. B, 2015, pp. v-x.

St.Amant and Rice note online media require writing instructors to re-think the notion of audience as a topic now inherently global in nature.  They also explain how current metaphors used to conceptualize and discuss this context often prevent instructors and students from understanding the complexities that can affect composing practices in international cyberspace.  St.Amant and Rice go on to argue the key to negotiating such factors involves identifying those areas – or friction points – that can affect how online compositions are accessed, read, considered, and used.  Some of these factors are connected to aspects of technology, others to geopolitics, and still others to cultural differences in rhetorical preferences and expectations.  Identifying such friction points, for St.Amant and Rice, is a matter of approaching online writing in international contexts as a three-part process they refer to as the “3Cs.”  The first of these Cs – contacting – focuses on how individuals use online media to access audiences in other cultures.  The second C – conveying – looks at the rhetorical strategies writers use to present ideas in ways that grab and hold the attention of readers from other cultures.  The third C – connecting – casts the writing process as one that should foster international dialogue by teaching students to compose in ways that encourage international readers to respond in writing to engage in broader discussions of a topic.  St.Amant and Rice conclude by noting the 3Cs approach can help instructors and students identify and address friction points in a way that can lead to more successful methods for teaching writing online in international contexts.

Keywords: course and program design: English, student engagement, student satisfaction, accessibility, interaction

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 14

St.Amant, Kirk, and Filipp Sapienza. Culture, Communication, and Cyberspace: Rethinking Technical Communication for International Online Environments.  Baywoood 2011.

This edited collection examines how aspects of culture and language affect online interactions at a time when the Internet was becoming increasingly international in scope as more nations and regions of the world were gaining online access.  Central to the entries in the collection is the issue of online education and the implications culture and language have for how conventional approaches to teaching writing in online education should (or need to) adapt to and evolve in relation  to this new global environment.  Within this context, chapters examine aspects such as how culture affects perceptions and uses of information systems, how cultural aspects influence attitudes toward online education, and how linguistic factors shape approaches individuals can use to engage in online educational settings.  In so doing, the overall volume bridges gaps between the research done in computer-mediated communication and in intercultural communication through a focus on educational practices associated with writing and communication.

Keywords: technical and professional writing, instructional design, student satisfaction, accessibility, interaction

OWI Principles: 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 14

Sullivan, Patrick. “Using the Internet to Teach Composition.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, vol. 28, no. 1, 2000, pp. 21-31.

Sullivan argues that using online discussion forums in computer-networked classrooms benefits the classroom in a number of ways, including “increasing student input, encouraging class discussion, and creating a collaborative learning environment” (21). The article outlines Sullivan’s process of designing his course and provides some sample questions and student replies to demonstrate the depth of discussion in those classes. The article argues that using discussion boards works because more students are encouraged to participate in discussion, students who are not naturally shy are not at a disadvantage, and the social dynamic of the class shifts as students are “free to eliminate or ignore many of the social/hierarchical cues that mark traditional exchanges” (25). Additional benefits include the writing-intensive nature of these discussions, the way the discussions prepare students for real-world online exchanges in the workplace, and how discussions encourage students to use their best writing. Sullivan ends by cautioning that the online discussions do not make teaching easier because they require skillful moderation and instructor presence. However, this additional work on the part of the instructor is worth the effort as student discussions are much richer.

Keywords: computer-mediated classrooms, networked classrooms, discussion: English, student engagement, discussion boards, composition, instructor interaction, time management

OWI Principles:  3, 4, 11, 13, 14

Tai, Hung-Cheng, Mei-Yu Pan, and Bih-O Lee. “Applying Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) Model to Develop an Online English Writing Course for Nursing Students.” Nurse Education Today, vol. 35, no. 6, 2015, pp. 782-88.

This article focuses on a study that implemented the Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) model in an online English writing course for nursing students. The study sought “1) to assess the effectiveness of the TPACK model based writing training program contributing to learners' learning outcomes; 2) to investigate the learners' perceptions and satisfactions about the TPACK model based writing training program; and 3) to explore the teacher's reflections about the TPACK model based writing training program” (783). The study was a single-group experimental study, utilizing the National College Entrance Examination Center (CEEC) writing grading criteria and a self-designed course satisfaction questionnaire. . . . collected at the end of the course” (783). The results demonstrated that the TPACK model was successful in raising students’ test scores, although they did not like the increased pressure of peer tutoring and other activities that occurred outside of the traditional classroom. In particular, they wanted to receive feedback directly from the instructor rather than from peers or a learning program.  Though several challenges became apparent during the course semester, Tai advises that the TPACK model should be seriously considered when developing a class for language learners.

Keywords:  WID, course design, learning outcomes, reflection, peer review, feedback, instructor interaction, qualitative research, surveys, empirical research

OWI Principles:  3, 4, 14, 15

Thiel, Teresa. Report on Online Tutoring Services. University of Missouri-St. Louis, 2010,

Theil analyzes and evaluates two online, commercial tutoring services, NetTutor and Smarthinking, for undergraduate-level courses and recommends that the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) adopt NetTutor to provide online tutoring services for online courses. In evaluating the two services, Theil measured the quality and efficacy of tutoring, the ease of access and integration with the university’s LMS (Blackboard), the breadth of subjects offered, satisfaction of current users, and value. Ultimately, NetTutor was deemed the best because its quality of tutoring was slightly higher than Smarthinking, possibly because its tutors work from a central location with resources and supervision. Of particular interest to OWI instructors are the reasons that Theil recommends commercial alternatives to in-house writing centers: cost effectiveness and quality. Based on a recent comparison of tutoring quality between the USML Writing Lab and Smarthinking, the English department is “reconsidering whether” offering in-house online tutoring “is a good idea” (19). Theil notes that providing quality in-house online tutoring services “would require a dedicated staff to find, train, and monitor the tutors,” thereby increasing costs (19). She believes that the USML Writing Lab should continue offering onsite services and be supplemented with NetTutor to meet the needs of different student populations.

Keywords: online tutoring, tutor training, accessibility, online writing centers, administration

OWI Principles: 1, 6, 13, 14

Thomas, Sharon, et al. “Toward a Critical Theory of Technology and Writing.” Writing Center Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 1998, pp. 73-86.

Sharon Thomas, Danielle DeVoss, and Mark Hara argue for bringing a critical theory of technology, one that acknowledges the cultural impact of the technology, into writing center practices. They note the tension in conflicting claims about the nature of online consulting. Some claim that online tutoring is radically different from traditional tutoring. Others claim that online tutoring is not much different if used well. The authors see the first claim as an instrumental theoretical approach and the second claim as a substantive approach. They describe their work based from the writing center to help teachers and students use technology to continue classroom-based discussions, to conduct Internet-based research, and to publish writing on the Web. This early text on online tutoring demonstrates the early, polarizing issues related with online writing instruction and online tutoring.

Keywords: online tutoring, theory, online writing center

OWI Principles:  3, 11, 14

Thompson, Gene. “Moving Online: Changing the Focus of a Writing Center.” SiSAL Journal, vol. 5, no. 2, 2014, pp. 127-42.

To address the limitations of a small departmental writing center in Japan, Thompson uses survey data to identify and accommodate student needs. Thompson explains that the dialogic, process-oriented tutor sessions common to North American writing centers frequently did not match the expectations of students who often came to the writing center with straightforward questions about assignment guidelines, grammar, or citations. Moreover, due to budgetary and space constraints, the writing center was only open on a walk-in basis for about six hours a week. The few students who came to the center usually did so all at once, forcing the center to turn many students away. To remedy this situation, two changes were made: the introduction of an online reservation system and the creation of an online resource lab for handouts and references. After one semester, students were surveyed to determine the efficacy of the changes. The results indicated that of the students who used the writing center, most accessed the online resources instead of coming in for a face-to-face session. Based on these findings, tutor sessions were suspended, and more materials were added to the online resource lab. A subsequent survey indicated that over 90% of the students surveyed found the online resources useful. Thompson proposes that tutor sessions be reincorporated in the third stage of this study, but only online, through the institution’s new LMS. Ultimately, Thompson argues that user-focused data is needed when determining how best to meet students’ needs. While this is a small, context-specific study, it provides a simple yet effective model for OWI instructors and administrators interested in evaluating and improving their own classes and programs.

Keywords: writing center, online writing lab, surveys, grammar & style, surveys, research, online resources, course management system, qualitative research, evaluation

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 13, 14, 15

Thompson, Riki, and Meredith J. Lee. “Talking with Students through Screencasting: Experimentations with Video Feedback to Improve Student Learning.” The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, no. 1,  2012,

In this article, Thompson and Lee explore the benefits of using screencasting software to deliver audio-visual feedback to students on written assignments. After briefly discussing how screencasting is used in the classroom for supplemental teaching, she explains the small study she and Lee conducted to survey students (n=32) regarding screencasting as a response medium. While the students were mostly positive about the screencast feedback, Thompson cautions that additional studies are necessary before drawing generalized conclusions on the effectiveness of screencasting with regard to improved learning and greater student engagement. However, the methods that Thompson and Lee outline for providing feedback are helpful for those considering providing screencast feedback or studying the efficacy of that feedback in their own classes.

Keywords: audio, feedback, video: English, assessment, research, qualitative research

OWI Principles:  3, 4, 11, 12, 14, 15

Van Waes, Luuk, Daphne van Weijen, and Mariëlle Leijten. “Learning to Write in an Online Writing Center: The Effect of Learning Styles on the Writing Process.” Computers and Education, vol. 73, 2014, pp. 60-71.

Van Waes, van Weihen, and Leijten investigate the extent to which different learning styles affect students’ writing process and the quality of student writing. The authors designed a study in which twenty undergraduate students completed a writing task—writing a “bad news letter”—which they did by completing an online module comprised of three main sections: theory, practice exercises, and a “case section” for the writing task itself.  The module was designed in such a way that students could interact with the sections in any order they liked. The authors collected and analyzed data that recorded which module pages the students clicked, how long students stayed on a page, and how long students took to draft and revise the writing task. The authors found that reflective learners (divergers and assimilators, in Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory) viewed more pages of the module, switched tasks more frequently, and took longer to complete the task than the active learners (accommodators and convergers). The authors found no significant differences between active and reflective learners in the quality of the text produced. Perhaps the most useful finding is that all students spent time referencing the theory section as they were completing the writing task, indicating that writing is not a linear process, especially in digital environments. The authors recommend that OWI instructors build “flexible learning paths” into their courses to accommodate students with different learning styles.  

Keywords: learning styles, writing process, modules, adaptive learning, revision, reflection, research, quantitative research,

OWI Principles: 3, 4, 14, 15

Writing in Digital Environments Research Center Collective. “Why Teach Digital Writing?” Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy, vol. 10, no. 1, 2005,

The Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center Collective, working under the premise that “networked computers create a new kind of writing space that changes the writing process and the basic rhetorical dynamic between writers and readers,” addresses the need to teach writing digitally in digital spaces. They assert that 1) traditional print-based rhetorical theory is not adequate for digital rhetoric, 2) teaching writing responsibly or effectively in traditional classrooms is not possible, and 3) we must shift our approaches to accommodate writing instruction in digitally mediated spaces. The uniqueness of this webtext resides in its multidimensional approach to responding to the question asked by the title, and in that it argues with the primary intention of assisting educators in responding to this question in their own institutional settings. This webtext provides answers for OWI practitioners and administrators who question why they would or should teach digital writing.

Keywords: digital literacy, computer-mediated communication, hypertext

OWI Principles:  3, 4, 6, 12, 14

Yeh, Hui-Chin, and Yu-Fen Yang. “Prospective Teachers’ Insights Towards Scaffolding Students’ Writing Processes Through Teacher-Student Role Reversal in an Online System.” Education Tech Research and Development, vol. 59, no. 3, 2011, pp. 351-68.

In this research article, Yeh and Yang discuss the methodology and findings of a study conducted to investigate the effects of student-teacher role reversal in a computer-supported environment. Yeh and Yang postulate that prospective teachers benefit from taking on the student roles of writer, editor, and commentator; however, few empirical studies have been conducted on the subject. By using an online interface, the study is able to systematically record each step in the role-reversal experience, which allows researchers and teachers to evaluate and reflect on the writing texts and action logs produced. In addition to the semester-long online portion of the study, data was also collected from an open-ended questionnaire and follow-up survey. The researchers conclude that role reversal is an integral part of teacher training which allows future instructors to better understand students’ learning difficulties and appropriately adapt the learning curriculum and teaching methods to meet the students’ needs. The article does note a handful of changes to the online system interface that would better facilitate future role-reversal experiments. Yeh and Yang conclude by stating that the effect of role reversal in different teaching environments (online or face-to-face) would need to be explored in a future study.

Keywords:  assessment, flipped classroom, computer-mediated classroom, surveys, instructor interaction, mixed methods, qualitative research quantitative research

OWI Principles:  4, 7, 11, 14, 15