Introduction to the Bedford Bibliography of Research in Online Writing Instruction

Document created by Heidi Skurat Harris on Nov 17, 2016Last modified by Heidi Skurat Harris on Mar 1, 2017
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Heidi Harris, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Mahli Mechenbier, Kent State University: Geauga

Sushil Oswal, University of Washington-Tacoma

Natalie Stillman-Webb, University of Utah



In April 2013, the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Committee for Best Practices in Online Writing Instruction released the Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices in Online Writing Instruction. This position statement details fifteen principles of effective online writing instruction under five main categories: Accessibility, Instructional Principles, Faculty Principles, Institutional Principles, and Research and Exploration. Principle 15 of the Position Statement challenges “OWI & OWL administrators and teachers/tutors [to] be committed to ongoing research into their programs and courses as well as the very principles in this document.”  In so doing, the statement interlinks teaching, research, and administrative activities allowing for the coordinated, parallel development of  pedagogical approaches in a way that reflects both the current state of research in the field and the specific contexts in which ideas are applied.


The Principles Statement is part of a rich history of scholarly work in online writing instruction. In 2001, Computers and Composition published Susan Miller’s review of research in distance education. Entitled “Distance Education: Promises and Perils of Teaching and Learning Online,” Miller called for the field of composition studies to do two things:

  • First, conduct more research on distance education in writing instruction, and
  • Second, for scholars in composition studies to explore how writing instruction is discussed in venues and disciplines outside of Computers and Composition.


Fourteen years after the special edition of Computers and Composition, Christa Ehmann and Beth Hewett echoed the call for “examining and highlighting the crucial need for a deeper understanding of OWI” and offered “suggestions for developing a rigorous framework of investigation when engaging in OWI” (“OWI Research Considerations,” 517). In so doing, the two prompted both a re-examination of the overall topic and called our collective attention to the specifics of what factors can affect writing pedagogy in online spaces.  Both of these factors are echoed in the final chapter of Foundational Practices in Online Writing Instruction titled “The Future of OWI,” where Beth Hewett and Scott Warnock compiled a list of elements of “Good OWI,” including “Good OWI Includes Cataloging the House of Lore” and “Good OWI Means Re-Framing Writing Research and Assessment”. Such works have echoed a call to revisit, review, and – often – revise how we approach our perspectives on and approaches to the teaching of writing in online contexts.


This bibliography answers these calls by attempting to catalog and promote publications in and related to online writing instruction from 1990 to 2015. The former date was the earliest date reflected in the bibliography, and the latter date was selected so that the bibliography would have a definite end point. Within the context of the ideas discussed here, this collection advances scholarship in online writing instruction in three ways. First, this bibliography collects in one digital, searchable format twenty-five years of publications in online writing instruction to assist researchers, teachers, and scholars as they design future research in OWI. Second, it challenges researchers, teachers, and scholars to strengthen this foundational research and answer the questions that arise, conducting new research that mortars these bricks together and builds a stronger understanding of effective online writing education.


Finally, this bibliography, we hope, will serve as a central location to continue discussions about OWI that have already started in classrooms, on campuses, at national conventions, and in various online forums. In short, we see this bibliography as a foundational tool and central resource others in the field can use for developing a framework for expanding research and cataloging “The House of Lore” in OWI. The digital nature of this document allows users to comment and to recommend additional sources. As such, it both is online writing and encourages the kinds of online writing practices its entries describe and advocate. We hope this bibliography will be updated and revised to build on this work as new research is published, creating a central location for collecting relevant research and publications to document the history of online writing instruction for future generations.


What the OWI Bibliography Is and What it Is Not

Deciding what a bibliography about online writing instruction should include began with deciding how to define “online writing instruction.” The term has meant anything from computer-mediated instruction (that happens primarily in face-to-face settings) to hybrid or blended instruction (that takes place partially face-to-face and partially online) to fully-online writing instruction (whether asynchronous, synchronous, or both).


In compiling this bibliography, we used the definition of OWI proposed by Beth Hewett in the "Grounding Principles of OWI,” the first chapter of the Foundational Practices in Online Writing Instruction collection:


OWI occurs by using computer technology to learn writing from a teacher, tutor, or other students and by using it to communicate about that writing, share writing for learning purposes, and to present writing for course completion purposes. Being online can mean working at a geographic distance or even in an onsite computer lab using technology that enables the learning about and sharing of writing; in essence, the computer technology facilitates the communication about writing, often through an LMS (36). [italics hers, bold ours]


We selected this definition of OWI as the focus for this project as it rests on the principle that, for a class or tutoring session to be considered “online,” the faculty or tutor and students communicate about how to produce or revise writing at a distance. We acknowledge that online writing instruction overlap is also informed by research on online instruction (construed more broadly), writing instruction in general, and computer-mediated instruction (or instruction in networked classrooms). The sources in this bibliography are, as much as possible, those that rest at the intersection of these three concepts, the heart of the diagram below (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Intersection of Concepts “Online,” “Writing,” and “Instruction”

This diagram represents, at its heart, the ideal for this project. We sought to compile first and foremost any publications that directly related to online writing instruction, supplementing where necessary with articles at the intersections of the other elements (such as in online instruction or online writing).


However, for some elements of this OWI Bibliography, the team compiling the resources and writing initial draft annotations cast the net even wider in order to find publications that filled in gaps in the literature on OWI. A good example of such an instance is related to Online Writing Instruction Principle 1: “Online writing instruction should be universally inclusive and accessible.”  While this bibliography contains a number of  articles that are specific to accessibility and disability studies in online writing instruction, the scholars who developed the list of sources and annotated those sources at times included articles adjacent to the field of online writing instruction (i.e., government and agency sources on accommodation in online classes).


A Brief History of Publications in Online Writing Instruction

The definition of “online writing instruction” on which this bibliography rests reflects only one definition of the term. Despite what might seem like a linear path of development over time, the history of online writing instruction is a not-so-linear progression of ideas and practices emerging from the use of computers in the writing studies classroom through networked classrooms to computer-mediated classrooms and finally to what we now call hybrid or blended classes and fully-online classrooms.  What is evident in the research collected here are the labor pains as writing studies scholars, practitioners, and administrators met the call for integrating computers into writing studies and writing across the disciplines classrooms, networking those computers, and then translating and adapting writing instruction for blended and online delivery.


Texts prior to 2000 focus primarily on developing computer-networked classrooms (Barrett, 1993; Batson, 1993; Faigley, 1990; Harrington et al., 2000; Hawisher and LeBlanc, 1992; Kemp, 1993; Leonard, 1999; Sullivan, 2000). While these publications do not explicitly deal with “online writing instruction” as defined here, they document the early stages of evolution from face-to-face to online classrooms. Just as publications from the late 20th century trace the implementation of computer networks in the classroom, early sources on online writing labs (OWLs) and online writing centers (OWCs) reflect how computers changed the way that tutors engaged with students in these spaces (Anderson-Inman, 1999; Blythe, 1996; Harris, 1998; Harris and Pemberton, 1995). While early sources focus on how much (if any) tutoring should take place at a distance, later sources on OWLs and OWCs study the intersection of OWL and disability studies (Driscoll, 2008) and provide specific strategies that help online writing tutors with the unique affordances of the online tutoring session (Hewett, 2015).


In researching these ideas, scholars of online writing instruction will find a number of publications that point to how writing studies is “paying attention” to how technology has disrupted, extended, challenged, and changed our assumptions about literacy, writing, and collaboration. Scholars such as Chris Anson (1999) and Susan Lang (1998) rightly identify issues of ownership of online classes and how shifting definitions of “writing faculty” collide with the push to move writing classes fully online. Online writing instruction scholars have responded to these early calls for the development of “best practices” in online writing instruction, building on the work of other scholars who first detected the “fault lines” in online writing instruction (to quote Laura Brady, 2001) and pushed for the need to study what we practice and what we preach. In so doing, they set the stage for the development of the OWI Position Statement as well as defining what potential problems might arise as writing classes became hybrid or moved fully online.


The section that follows elaborates on the process of how the editors of this bibliography--online writing scholars and instructors--identified and collected publications for this bibliography. This process led us to question how online writing instruction is defined and how we might constructively establish what constitutes literature on “online writing instruction.”


Finding and Selecting Publications in Online Writing Instruction


The idea for the bibliography arose in the March 2015 yearly meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee for Best Practices in Online Writing Instruction. Work on this bibliography began in July 2015 when the master bibliography for the Foundational Practices in Online Writing Instruction collection and sources from the 2008 Annotated Bibliography of the CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in Online Writing Instruction were compared. The 2008 Annotated Bibliography and the Foundational Practices bibliography did not substantially overlap, which reinforced the need for a new and more comprehensive bibliography of online writing instruction.


Once Heidi Skurat Harris (lead editor for the bibliography and this introduction) compiled a list of sources from both of these documents, she sent the list to other members of the CCCC OWI Best Practices Committee. Members added and removed sources they felt were not directly relevant to online writing instruction as defined by the definition discussed earlier in this introduction. In particular, some publications were removed from the initial master bibliography list because they discussed online teaching in general or they discussed multimodal writing in particular but not specifically in the context of online writing instruction. .Through this process, a final list of works began to emerge – a list that served as the foundation for the work you are currently reading.

In September 2015, members of the CCCC Best Practices in OWI Committee and members of the CCCC OWI Experts/Stakeholders Panel were invited to volunteer to 1) be section editors (to oversee and organize the first round of annotations), 2) be annotators, or 3) give input on sources that needed to be included in the bibliography. Section editors worked with teams to annotate the initial sources. While they were working, additional database searches were conducted using the subject keywords “online,” “writing,” and “instruction” and variations of those terms (e.g., composition, technical writing, writing studies, distance education, web-based education, etc.). Additional sources were added to the master list including sources from across the disciplines (e.g., nursing, business, and journalism) that detailed how disciplines outside writing studies were addressing online writing instruction.


While the initial team of scholars annotated those articles, targeted searches in relevant journals were completed, in particular Computers and Composition, Kairos, CCCC, Computers and Writing, and Technical Communication Quarterly. As additional sources were added to the master list, the lead and section editors realized the need to recruit additional writers. After a second round of recruiting, we had the help of twenty-six writing scholars to complete almost 400 annotations.


After all of the annotations were completed, a graduate student (Sarah Ricard) and an undergraduate student (Amy Rhea) from the Professional and Technical Writing Program at UALR did a round of copy-editing and converted all of the citations to MLA. Once they had completed the initial edits, the new MLA guide was published, and Sarah Ricard converted all of the old MLA citations to the new MLA format. Lead editor Heidi Skurat Harris then reviewed and edited the document to assign each annotation a number noting how it connected to or reflected a particular OWI Principle.  Next, the editorial team added keywords to each annotation to help make the overall document searchable. Finally, the bibliography was copy edited two additional times and was then divided into five sections according to the OWI Principles and Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction categories:

  • Accessibility
  • Instructional Principles
  • Faculty Principles
  • Institutional Principles, and
  • Research and Exploration.

What follows is an introduction to each of the five major sections of the bibliography. The introduction ends with final thoughts and an overall set of questions that will hopefully provide the “framework for investigation” called for by Hewett and Ehmann.  


Our vision as members of the team that developed this resource was to create a bibliography that would be accessible online and searchable by both keyword and by CCCC OWI Principle number. Our hope is that this bibliography will be a living document that is regularly updated by readers and crowdsourced across different constituencies in a way that allows us to maintain a current list of research and publications dealing with online writing instruction.


Section 1: Publications on Accessibility in Online Writing Instruction


Principle 1 is the overarching principle for the Position Statement. It states, “Online writing instruction should be universally inclusive and accessible.” According to the rationale for Principle 1:

the Committee believes that the needs of learners with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, multilingual backgrounds, and learning challenges related to socioeconomic issues (i.e., often called the digital divide where access is the primary issue) must be addressed in an OWI environment to the maximum degree possible for the given institutional setting. Furthermore, given that OWI typically is a text-intensive medium where reading is a necessary skill, addressing the accessibility needs of the least confident readers increases the potential to reach all types of learners.


The bibliographical entries included in Section One of the Bibliography highlight this range of access issues in its variety even though the number of entries relating each of these groups vary.  


The focus of this overall principle is that of attention – specifically, paying attention to the needs of different constituencies in our classrooms, our institutions, and our societies.  It is a focus noted by Cynthia Selfe’s Technology and Literacy in the 21st Century: The Importance of Paying Attention, Selfe called for addressing the social inequities present in computers and writing field. Earlier scholarship identifies access issues faced by economically under-privileged, rural or remotely located students, racially marginalized and linguistically different groups. More recently, Oswal and Meloncon (2014) in their “Paying Attention” echo Cynthia Selfe’s earlier warning about not creating new iniquities in the employment of technology, but they address this issue from the perspective of access and accessibility for students with disabilities for online writing instruction.


The research gleaned in Section 1 continues the process of paying attention by repeatedly asking us to focus on two primary issues. First, the annotations not only reflect the writing pedagogy-related needs of online learners but also the necessity of strong reading instruction. These publications, thus, bear out the conviction of Principle 1 that OWI should be a primarily textually-mediated learning environment that requires excellent support for students facing heavy reading and literacy loads. Second, although the popular media often champions online education for its promise of reaching previously marginalized groups of students, the available research in OWI, presented here, indicates that the digital divide of the face-to-face learning environments is sometimes duplicated in the online environment.


Despite useful guidelines, issues of accessibility continue to complicate instruction within online writing environments. Digital pedagogical options are often tied to students’ ability to access online content. The introduction to Principle 1 above has discussed issues of physical access at length; however, the literature has examined additional roadblocks to accessibility. One such barrier is access to technology.


Access is still an issue following two decades of online writing instruction and technical advances. The digital divide often affects low-income and nontraditional students who may not have access to computers (Gos, 2015) or who lack access to a high-speed Internet connection (Gibson & Martinez, 2013). These students can also experience a learning curve associated with using electronic tools necessary to complete assignments and interact with peers and the instructor in the online writing class (Rubens & Southard, 2005). Multilingual writers, too, may experience difficulty communicating and using resources in online environments (Sanchez, 2013; Miller-Cochran, 2015). Thus, it has been argued that student access (Principle 1; Mick & Middlebrook, 2015) and writing pedagogy (Principle 2) should guide instructors’ choices of technological tools.


This bibliography certainly outlines but does not explicate the complexity of issues related to accessibility in online writing instruction. Questions for additional research related to accessibility in online writing instruction are presented at the end of this introduction.


Section 2: Publications on Instructional Principles in Online Writing Instruction


Much of the research done in online writing instruction (OWI) focuses on the category of instruction, or Principles 2-6 of the CCCC Position Statement. Scholars are increasingly attending the call—stated in Principle 4—to attend to pedagogy before technology. Adopting pedagogically sound practices is a thread that runs through the publications on instruction. Recent research also reflects Cargile Cook’s forecast (2005) that OWI scholarship would take a theoretical turn instead of focusing primarily on classroom practice. This turn is evidenced by the bibliographic entries below that draw on established theories such as activity theory (Pickering, 2009) and genre studies (Adams & Jenkins, 2015), as well as the work of Bakhtin (Blair, 2005) and Foucault (DePew & Lettner-Rust, 2009).


Yet it is teaching practices (Principle 3) that preoccupy OWI scholars. Examining ways that students and faculty compose identity online or construct a social presence has been a fruitful area of study given the many textual artifacts generated during the course of a term and which may be analyzed. Instructors have chronicled their efforts to build social elements such as interactivity into online course, and doing so has often been tied to student learning and satisfaction. In doing so, instructors experiment with different methods for managing online discussions, including synchronous video and chat (DePew, Spangler, & Spiegel, 2013; Cunningham, 2015). They also offer strategies for facilitating effective online peer review (Hewett, 2000; Breuch, 2005). Such efforts have been tied to the value of creating a community of learners online and offering students an opportunity to collaborate in creating knowledge (Fleckenstein, 2005; Boyd, 2008).


Research on online course interaction examines instructor social presence, often manifested through announcements, direct communication with individual students, and student feedback (Cox, Black, Heney, & Keith, 2015). Assessment in OWI has received significant attention. This includes scholars examining the use of technologies such as screencasts for student feedback (Thompson & Lee, 2012; Whitehurst, 2016) and the potential benefits and pitfalls of automated writing evaluation (Grimes & Warschauer, 2010; Cotos, 2011; Perelman, 2016).


Moreover, publications on technology use in online writing environments reflect changing computing practices. Instructors, for example, report on their experiments with the affordances of different writing technologies, such as learning management systems (LMS) (Davis, 2003), blogs (Gurak, Antonijevic, Johnson, Ratliff, & Reymann, 2004; Brooks, Nichols & Priebe, 2004), wikis (Walkington, 2012), social media (DePew, 2011), gaming (Scopes, 2013), and eportfolios (Cambridge, 2010; Tulley, 2013). Students increasingly rely on wireless and mobile technologies to access course materials and complete writing assignments (Kimme Hea, 2009; Rodrigo, 2015).


In examining unique online environments, OWI research appears to be moving beyond the comparison focus that typified much of the earlier work. For example, in his WPA-CompPile Research Bibliography titled “Studies Comparing Outcomes Among Onsite, Hybrid, and Fully-Online Writing Courses,” Warnock laments a history of research studies attempting to determine whether online courses offer the same quality as face-to-face courses, in the face of continued findings of “no significant difference” (2013). In the current bibliography, there appear to be few studies that compare instructional strategies in the same course taught both on-ground and online. Instead, there appears to be recognition that online components (such as assignments, grading, messaging, and collaboration) are increasingly a part of every class, whether it meets face-to-face, in a hybrid format, or solely online. Scholars have examined, for instance, the use of online collaboration or peer review as a part of an on-ground curriculum (Kittle & Hicks, 2009).


In a similar way, recent work in hybrid instruction, or blended learning, reflects an interest in combining effective teaching methods from different modalities. Blended learning can create time for peer review that may not be available during a typical on-ground class period, for example. They also offer additional opportunities for writing for English language learners (Yang, 2010; Shih, 2011; So, 2013) and unique benefits for students in “basic writing” courses (Stine, 2010). As with any writing course, thoughtful instructional design (Snart, 2015), as well as institutional support (Gouge, 2009) is important.


Within this same context, recent approaches to online writing instruction have also involved experiments with scale. This includes pre-designed courses (PDCs), or course “shells,” which use economies of scale to replicate course materials in a learning management system for multiple sections of a course. Scholarship emphasizes the need for consistency as well as flexibility in this type of course design (Dutkiewicz, Holder & Sneath, 2013; Maid & D’Angelo, 2013). Flexibility appears to be of special importance, as Principle 5 addresses the need for faculty to retain control of their teaching content and techniques, particularly relevant for the contingent faculty who often staff such sections (Mechenbier, 2015). Difficulties can involve the technology constraints of an LMS (Tillery & Nagelhout, 2013) and compressed timeframes for creating course templates and training faculty (Warnock, 2007).


In addition, online writing courses have been scaled to serve hundreds or thousands of students in the form of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Such courses, often offered through partnerships between universities and educational corporations, are the focus of the collection Invasion of the MOOCs (Krause & Lowe, 2014), which participates in debates about the suitability of such a format for writing courses (Rice, 2013; Comer, Clark & Canelas, 2014). Principle 6 offers guidelines for alternative OWI models, and more research is likely forthcoming as such models change along with the needs of learners and institutions.


At the same time, online instructional design of writing courses has been informed by concepts from technical communication that encourage a focus on students as users of the online course. Scholars emphasize the applicability of user-centered design principles for instructors as designers of web interfaces (Blythe, 2001). The need to consider differences in users during the design process (Bowie, 2009) reflects the emphasis of Principle 3 on the importance of instructional design guiding course decisions. Like user-centered design, universal design for learning (UDL) focuses on the needs of users. UDL, however, emphasizes the need for curriculum design that offers learning opportunities to all students; for example, organizations such as the Center for Applied Special Technology have presented UDL guidelines for instructors that emphasize accessibility and inclusivity in learning environments (CAST, 2008; 2001).


In relation to this section of the bibliography, future research into instructional dimensions of OWI should continue to examine issues of student access. Technology access and support for instructors may also be a fruitful area of inquiry, especially with the increased reliance on contingent faculty to teach online writing courses. Developing instructor training that prepares teachers but also offers them substantial control is likely to become of more concern as the upward trend of online writing instruction continues; compared with the other instructional principles, little has been published on Principle 5. Some of these online writing instructional issues may be addressed by research that is large-scale (involving more than one or two classes) and can capture larger trends in OWI. Continued research on instruction will assist faculty in drawing on sound pedagogical principles as they create engaging online spaces for writing learning.


Section 3: Publications on Faculty Issues in Online Writing Instruction


The Faculty Principles comprise OWI Principles 7, 8, and 9 in OWI’s Position Statement. A majority of the annotated articles both indicate and promote the importance of teacher preparation before an instructor begins to teach online writing courses.  Additionally, research confirms that training in both internet and support technology—perhaps in technology-related orientations—is central to encourage and sustain good teaching strategies. Scholars such as Beth Hewett and Christa Ehmann (2004) research the importance of faculty preparation for OWI and methods of adapting face-to-face course materials for the online environment.  In addition to teaching and delivery of online courses, Kelli Cargile-Cook and Keith Grant-Davie (2005) and Michael Day (2000) stress the value of developing a process for evaluating the instructor in electronic environments.  Moreover, faculty mentoring is an essential component of teacher preparation:  Janie Jaramillo-Santoy and Gina Cano-Monreal propose a certification and recognition mentorship model focusing on both course design and delivery (2013) to ensure that the needs of new online faculty are identified.


Of major concern in both the OWI Position Statement and in this bibliography is the shift in who the faculty teaching composition courses are. To date, approximately 40% of all instructors are part-time adjunct faculty.  This shift has resulted in departments becoming more dependent on contingent faculty to teach the growing number of online courses.  Faculty who traditionally taught composition courses in a brick-and-mortar classroom are consequently adapting their teaching styles for online writing instruction. Because course tools are consistently updated or reformatted to support online instruction the need for continual professional development for all online faculty is vital. The publications in this section reinforce the need for professional development, although which faculty receive faculty development, when, and where is lacking.


Publications in this bibliography reinforce that guidance in navigating online platforms and learning management systems (LMSs) is fundamental to comprehensive instructor delivery (“teacher presence”) of online writing courses. Rich Rice (2015) stresses the value of shared resources and a support system, which will assist faculty in meeting program goals and objectives. Lee-Ann M. Kastman Breuch and Sam J. Racine (2000), as well as Christa Ehmann Powers and Beth Hewett (2007), assert that  evaluation and strategies regarding online tutoring overwhelmingly support Principle 7 because tutors—who are often online faculty—should be trained appropriately within the specialized virtual tutoring venue in order to develop text-based dialogue within an asynchronous space.


Of course, training in new technologies or in using institutionally-approved LMSs is only one part of a complex puzzle of faculty development and support. Rich Rice’s (2015) and Deborah Minter’s (2015) publications reflect the need for ongoing faculty support by the university administration.  Jane Blakelock and Tracy E. Smith (2006) examine labor conditions and institutional attitudes as they contribute to distance learning.  Kristine Blair and Elizabeth Monske (2013) challenge early narratives of the “egalitarian” nature of online writing classes, outlining the problems with hiring and promotion practices as online classes have become commercialized.  And Mahli Mechenbier (2015) assesses the obstacles which face contingent faculty as a growing number of OWCs are assigned to adjunct instructors. Clearly, online faculty face a multitude of struggles, from equity in hiring and retention policies to fair policies for professional development and performance evaluation.


With these classroom and instructional changes, some institutions have chosen to introduce and to integrate administrative or institutional policies and frameworks (such as Quality Matters) to support faculty moving from the face-to-face to the online classroom.  Quality assurance structures like QM may indeed benefit instructors who are making the shift from face-to-face to online environments and who may use such frameworks to scaffold an OWC. Because scaffolding works differently in online courses, where instruction and assignments co-mingle, Heidi Harris, Tawnya Lubbes, Nancy Knowles, and Jacob Harris (2014) provide models for how faculty in writing-intensive courses across the disciplines came together to develop sound practices in university-wide faculty professional development sessions.  Yet faculty should seek to find a balance – and continue to interrogate administrative policies and instructional frameworks – when LMS constraints and course template designs conflict with innovative technology as asserted by Denise Tillery and Ed Nagelhout (2013).  


Understanding who is teaching our online courses will not only help us support our colleagues but will also help students learn more effectively in online environments. June Griffin and Deborah Minter’s (2013) study on the material conditions of faculty (workload, technology training, online pedagogy, class size) directly affects the student learning environment.  An upward shift in the number of online writing courses offered results in a change in student demographics:  Veterans, adult learners, and students who have physical disabilities—who may be able to enroll in an OWC with more ease than he or she can attend courses on campus—change the dynamic of the class.  The manner in which students communicate and interact with each other affects the way that the instructor interrelates with students in an OWC.  


Concerns over faculty status and training go hand-in-hand with the effective practices for Principle 8, which state that “appropriate compensation” should be given to instructors.  Joshua Boldt’s The Adjunct Project, the MLA, and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have conducted studies regarding compensation and salary for faculty at all ranks.  However, these studies raise a number of questions:

  • What comprises “compensation” for faculty developing online writing classes?
  • Does the instructor receive royalty fees if his or her course material is used by other faculty?  
  • Are the instructor’s copyright and intellectual property rights protected?
  • Does the instructor receive a flat or hourly fee for developing course shells or course templates?    
  • Does the instructor have access to support staff to make course materials accessible?   
  • Does the instructor have access to the technology needed to effectively teach an OWC?
  • Does the instructor receive a load lift for developing online courses?


Additionally, data on faculty compensation specific to online writing courses—specifically regarding contingent faculty online salary compared to tenure-track faculty online salary and for-profit faculty online salary—would answer some of the questions raised above.  Correspondingly, research associated with Principle 8’s “compensation” as it relates to “ownership” or IP content and what (if any) financial packages are offered to online faculty for content is an area of research that needs to be explored, possibly by looking to research outside the field of writing studies.


Course caps in online writing classes are closely tied to staffing and compensation issues in online writing classes. Investigation into course caps should be conducted to understand the relationship between course caps and online learning.  The annotations linked with Principle 9 could include more categorical data on ethical rationales for maintaining low course caps for OWCs. June Griffin and Deborah Minter’s (2013) and Lisa Meloncon and Heidi Harris’s (2015) claims supporting low course caps could be expanded to include student perception of instructor access and availability in OWCs.  Areas that need additional exploration include the effects of various class sizes on the online learning environment in an online writing class.


Effective Practices 7.10 and 7.11 state that both the OWC and the instructor should  be observed and evaluated and assessed on a regular basis.  Kelli Cargile Cook and Keith Grant-Davie (2005) present guidelines for evaluating students, peers, administrators, and instructors.  However, not only should procedures for assessment be a part of departmental or institutional policy, but also standards for who can conduct an assessment of both the OWC itself and the instructor should be developed and tested.  In regard to Effective Practices 7.2 and 7.3, additional research exploring actual training initiatives or case studies as they are implemented in university Writing Programs would be beneficial.  Janie Jaramillo-Santoy and Gina Cano-Monreal (2013) analyze their Mentor2Mentor program, which shares faculty online teaching skills, mentoring faculty new to OWCs.  Further research on the success of these types of programs would be useful for university programs with high numbers of OWCs and contingent faculty.  


In addition to research on faculty development in general, research pertaining to where professional development resides—including who or what department or college runs the training as it relates to university structure and where funding comes from—would be constructive to help us understand not only the need for faculty professional development but also a need to situate that professional development in institutional structures. The location of online professional development impacts the focus of that professional development. While national efforts for faculty equity recognize disparity in faculty development, Sue Doe and Mike Palmquist (2013) recognize the inadequate labor conditions of contingent faculty, including professional development opportunities for contingent faculty, are often limited or nonexistent at the local level. More research on local conditions, particularly in relation to contingent faculty, is needed to fully understand these issues.


Although research exists on program assessment, investigations that are more focused on online faculty assessment—including what WPAs can do to assist in evaluating faculty—can be expanded.  Since more and more OWCs are being taught by contingent faculty, the question of who writes letters for promotion and evaluation purposes becomes more urgent.  Often, letters of evaluation for online faculty must come from faculty with equivalent (or greater) rank.  In future editions of this annotated bibliography, research concerning centralized evaluation mechanisms (such as but not limited to Quality Matters) that factor in faculty expertise and rank should be included.  


The research annotated herein overwhelmingly supports three conclusions:

  • Online faculty should receive OWI-focused training and professional development,
  • Online faculty should be fairly and equitably compensated for their work, and
  • Online courses should be responsibly capped.  

However, exploration and analysis as to procedural issues including how to offer training, who should offer training, and how online faculty are assessed (and by whom) could—and should—be considered and assessed in future research related to faculty and OWCs.


Section 4: Publications on Institutional Principles in Online Writing Instruction


CCCC OWI Principles 10-14 deal with institutional issues from diverse angles. Principle 10 calls for institutional responsibility for preparing both instructors and students for the peculiar technological and pedagogical challenges posed by  the online nature of OWI. The faculty principles examined earlier discuss the fact that faculty should be supported in developing online writing courses. Yet despite this fact, little research instructs institutions on how instructional designers at the institutional-level and OWC instructors at the department-level negotiate the technology-centric ethos of instructional design with pedagogy-centric writing instructors. These institutional issues can further be complicated when many of the OWI programs heavily depend on itinerant faculty and these faculty have only limited opportunities for pedagogical training in OWI. Also, because OWI courses can reside in different spaces in different colleges and universities, research in writing across the disciplines can be crucial in understanding how various disciplines and departments teach writing and set up tutoring opportunities for online students (Hawisher and Pemberton, 1998; Hewett, 2002; Palmquist et al., 1995; Pittenger and Olson-Kellogg, 2012; Harris et al., 2014; Breuch, 2004).


Principle 11 challenges teachers to build online communities and foster student success. Because community and collaboration have been at the heart of the field of writing studies for many years, it is no surprise that the articles in this area are well researched and address issues of online community from a range of perspectives.  Some of those perspectives address anxiety about students’ academic integrity in distance courses (Ekahitanond, 2014; Wichadee, 2013 & 2014) and problems of developing social presence in asynchronous OWCs (Kynard, 2007; Pickering, 2009; Sanderson-Cole and Watson, 2013; Stein, 2004). Other publications address the impact of technological interfaces on the power relations between OWC instructors and students (Brady, 2001; Chan and Yap, 2010; Davis and Hardy, 2003; de Montes, 2002; Morton-Standish, 2014; ) and gender and race in the computer-enhanced and online classroom (Faigley, 1990; Ferganchick-Neufang, 1997; Gerrard, 2007; Guglielmo, 2009; Hawisher and Selfe, 1999; McKee, 2004; Miyazoe and Anderson, 2011; Schneider, Suzanne P., and Clark G. Germann, 1999; Kynard, 2007).


Side by side with the aforementioned factors related to student communities and success in online classes are issues of accessibility (see Principle 1).  These issues include language competency in courses with non-native speakers of English, differentiated writing instruction (e.g., writing on discussion boards instead of oral discussions), and how students with differing linguistic backgrounds participate in class discussion.  As it is obvious from some of the international entries included in this bibliography, these concerns often cross national borders whether the institutional discussion relates to students enrolled from other  countries, as examined by Kirk St.Amant (2007), or–as Kirk St.Amant  and Rich Rice (2015) argue–how it requires us to re-think ideas of audience when the online environment is inherently international in nature.


Principle 12 addresses faculty satisfaction in online writing instruction from an institutional perspective, and a number of collections address the many facets of instructor satisfaction in online writing classes. For example, Cargile Cook and Grant-Davie’s (2012) collection revisits issues raised in their earlier (2005) collection, while St. Amant and Sapienza (2011) explore how such factors extend to the international in online environments.  Within this overall context, however, Hewett and Depew’s (2015) collection is probably the most inclusive treatment of institutional issues since they ground this collection in the 15 CCCC Effective Principles for OWI with access as the foundation of their treatment of all OWI issues. While the early scholarship addressing institutional issues concentrated on challenges of moving from face-to-face pedagogy to online delivery, later publications also address institutional issues solely centered around OWI pedagogy. For instance, Bourelle et al. discuss an OWC with 95 students taught with the assistance of undergraduate assistants and raise questions about the ethics of unpaid student labor which may be considered exploitative in a university's management of money-saving large OWCs. Certainly, these principles and publications have significant overlap with the Principles in the Instructional and Faculty sections as well.


The final two Principles in the Institutional section (Principle 13 and Principle 14) deal with student support in general and online writing labs in particular. However, the publications categorized under the former principle have significant overlap with publications categorized under the latter given that online writing labs and online writing centers are also student support services.. The list of valuable resources for writing center directors and writing center tutors is numerous, including well-known collections by Breuch (2004), Hewett and Ehmann (2004 & 2005), Hewett (2015), and Ehmann Powers (2015).


Significant research remains to be done in this section—as with the previous section—on longitudinal issues related to developing and sustaining online student support services. Drawing on research from outside of writing studies, particularly in relation to best practices involving institutional support for online faculty and students, will be a key to expanding our understanding of how writing studies programs and the institutions in which they are housed can work productively together to enhance and support quality online classes, programs, and writing centers.


Section 5: Publications Regarding Research and Investigation in Online Writing Instruction


Like the first section of the CCCC Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices, the final section of the statement includes only a single principle. Principle 15 states, “OWI/OWL administrators and teachers/tutors should be committed to ongoing research into their programs and courses as well as the very principles in this document.” This bibliography hopes to meet this directive in both documenting previous research and providing scholars with fruitful research directions for years to come.


Publications under this Principle include both qualitative and quantitative research into the experiences of faculty, students, and tutors in online writing classrooms and OWLs.

The most common research articles in this category are qualitative, particularly those that seek to investigate, in the words of Example Effective Practice 15.1

the processes of asynchronous and/or synchronous OWI or OWL interactions . . . . student and teacher/tutor behaviors, actions, and relationships within the context of the actual exchanges. Studies might examine participant perceptions of OWI or OWLs (e.g., benefits, challenges, experiences) via interviews with students, teachers/tutors, and administrators.

Within the context of the entries that appear in this section, the research methodology most commonly used across these entries is the survey. Included under survey research are:

  • National or international surveys (Hewett and DePew, 2015; Neaderheiser and Wolfe, 2009; Oswal and Meloncon, 2014),
  • Surveys across institutions (Blakelock and Smith, 2006; Eaton, 2005),
  • Surveys of online writing instructors and tutors (Hewett and DePew, 2105; Izzo et al., 2008; McGrath, 2008), and
  • Surveys of students in online writing centers and online writing classrooms (the vast majority of the survey participants).

A number of studies sought the experience of ESL or L2 learners regarding a variety of online writing instruction tasks (Chan and Yap, 2010; Wichadee, 2013), and an additional set of survey research included writing tasks across the disciplines (Pittenger and Olson-Kellogg, 2012; Schelly, 2011; Taffs and Holt, 2013).

Other common research methodologies were textual analysis projects, including:

  • Analysis of email exchanges and tutoring texts in online writing centers (Hewett, 2006; Olsen, 2002; Van Waes, van Weijen, and Leijten, 2014),
  • Projects analyzing discussion boards and other student-student communication (Condon and Valverde, 2014; Hewett, 1998), analysis of student writing across drafts (Choi, 2014; Moore and Filling, 2012), and
  • Analysis of other classroom-generated texts and interactions (de Montes et al., 2002; DePew et al. 2013; Shih, 2011; Tuzi, 2004).

In addition to these two qualitative methodologies, a number of publications used mixed-methods research (Qiu et al., 2012; Lo, 2013; Rendahl and Kastman Breuch, 2013; Yang, 2010; Yang, 2014; and Yeh and Yang, 2011) and ethnographies or case studies (Barber, 2000; Chandler et al., 2007; DePew and Miller-Cochran, 2009; Ekahitanond, 2014; Handayani, 2012; Ice, 2007; Olson-Horswill, 2002; Pickering, 2009; Poniatowski, 2012).


Less frequent are quantitative and longitudinal research called for under Effective Practice 15.2 and 15.3. A number of studies did employ quantitative, empirical methodologies (Carpenter, Brown, and Hickman, 2004; Hewett, 1998; Hewett, 2004; Kargozari and Ghaemi, 2011). There were only two studies in this bibliography that were replicated (Eaton, 2005 and Eaton 2013; DePew and Miller-Cochran, 2009 and DePew, 2o11). And, while not explicitly mentioned in the OWI Principles Statement, several articles studied or called for studies of usability (Driscoll et al., 2008; Miller-Cochran and Rodrigo, 2006; Sanchez, 2013; Walters, 2010). The entries in this bibliography clearly demonstrate a need for quantitative, empirical, replicable studies in online writing instruction in order to reinforce, perhaps, the need for clear course caps or the relationship between instructor preparation and student success.


Additional areas of fruitful research would be longitudinal studies that seek “to understand the differing complexities of learning to read and write in digital, online, and distributed online educational settings” (OWI Effective Practice 15.3) and “Quantitative studies that investigate student performance in terms of learning outcomes or benchmarks, grades, and course retention” (OWI Effective Practice 15.2). Also, this bibliography demonstrates the need for follow-up research in any number of areas, particularly in terms of program-level assessment, perhaps studies that follow up on pilot classes or online writing programs (see Bourelle et al. 2015 or Carter, 2013).


Each of the sections describe here contains entries that provide a rich summary of central resources that can guide research in a range of areas relating to OWI and to the teaching of and practices of writing in general. As such, the information in this bibliography can also help with as well as lead to a number of questions that could fruitfully be studied as a part of the next wave of research into online writing instruction.  To this end, this introduction concludes with a summary of some of the questions readers might wish to explore and in so doing, expand upon and contribute to the entries that appear in this overall work.  


Questions and Next Steps for the OWI Bibliography


No resource of this magnitude can include every published text on a single issue or topic. As this bibliography is revised and updated, additional sources will be added that are overlooked in this initial text, possibly from before 1990 and certainly beyond 2016.


Compiling this resource raises questions about where we as researchers, scholars, and teachers should go next in studying and teaching OWI. Although OWI has been with us for at least a quarter of a century in various degrees and digital forms, large, cross-institutional studies of OWI have been limited to surveys looking into the overall condition of the field. Longitudinal studies of online writing instruction are sorely needed, and the scattered, small empirical studies of OWC pedagogy, while catalogued in a variety of literature review and annotated bibliographies (see Miller 2001; Palmquist, 1995; Starke‐Meyerring and Clemens, 1999; Warnock, 2013), still await an organized synthesis.  


One relatively unexplored area as of the first edition of this bibliography is the impact of mobile technologies on online writing classes. A number of scholars have begun to explore how the ubiquitous nature of mobile technologies will shift the shape of online writing instruction (Bjork and Schwartz, 2009; Hoven and Palalas, 2011; Johnson-Eilola and Selber, 2009; Kimme Hea, 2009; and Rodrigo, 2015). These scholars, much like those who identified the original growing pains involved with moving face-to-face content into cyberspace, are the leading edge of where we as a field may be going as we close out the second decade of the 21th century.  


As we mine these publications for new connections, we might keep in mind the following questions for future research (grouped by the sections discussed in this introduction).


Section 1: Accessibility in Online Writing Instruction

  • How do we help online students take advantage of student resources, or productively challenge institutions to provide student support services for students in online classes, particularly those students with access or disability issues?
  • What kinds of support can instructors provide to address barriers to student technology access?
  • How have we dealt with issues related to access in terms of ability/disability, gender, race, sexuality, and socioeconomic factors? How can we create online classes that promote access to technology and materials for those who might need online courses in order to complete their post-secondary education?
  • How are students accessing online classes (e.g., mobile devices, public-access computers), and how can we best design classes for these of users?


Section 2: Instructional Principles in Online Writing Instruction

  • In what ways does OWI instruction reflect changes in technology use both by faculty and by students?
  • In what ways can online instructional design draw on principles of usability and user-centered design?
  • How does scale affect instructional affordances online?
  • How can we move from what we think works in online writing instruction based on our own experiences, classrooms, and collected lore to move into what we know works in online writing instruction?


Section 3: Faculty Issues in Online Writing Instruction

  • Does a smaller class size significantly impact student success?
  • Is class size related to effective instructor-tp-student and student-to-student interaction?
  • What is the impact of how faculty development opportunities are funded and where they are located on online faculty and students (i.e., whether they are funded and hosted at the department-level, the college-level, or funded by a centralized office, such as an Office of Distance Learning)?
  • What methods are Writing Programs using to determine strengths of writing faculty and their online preparedness?  
  • What procedures are Writing Programs using to assign experienced OWI mentors to novice OWI teachers?


Section 4: Institutional Principles in Online Writing Instruction

  • How do we assist students in online classes while constrained by the limitations of the institutions for which we work?
  • Does literacy load in a larger versus smaller class influence student perceptions of the OWC?
  • What are effective online writing assessment strategies at the course, program, department, and institutional level? How do we know they are effective?


Section 5: Research and Exploration in Online Writing Instruction

  • How has OWI research and pedagogy been informed by theory?
  • How can we study more explicit connections between pedagogy and theory and demonstrate the value of those connections to external audiences?
  • What constitutes “research” in online writing instruction?
  • What do we need to know from qualitative and quantitative, empirical studies based on those that we already have completed?
  • How can we use the rich history of the research in this bibliography to shape the course of the future of online writing instruction?  
  • How can we build on the work of educators in WAC/WID to help colleagues in other disciplines incorporate writing more effectively into their online courses?


Of course, this is a partial list of questions, just as the annotated bibliography itself can never capture every source that relates to online writing instruction. However, as a field, this annotated bibliography can help us shape our focus as we move through the 21st century and deal with the increasing complications of higher education, including issues of accessibility, budgetary constraints, contingent faculty, unprepared or underprepared students, and the demands of constantly evolving technology.


We look forward to adding to and shaping the next version of this bibliography and the next 25 years of research in online writing instruction.




This work was a labor of love and could not have been completed without the generous time, expertise, and advice of many individuals. We would like to thank Sarah Ricard who went above and beyond the call of duty in editing, re-editing, and changing the citations on this document TWICE! Thanks to Michael Greer for his help, guidance, and support in the final stages of getting this annotated bibliography to press. Thanks also to Amy Rhea and Erica Ivy helped in editing the document and citations.


Five individuals volunteered early on to spearhead the first stage of collecting and annotating sources: Mahli Mechenbier, Natalie Stillman-Webb, Melody Pickle, Christopher Ervin, and Sushil Oswal. Mahli, Natalie, and Sushil continued on the project after the initial stage of annotations to write the introduction and help with final annotations and compiling the first set of annotation drafts for editing. I want to send out a particular shout-out to Mahli Mechenbier, who continued to volunteer to annotate sources above and beyond the limits of any mere mortal.


A large group of individuals were a part of the annotation team for the first draft of annotations. These individuals gave of their time and energy and form the backbone of this project:  Mahli Mechenbier (Kent State University: Geauga), Lisa Meloncon (University of Cincinnati), Beth Hewett (Defend and Publish, LLC), Melody Pickle (Kaplan University), Jessie Borgman (Texas Tech University), Casey Reid (Lane Community College), Natalie Stillman-Webb (University of Utah), Steven Corbett (Texas A&M University-Kingsville), Jennifer M. Cunningham (Kent State University at Stark), Jason Dockter (Lincoln Land Community College), Shareen Grogan (National University), Lyra Hilliard (University of Maryland, College Park), Dan Seward (Ohio State University), Scott Warnock (Drexel University), Kimberly Fahle (Virginia Wesleyan College), David Grover (Texas Tech University), Sonja Andrus (University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash College), April Cobos (Old Dominion University), Kevin Eric DePew (Old Dominion University), Sharon Burns (University of Cincinnati Clermont College), Diane Martinez (Western Carolina), Matthew Meduri (Kent State University: Geauga), Molly Mokros Natale (Kent State University: Geauga), Jason Allen Snart (College of DuPage), Kirk St. Amant (Louisiana Tech University), Chrissine Rios (Kaplan University), Christopher Ervin (Western Kentucky University), Brenda Refaei (University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash College), Brandy Bippes (Texas Tech University), Tiffany Bourelle (University of New Mexico), Jordan Nicole Canzonetta (Syracuse University), Kelli Cargile-Cook (Texas Tech University), Steven David Haydon (Western Kentucky University), and Rich Rice (Texas Tech University).


Last but absolutely not least I would like to thank the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR for continuing to push the boundaries in online writing instruction and who supported us in this endeavor.


And Heidi would like to thank Jacob, Daria, and Darby for their love and patience through the writing and editing process.