Online Writing Labs Offer Students Support

If you’re pursuing your education online, how do you visit the Writing Lab? The College of Professional Studies (CPS) sought to answer that question in 2010 when it was awarded a $216,000 grant by the Davis Educational Foundation for the design and implementation of one-credit online writing laboratories in conjunction with required English courses. The Davis Educational Foundation, a public charitable foundation, supports the undergraduate programs of public and private, regionally accredited, baccalaureate-degree-granting colleges and universities in New England.

The goal of the project, “Writing Labs: Enhancing the Academic Outcome for the Non-Traditional Student,” was to help ensure that bachelor-degree students graduate with strong writing skills. Prior to this project, students received writing support through Smarthinking, a live, on-demand, online tutoring website.

What sets the CPS online writing labs apart from traditional models of writing instruction is that students receive feedback through letters of analysis. Writing specialists point out each student’s strengths, along with areas for improvement.

In a report to the Davis Educational Foundation, the College shared the findings of its survey of 185 student participants, which revealed the development of more advanced critical thinking and writing skills. For example, 74 percent of participants stated that working with a writing specialist had made them more confident in their writing, with 79 percent reporting they had learned new writing and revision strategies. In addition, 57 percent of those surveyed stated that their thesis-sentence writing skills had improved, and 59 percent reported they were better able to organize their ideas.

Based on the success of the project, CPS plans to extend the inclusion of writing labs to additional classes in 2013.