Providing Online Support for Student Writing


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With class sizes increasing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support research and writing activities. The extra workload associated with grading, checking assignments, and providing support outside of the classroom can become overwhelming. Through my experience in the Course Design Institute, I have learned about several tools that will be useful for increasing research and writing activities while maintaining a manageable workload. I have incorporated the use of online tools to support writing activities in a large undergraduate course, including Blackboard, Google Docs, and Wimba Classroom. In this session I will describe what worked and what didn’t work, and I will provide a brief demonstration of the techniques that have been most useful.

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Providing Online Support for Student Writing

  1. 1. Providing Online Support for Student Writing …a case study
  2. 2. <ul><li>With class sizes increasing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support research and writing activities </li></ul><ul><li>Participation in Course Design Institute </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Summer 2009 </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Use of online tools to support writing activities in a large undergraduate course </li></ul><ul><li>Without a TA, I used Blackboard, Google Docs, and Wimba Classroom to support 107 students as they completed several written assignments </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>How did it go? </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>This pretty much sums it up… </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Some tactics worked </li></ul><ul><li>Many tactics did not work BUT… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provided a great foundation </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Group Papers <ul><li>In PSY 332, students worked in groups to write research papers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>increase opportunities for meaningful learning while minimizing the amount of grading needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Right? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Students don’t like group papers <ul><li>Students often dislike group work for two specific reasons: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They find it difficult to coordinate schedules so that they can work together outside of the classroom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They often feel that the workload is not shared equally, and grades are unfairly distributed </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Helping students with group papers <ul><li>Google Docs - edit documents online without creating multiple versions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce the likelihood of having to meet in person outside of class </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Online tools in blackboard to assess group members’ contributions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual grades were divided on the basis of contribution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attempted to design the tool so that the assessments could be calculated automatically in blackboard </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Other writing assignments <ul><li>Weekly reaction papers </li></ul><ul><li>Individual research proposal due at end of course </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>All papers were submitted online </li></ul><ul><li>All feedback was provided online (except for final paper) </li></ul><ul><li>Online office hours, in addition to in-person office hours, for additional support </li></ul><ul><li>General and group discussion boards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymous feedback regarding course </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep in contact with group members </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Assessment Criteria <ul><li>The criteria used to determine the success of online tools adopted in the course were: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduced workload for instructor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Student use of online tools, and ease of use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students’ perceptions </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Assessment Tools <ul><li>A SALG instrument was administered at the end of the course </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student Assessment of Learning Gains </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I tracked the use of various online tools over the course of the semester </li></ul><ul><li>My own subjective experience </li></ul>
  14. 14. Results: Online Support for Writing Papers Did Google Docs work? Did peer assessment work? Was there a decrease in overall workload? Was there a decrease in grading workload?
  15. 15. Average Ratings from the SALG 4.04 4.13 3.42 Avg rating of Professor Feedback Avg rating of Individual papers Avg rating of group papers
  16. 16. <ul><li>BUT </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Online submission worked well </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online feedback worked well </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For both group papers and weekly reaction papers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SALG assessement revealed that students liked groupwork – they just didn’t like to be assessed as a group </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Results: Blackboard Discussion Boards <ul><li>Students never used the general discussion board </li></ul><ul><li>Students rarely used discussion boards designed for their specific groups </li></ul>
  18. 18. Results: Wimba Online Office Hours <ul><li>Throughout the entire semester, only one student ever took advantage of the online office hours </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students preferred to come and see me in person </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. What did I learn? <ul><li>Online tools work, when coupled with good teaching… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First time structuring group papers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It’s important to learn more about when certain online tools might help </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Online office hours might be more useful in other contexts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Trying to incorporate these new tools into my class helped me to push my boundaries, and I’ve landed somewhere in between </li></ul>
  20. 20. Second Iteration <ul><li>No group papers </li></ul><ul><li>No general discussion boards </li></ul><ul><li>No Wimba online office hours </li></ul><ul><li>I still have many writing assignments, and some groupwork, but no group papers </li></ul>
  21. 21. I am using many online tools to help me manage the course <ul><li>Submit assignments through Blackboard </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback provided via Blackboard </li></ul><ul><li>Slides, assignment instructions, assignment examples posted on Blackboard </li></ul><ul><li>Use group discussion board for exam review </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students like this a lot </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Demonstration of my Blackboard site </li></ul>