We have read about and discussed that the online writing course by its virtual nature demands more writing output from students than a traditional face-to-face course in that all communication that once might have occurred verbally must be converted to written communication. Warnock refers to this as “virtual piles” of “low-stakes writing”.
The first interesting suggestion in this week’s reading is that we do something with this low-stakes writing — in other words, make use of it. I do make some use of this output in my online courses. At the conclusion of most discussions, I typically post about the content they have produced and discuss the writing in relation to the goals for the forum, but also in the larger context of our coursework and the outcomes for the course. I have not had students formally assess their low-risk writing or rework it in any way.
A second suggestion is to use message boards or forums to recapture some of the opportunities for students to engage one another that could be lost when a course migrates online. Discussion forums are an important component of online courses for the reasons mentioned in the chapter. Discussions of readings and student writing samples are a weekly component of my on-the-ground courses, and I make use of forums in my online classes to achieve some degree of this same experience.
A final consideration, this from the Syrnyk article, would be the use of synchronous technology to teach writing in the online environment. I have written about my concerns with synchronous tech in online classes in previous posts, so I won't go into again here. He suggests live chat sessions, though there are many other opportunities for synchronous communication. I have been considering this for some time, though I have not implemented any synchronous components in my current online courses. I just finished a four-week course teaching Canvas, and I am planning to use Skype as a synchronous tool during workshops. I will likely divide students into groups that can meet via Skype and exchange feedback on their work.
I didn’t have time this past week to fancy this PowerPoint up, but I can see making a fabulous Prezi out of the foundation of these lecture notes I use to introduce my students to their Research Response 3 assignment, also attached.