Writing Center sees new tech


Recently hired Director of Writing Programs Joseph Johnson is introducing the Schaffer Library’s Writing Center to new technologies that aim to streamline the tutoring process.

Students can now use WCONLINE, a web-based scheduling application, to select a Writing Center tutor and to make an appointment online.

According to Johnson, this technology “is used by a lot of writing centers across the country.” Indeed, writing centers at colleges such as MIT, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, UMass, Columbia Law School, Yale, Colgate and Georgetown University use WCONLINE.

In Johnson’s eyes, WCONLINE is “useful because it allows students to make their own appointments and see our schedule.” Instead of waiting in line at the Writing Center until a tutor is free, students can now make an appointment ahead of time and be certain of who their tutor is and when their session will be.

In addition to having a choice of tutors online, Johnson points out that students can now also “see tutors’ bios and what they study.”

The opportunity to see a tutor’s bio and area of expertise can help students tailor their sessions to be the most helpful possible.

A student writing a chemistry lab report can choose to meet with a tutor specializing in science writing, while a student writing an English term paper can select a tutor majoring in the humanities.

To access Union’s WCONLINE page, students can use their Union email username and password, since ITS has directly synced with WCONLINE.

An upcoming development is writing workshops to accompany specific Union classes, such as first-year preceptorials, all coordinated through WCONLINE.

In winter term, Johnson hopes to start up a series of 10 preceptorial workshops that will build on each other with each successive meeting. This workshop series will focus on writing skills, such as developing vocabulary and terminology, and writing clearly and coherently.

For upper-class students, Johnson is working on a research writing workshop series for students writing term papers, research papers and theses in upper-level courses. These workshops may be tied to specific courses as well.

On the administrative side, WCONLINE allows the Writing Center to collect data on what times are most popular and what sorts of assignments are being workshopped.

Students can fill out surveys describing their Writing Center experience. Such surveys will be used to improve the quality of tutoring and scheduling.

WCONLINE has been designed to be student friendly. When students interact with the WCONLINE application, they have the choice of uploading assignment handouts or describing their concerns so that their tutors may prepare for an upcoming session.

Students can also input their phone numbers and give WCONLINE permission to text them with appointment reminders.

Johnson imagines that this technology will allow for a much easier appointment process: Students make an appointment online with a tutor of their choice at a time of their choice, and then meet their tutor at room 206 for their session in room 207 of the library.

While Johnson notes that students can still walk in and make appointments, he hopes that the new, easy-to-use scheduling process will entice students to visit the Writing Center more often.

“We are experimenting more and more with the use of technology in the Writing Center,” Johnson stresses. To this end the Writing Center will start using iPads regularly during tutoring sessions, which will allow tutors to access WCONLINE and a wide array of writing resources such as the Purdue OWL, mind-mapping applications and citation guides.


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