Monday, May 2, 2016

Using Online Writing Platforms

Online writing is becoming more and more prevalent as computers take hold of our pens and paper, making them seemingly disappear.  Whether spending time on social media, carefully crafting words of only 140 characters or less, or emailing home to let their parents know they are surviving and have even been to the grocery store this month, students are no doubt using online spaces to communicate and project their own thoughts and ideas.

With this established norm, it only makes sense to consider how best to utilize discussion boards, social media, and other online writing platforms to further extend the use of technology within your courses, as well as strengthen comprehension and conversation on topics with your students.

Before jumping headlong into cyberspace, consider the following elements that will no doubt be included in your course along with blogs, discussion boards, and the like.

First, structure your grading so that online writing is built in.  Adding online writing requirements into your grading structure not only stresses the participation in the format, but also the importance that it will contribute to the learning within your course.

Second, consider and acknowledge the time that will be spent on online writing within your course.  Just because online writing can be approached with a sense of ease and convenience doesn’t mean that it won’t add to the work load of your students.  Consider what other elements in your course to drop or modify in order to make time for the addition of an online component rather than simply tacking it on.

Third, build recognizable connections between online writing and other course content or activities.  Students respond well when they are able to make connections between the tasks they are asked to complete and other broader elements of the course.  Make it clear how they should treat this online space and that they should look at it as an extension to the course rather than a separate element.

Generally, I think you will find that the majority of students are comfortable with digital technologies, even with platforms that they haven’t used previously.  Therefore, feel free to ask students to consider the technology as a learning process in and of itself, as you work together in order to create a sustainable way to continue and strengthen learning conversations outside of the classroom.  Allowing students a way to access further discussion and information regarding class themes and concepts will allow them to be able to see how these aspects can fit into their everyday lives, even after graduating from your course or the university.

For a list of current online writing platforms with explanations, click here

Adapted from: Vanderbilt University
Written By: Jessica Moser

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