Table of Contents - Higher Education Academy

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CENTRE FOR LEARNING
AND TEACHING, UNIVER
SITY OF BRIGHTON

Write
-
on

On
-
line
S
upport for
A
cademic
W
riting: a
S
ynthesis of
R
esearch and
C
urrent UK
P
rojects


By Jennifer Jones


November 2009


Funded by The Higher Education Academy







2


Table
of Contents


Executive Summary










4












Introduction












7



Methodology











8












Part 1












9

Background:
C
hanges in
P
erceptions and
D
efinitions of
A
cademic
W
riting



9

Ways in which
On
-
line
T
echnologies
F
acilitate
A
cademic
W
riting through
C
reativity and


10

C
ollaboration



On
-
line

Writing Communities for Flexible Learning






12


Part 2












13


US University On
-
line Writing Centres: Models for Academic Writing Support



13


Part 3












15


UK On
-
line Support for Academic Writing: Emerging Practice





15


The Open University: the EWrite Site and COWS







16


Write Now CETL and London Metropolitan University Writing Centre




17


AWESOME: Academic Writing Empowered by Socially M
ediated On
-
line Environments


19


COWL: University of Coventry On
-
line Writing Lab






21


Learn Hi
g
her Academic Writing Website and WAC: Nottingham Trent University



22


Developing Collaborative Academic Writing Communities and a Collaborative



23

Writer’s Toolbox


Thinking Writing: Queen Mary University, London






23


University of Brighton: Writing for Academic Publication and
community@brighton


24




3



Part
4












26


Discussion of Key Findings









26


Recommendations for Practice
across the HE Sector






28


Conclusion











30


Bibliography and References









31


Appendix: Glossary

of Technological Terms







37













































4




Executive Summary

Since

UK
universities
began

to address

th
e
government agenda for widening participation

in
the 1990s
, there has been

a rapid growth in student
s
from diverse backgrounds

across the
HE sector
.

S
uch increased

diversity

has also brought
a wide variety in
students’
abilities

and
need
s

for support
,

in tr
aditional
academic

writing.
T
here

is
now

a
vital
requirement for
UK
universities
to
provide

differentiated writing

support
for students and staff
on
an
extensive

scale.
The recent

expansion of computer and
Internet

technologies, including Web 2.0
,
provides
universities

with
opportunities to better address these
challenges
.

Previous
research,

and
US
on
-
line

writing centres

(OWLs), provide examples which demonstrate the
effectiveness of
on
-
line

support for academic writing

in higher education
.

UK univ
ersities
are now investing time and resources into developing innovative
on
-
line

facilities and
projects to support students and staff
in this context.

The earlier research and current UK
projects have

created
an opportunity to collate
and summarise
valuab
le
information
in
relation to
on
-
line

support for academic writing
which may be used to inform good practice
and future research
in this field

across the
UK HE
sector.


In order to inform this
S
ynthesis,
an extensive search and
review
of literature
was
conducted,
which focuses on the theories

underpinning
on
-
line

support for academic
writing
,

and on examples of US
on
-
line

writing centres (OWLs).

This was followed by a
review of

current UK
on
-
line

writing
development projects, accompanied by
some
eval
uation
.

The projects and

any accompanying

research were
then
ex
plored and
considered.

Finally, some general conclusions have been drawn
, which

identify
recommendations for
good
practice

in relation to
on
-
line

support for academic writing
across the
HE
sect
or

and questions which may
still
be addressed by further research.

Previous

research into academic writing
support
suggests that
the
Internet

and Web 2.0
technolog
ies are

appropriate

tools for facilitating writing
development
in higher education.

Within
this context, a
synchronous support (time delayed feedback and communication) and
synchronous support (real time
on
-
line

tutorials)
can effectively combine the

3 traditional
writing
support models
(Skills, Literacies and Socialisation).
Synchronous

and asyn
chronous

support

can promote collaboration and creativity in writing development; which in turn may
enhance a writer’s

originality, critical analysis skills

and
ability to
debate
.

In addition,
on
-
line

tutorials, and c
ollaborative
on
-
line

writing practices,

such as blogging, conferencing

and

dialoguing through
annotated commentary accompanying written work

can also
help
counteract
a

writer’s isolation
, building confidence and engagement.


The

emerging
UK
writing support
projects

described in this Synthesis

are often
on
-
line

writing centres, or

else

websites
that
offer either or both asynchronous and synchronous
5


writing support in the ways described above.

Projects
in varied

stages
of completion
focus
on
the
needs of different
student

and

staff
groups within
disciplines, and

across institutions.

E
valuation accompanying
the

projects
commonly
confirms theories proposed by previous
research
in relation to ways in which
Internet

technologies support academic writing of staff
and students.

Evaluations of t
hese rece
nt project
s

have also
identified
additional

findings
,

which help to inform the following recommendations for good practice in
on
-
line

support
for academic writing across

the UK higher education sector:

1.

Proposed
on
-
line

support for academic writing should be based on a student

and
staff needs analysis.

2.

Asynchronous support,

such as
provision of

feedback on written drafts, and
communication about writing among peers
,

can be
enabled by
email and
Web 2.0
technologies
. Such
support

addresses needs for flexibility
,
permitting

time for
reflective and critical thought
,

and

discussion

about
writing
.


3.

S
ynchronous
on
-
line

tutoring
, e.g.

by

Skype or Live Chat, may be provided by
staff
tutors or student mentors
.

B
oth methods appear t
o be valuable and effective
, as
long as support is friendly and non
-
threatening.

However, s
tudent mentors may be
able to empathise
better
with student mentees in this context.
G
ood working
relationships

may then arise between mentors and mentees, and this

can also help
build a developing writer’s confidence.

4.

On
-
line

support in writing should be tailored to
different academic disciplinary

context
s.

5.

Emails

accompanied by annotated drafts (through Track Changes)

and written
communication
enabled by

Web 2.0 te
chnologies

(
including blogging,
wikis
,

and
written conferencing
)

can encourage
a less formal dialogue
in writing
.

In addition to
increasing confidence and engagement in writing, t
his can
enhance

the writer’s
ability

to think critically and debate as a prep
aration for more formal writing.

6.

W
ebsites

and

web pages which
are the interfaces of
on
-
line

academic writing
support

should be trialled, evaluated and redeveloped if necessary.

T
echnolog
y

and
pedagogy

should be combined

to ensure accessibility, engag
ement,

privacy and
navigability.

7.

D
eveloping effective
on
-
line

academic writing support
may be a long term

investment of time
,
funding,
collaboration
and commitment
among a variety of
institutional stakeholders.

8.

On
-
line

academic writing support
can

enhance
but no
t replace
face to face support,
providing

greater capacity and flexibility.


This Synthesis provides evidence that

the

current UK
on
-
line

writing support
projects
are
beneficial for staff and students. Perceived benefits include the writer’s development
of:



Informal writing skills



Critical thinking

6




Reflectivity about writing



Debating and discussion skills



Originality and voice



Confidence



Moral support



Engagement



Enhanced formal academic writing


However
,

many
of the

projects which are

described

in this re
view
still rely

upon additional
funding,
the future of which depends upon

recognition that they are really effective in
positively affecting student
engagement,
achievement and retention.

There are still

questions in relation to these factors
which
remain
partially
un
ad
dressed across the
UK HE
sector, and which may therefore form the bases for future research:

1.

What are the effects of
on
-
line

support for academic writing on

student scores, and
completion rates?

2.

Does
on
-
line

writing support really produce a difference in the standard of students’
and staff academic writing which is evident across the sector?

3.

To what extent do newer and more informal
writing
genres, such as dialoguing about
feedback with critical friends thro
ugh Track Changes,
blogging,
and asynchronous
computer conferencing, affect success in academic writing?

4.

Will academic writing be redefined by these new written genres?

5.

W
hat is the scale of reticence among students and staff to engage in support offered
by Web 2.0 technologies, such a
s blogging, within HE contexts?












7


Write
-
On


Introduction
:
On
-
line
S
upport for
A
cademic
W
riting:
E
mergence and
N
eed

Good written communication has always been a prerequisite

for
successful
study and
professional development of students and academics. But the
Internet

and related advances
in software innovation, such as Web 2.0 technologies, now enable universities to support
academic writing in a flexible manner on an unprecedented scale. For instance
, drafts

can
be sent as email attachments
and
feedback can be received from
tutors or peers.

This can
be facilitated by annotation tools such

as
Track Changes, which act as a

channel for
giving
and receiving detailed constructive advice. Availability of

jo
urnals

on the
Internet

provides

academic staff and students with easy access to examples of writing in their field;
and
Endnote
may be used as a

time saving tool for adding references to
assignments or articles
.

These practices
are

now becom
ing

commonplace

to support
writing development
.

In
addition
wikis
,
blogs
,
chat rooms

and other on
-
line
methods

for
enabling

written

communication are also increasingly
adopted
within different university courses. Moreover,
many
higher education institutions

are now beginning to provide more active generic
support through writing centres
. Many of these

have their own websites or web pages
devoted to academic writing.

On
-
line

guidance

offered within these contexts can range from
useful
tips to

the

provision of

individual
one to one tutorials.
In reviewing this variety of
on
-
line

support and development for academic writing it is also useful to explore whether, and
in what ways,
on
-
line

and e
-
learning oriented writing support enables writing development
which is

similar to, or different from traditional written support and feedback.


Scope


It would be difficult

to summarise all the existing prolific on
-
line support for academic
writing offered by UK universities.

Instead, this review focuses on
specific
current

and
emerging web
-
based UK
higher education
writing centres
, as well as
projects which
aim to
provide
substantial
on
-
line
support for students and staff
,

and in which
on
-
line

tutoring
and/or mentoring
often play a significant role
.


By doing this it
offers some insights into the practices enabled by Web 2.0 technologies, as
well as by the more everyday use of Track Changes and comment
ing
, among other Word
functions.
The
Synthesis
is structured as follows
:


1.

T
heories about the relevance of on
-
line
technologies to contemporary academic
writing will be explored
.

2.

W
ays in which these technologies have been successfully harnessed in US writing
centres will be described
.

8


3.

C
urrent writing projects across the UK HE sector
are

summarised
; and

research and

eva
luation accompanying some of these projects
is
discussed
.

4.

K
ey findings
from the
literature, project outcomes and evaluation will be considered
.

5.

R
ecommendations
will be made
for

further development with regard to on
-
line
support for academic writing across
the UK higher education sector.


Methodology


Compilation of literature to inform this Synthesis include
d

the following stages:


1.

A general
Internet
-
based literature search about academic writing and theories
about support for academic writing was conducted
. This helped to clarify the need
and background for
on
-
line

support for academic writing within the HE sector.

2.

An initial exploration was undertaken of recent funded projects across the HE sector
which are developing substantial on
-
line support for academ
ic writing. This included
a search for grey literature and any
related
research
work
which has accompanied
these projects.

3.

A

general

Internet

literature search
was then carried out,
about on
-
line support for
academic writing
, mainly

within the UK and US
.

4.

A more specific
Internet

based literature search then focused on themes within
on
-
line

support for academic writing.

Key concepts
at this stage
were
collaboration and
creativity.

5.

UK HE
on
-
line

writing support project developers were contacted to enquire if

any
additional research, evaluation or developments have taken place accompanying
their projects.

6.

There was a further
Internet

exploration of recent
ly

funded UK projects. This also
helped to ascertain whether any additional evaluation and research had bee
n
conducted.

7.

On
-
line support for academic staff who participated in the Writing for Academic
Publication module at the University of Brighton was summarised.

This included
some feedback provided by participants, followed by a description of plans for
futur
e development.

8.

A first draft of the synthesis was then written including recommendations for good
practice in the context of
on
-
line

support for academic writing across the HE sector.

9.

This draft was then peer reviewed before final editing took place.

10.

A glo
ssary of technological terms was compiled and added as an appendix.


Key words which emerged and which may be helpful
in related
literature searches included:


9


On
-
line
, academic writing, support, literacy, technology, digital, group, collaborative,
journal, blog, email, creativity, development, synchronous, asynchronous, tutorial,
discussion, sharing, community, conferencing, OWL, writing centre, disciplines, engage



Part 1


Background: C
hanges in
P
erceptions and
D
efinitions of
A
cademic
W
riting


With increasing
access to cutting edge

technologies

in universities, including Web 2
.0

technologies such as blogging, podcasting

and

social networking
, the growth of
on
-
line

support for academic writing
has developed its own momentum in UK higher education

(
Goodfellow, Lea and Jones, 2008
)
.

In addition,
there is an
increasing need for such support
(
Goodfellow,
Lea and Jones,
op.cit; Ganobscik
-
Williams, 2004
).
This is mainly due to

greater

diversity within a quickly expanding student population
, since the Go
vernment
communicated

its agenda for widening participation to UK higher education in the 1990s
(HEFCE, 1999).
Such
growing
diversity
in the student population
has
also
brought with it
a
requirement

for universities to cater for
students’ varying

abilities

in traditional essay
writing

(Bell,

2009
a
; Burke, 2008).

But a
lthough
lecturers and supervisors
recognise the
importance of
providing

additional help with

academic writing
,

there are still issues
regarding how such
guidance

may be integrated within teachi
ng.
Research suggests the
three traditional models

for providing academic writing support
work
more effectively
when
some of their
different elements are combined together

(Bell, op.cit.)
. The models include:


1.

The
S
kills model
which
involves teaching study

skills to individuals or groups
usually by non
-
academic staff.

In this case the student
s

may be

identified as
failing;

and it is the student
s


responsibility to improve their writing.


2.

The
S
ocialisation model
which
assumes students’ natural ability to dev
elop writing
skills as they pass through the transition into HE.

3.

The
A
cademic
L
iteracies model
which
defines writing as more than just an
individual’s skill or action.

It
is also a collaborative process, which can be
encouraged.


(Bell, op.cit.)

It is argu
ed that on
-
line environments
are an

appropriate
channel
for
integrating

the
models
of academic writing support
described above. For instance,

individual on
-
line tutoring or
mentoring
incorporates elements of the Skills model.

I
nformal blogging in writing
groups
,

and on
-
line conferencing
, both include elements of the S
ocialisation and
A
cademic
L
iteracies

models.

These combined models have been shown to work effectively in some US
10


university writing centres. Such
on
-
line

writing centres are now also emerging

in the UK
(Bell, op.cit.).


In addition,
Burke (2008) also
argues that the
Internet

may help to legitimise

newer

forms of
academic
writing practice in UK HE
, enabled by Web 2.0 technologies.

On
-
line j
ournaling

(or
blogging), for instance, can encourage th
e integration of writing in learning, so that writing
is no longer simply seen as an assessed exercise at the end of a module.

This pedagogic
principle is being increasingly accepted in universities.

However, some academics are
worried that
practices

such
as

blogging, threaten

traditional
essay
writing
, and may even
lower its standards (Davies, Swinburne and Williams, 2006)
.
On the other hand,

it is argued
that recognition

of new
written genres

in HE helps

widen participation to academic writing
.
Until rece
ntly, success in the latter has been
considered

an elitist threshold which only the
privileged few may cross (
Burke, 2008, op.cit.
).

Emailing

and b
l
ogging, are
now widely
adopted

in contemporary professional
business
communication
.

It is therefore reasonab
le
to assume that it is only a matter of time before they are welcome in higher education
contexts (Williams and Jacobs, 2004).



Ways in which
the

support models

described above
; and different types of
written
communication

are incorporated and encouraged

through current UK
on
-
line

writing
development
projects and centres will be discussed
again
in the
Part 3

of this
S
ynthesis.
In
addition, advantages of on
-
line tutoring, mentoring and conferencing which are:
synchronous

(real time) or
asynchronous

(time
lapsed)

1

will be discussed in greater detail in
Part 2 of this report.

Firstly, however, further discussion of previous research into academic
writing support

and development, will help to
clarify the theoretical relevance of on
-
line
environments for faci
litating such support.


Ways in which
O
n
-
l
ine
T
echnologies

F
acilitate
A
cademic
W
r
iting through
C
reativity and
C
ollaboration


There are two central themes which emerge within
recent

literature focusing on support for
academic writing in higher education
and these are
collaboration and creativity
.

Recent
research demonstrates how these two elements ally themselves to current web based
technologies
,

particularly Web 2.0 technologies
and tools
, within this context
.

For instance,
it is suggested that
creativi
ty and collaboration
can

both
be
encouraged through
:





on
-
line journals




blogging




1

For a definition of synchronous and asynchronous please see the glossary of technological terms as the end
of the Synthesis.

11




on
-
line written conferencing
2



Some of these involve making use of social networking.
With reference to creativity,
LeCreme

(2008) suggests that
written
journals
, which acc
ompany students’ academic work,

are a way of

bridging the gap between informality and formality in writing
,
encouraging
reflexivity
and
providing a place where students can express their critical thoughts
.

According to Antoniou and Moriarty (2008) s
uch
reflexivity can also

bring the student’s own
voice into their writing
, and
make
the latter

more lively and original
.

Where journals are
shared
through

blogs

they can also become spaces for debate, adding another dimension of
creative collaboration to journ
aling, and academic writing (Antoniou and Moriarty, op.cit.).

Furthermore,
McVey (2008) describes how the creative element of on
-
line journaling is
important in helping to address current issues in the context of students’ writing in HE.

Such

issues are id
entified as students’
“ability” and “engagement”

in writing

(McVey, op.cit,
p291
)
.

These, he suggests,

are

linked to the HE agendas of enhancing students’
employability
and
key skills
.

For students who have
little or no

experience of
writing
traditional
es
says
, on
-
line journals can be a means to develop creativity and confidence in
their written work
.

McVey goes on to describe how

students are
also
engaged by on
-
line
forms of communication such as
:




texting



emai
ling



blogging



websites



chat rooms
3



(McVey, op.cit)


In relation to collaboration, previous research

demonstrate
s

the value of peer feedback in
writing courses aimed at developing students’ writing skills for publication.

Students
participating in
two different

projects
describe

their
grea
ter confidence and engagement in
writing, because of the collaborative element.

In
one of the studies
, the writers within the
group
also experienced

increased success in
publishing their work

after participating in
a

writers’ group (Pololli, Knight and Dun
n, 2004; Rickard, McGrail, Jones, O’Meara, Robinson,
Burley and Barruel, 2008).
Ways in which Web 2.0 o
n
-
line environments
can

facilit
ate such
collaboration in writing development is demonstrated by r
esearch
conducted

by Williams
and Jacobs (2004
)
.

In this

study, t
he findings
suggest that

blogs are
an

exciting way for
students to
:





2

Please see glossary of technological terms for definitions on
-
line journals, blogging and online written
conferencing.

3

Please see the glossary of technological terms for a definition of chat rooms.

12




share knowledge



collaborate



engage in c
ritical analysis and reflection



and
form g
ood relationships with teachers



A small number of students who took part in the research, said
they remained on the
periphery of the collaborative blog community, and did not actively engage in it. However,
the majority of students found the blog to be a channel for intelligent, critical and discursive
communication.

A similar reticence by students
to join

in on
-
line forums accompanying
academic writing is also described by Michael Hammond (2000) in relation to his research.

He suggests that there is a threshold for students to cross before they engage in on
-
line
communities since they must risk
unve
iling formerly private aspects of themselves

through
their blogs.

However, the findings do show that the on
-
line forum creates a sense of
community for the students, where they have sufficient time to reflect deeply on
colleagues’ contributions, and to eng
age in the peer review of each others’ essays. Research
conducted at the University of Bristol (Artemi, Chromy, Martin, Speedy, Trahar, Williams
and Wilson, 2008) also explored ways in which technology supported
participants’

collaborative writing.

The stu
dy found that on
-
line journaling in the form of a joint reflective
biography which accompanied a writing group, facilitated communication between its
members, and was motivating in this context. Again with this research
,

there is some
suggestion that parti
cipants were not used to collaborative on
-
line journaling, and needed
time to adjust.

But although the writing group members did take time to engage in on
-
line
blogging they eventually found that they had “thrived on collaboratively setting our own
pace an
d boundaries and on our joint sense of connectedness


(Artemi et al., 2008, p1218).


On
-
line
W
riting
C
ommunities for
F
lexible

L
earning


Not only are students in further and higher education increasingly diverse in their
backgrounds, there are now
more

students who are communicating with tutors and peers
on
-
line

from a distance.

There are many reasons
for this.

Students may be part

time, or
require flexibility
in studying,

because of
additional life and work
commitments
(Metcalfe,
2006; Watts, 2008).
In

th
ese

case
s
, students may have a greater
need

to engage in on
-
line
communication
which relates to their

academic writing
(Butcher and Sieminski, 2006)
.
Mary
Lea

(2001) describes how computer conferencing (written not spoken) during an O
pen
U
niversity (OU)

MA in Applications of Information Technology in Open and Distance
Education helped to support individual students in their academic writing.
In this context,
Lea describes how on
-
line conferencing

is
:



appropriate for debating and discussion



is a way to
prepare

for writing an essay or a
rticle


13


Such on
-
line conferencing also provides opportunities for reflection since it is asynchronous
(time
-
delayed); and once conferences have taken place students are able to go back to their
arguments to refer to in thei
r actual essay writing. Lea argues that computer conference
writing is a new
genre of

writing in this sense.

Collaboration is key during the conference
debate; but afterwards the written assignments are individual.

However, they are still based
on the crea
tion of “collaborative texts (Lea, 2001
, p178
).” In these conferences peers’
arguments may enhance the traditional literature review.

Lea recommends that such
practices are particularly suited to vocational study writing; rather than traditional academic
w
riting.

As described in the introduction to this review, some academics are concerned that the new
on
-
line
writing practices
described above
are lowering the standards of traditional academic
writing
, and also
encouraging student plagiarism in writing
(Dav
ies et al., 2006
).
It is argued,
however, that such
aspersions

cast over
on
-
line

academic writing practice can be cast aside
by several research studies, some of which are mentioned above. These studies highlight
the

benefits of
on
-
line

writing which, it i
s suggested, help create a

“relationship between
writing, reading and meaning making in the process of knowledge const
ruction (Goodfellow
et al. 2008
, p2)”.

Moreover, although research shows that for some participants in on
-
line
communities accompanying ac
ademic writing are unwilling to cross the threshold into
collaborative biography and discussion the majority find that blogging, journaling and
conferencing on
-
line is engaging, motivating and supportive in their academic writing.



Part 2


US University
On
-
line Writing Centres: Models for Academic Writing Support


We have explored extensive literature which supports the theory that on
-
line, including
Web 2.0, technologies facilitate and are appropriate for developing academic writing in the
ways described

above. However, it is also important to gain an understanding of ways in
which universities are currently promoting these practices in order to better support
students and staff in this context.

There are several UK institutions which are now setting up
o
n
-
line writing centres, whose central purpose is to enhance support for academic writing
development.

This support is usually provided through on
-
line tutoring; and sometimes
through student peer mentoring schemes.

Such writing centres, although new in the

UK,
have been operating in the US for longer. It is these US on
-
line writing centres or

OWLs
4

which have provided a model for some UK writing centres to follow (Ganobscik
-
Williams,
2009).


OWLs are described as:





4

Please see the glossary of technological terms.

14



“...’a compilation of resources’ providin
g information about a writing centre’s
‘services, staff and location as well as access to worksheets, style manuals, and
research tools.

Many also take advantage of the Web’s ability to link to documents at
other sites’, and many have
on
-
line

tutoring faci
lities (Ryan and Zimmerelli, 2006,
pp72
-
75, cited by Ganobcsik
-
Williams, 2009, p 2).”


Ganobcsik
-
Williams (2009) describes how since the 1990s, the
Internet

created the means
for writing centres to offer
asynchronous
(time delayed) and/or

synchronous

(real

time)
writing support sessions.

One of the first US
on
-
line

writing centres offering
asynchronous
support is OWL at Purdue University, which was set up in 1994, and was extensively
redesigned in 2006. Originally, the OWL at Purdue served as:




an archive r
esource for

on
-
line

visitors both withi
n the University and externally



an

extensive and varie
d link to advice about writing




a source of
asynchronous

e
-
mail advice on i
ndividual queries about writing



Many US OWLs now offer
asynchronous

e
-
mail tutoring
.

However,

Anderson (2002) and
Ganobcsik
-
Williams (2009)
suggest that these

tutoring services

can
vary widely in their
efficacy
. Moreover, they argue that
this efficacy is linked closely to the design of
on
-
line

interfaces and the way in which these engage u
sers
.

Designing

a writing centre website

without
planning and integrating its relationship to a proposed
pedagog
ic model, is
therefore likely to be insufficient.

In their research exploring the usability of the redesigned
OWL at Purdue site, Salvo et al. a
rgue that the website and pedagogy must work alongside
each other in order to be successful (Salvo, Ren, Brizee and Conard
-
Salvo, 2008).

Anderson
(2002) also suggests that OWLs
are most effective

when
they

encourage relationships
between students and
tutor
s or
mentors
,
that are non
-
threatening and engaging
.

The
University of Michigan is described as one example where students’
on
-
line

writing mentors
are other students
.

I
n developing their writing skills it is found that students can relate well
to mentors
who are their peers.


Asynchronous
on
-
line tutoring or conferencing is often criticised, and it is suggested that
this cannot take the place of, and is not as good as,

face to face tutoring.

Ganobcsik
-
Williams (2009) refers to criticisms made by Yergeau et

al. (2008) in relation to the latter:


“e.g. the absence of personal contact, tutors’ lack of rhetorical awareness in
responding to student writers ‘with requisite empathy and sophistication’; and the
inability to foster a true dialogic exchange (Yergeau
et al.
,2008,

cited by Ganobcsik
-
Williams, 2009, p3).”


There may be some elements of truth in these concerns. However, as Anderson (2002)
explains, it is not the purpose of email tutoring or conferencing to replace face to face
15


tutorials.

On
-
line

tutorials, it is suggested, are different to face to face meetings, and offer a
completely separate pedagogic model for writing development, encouraging “new literate
behaviours (Anderson, 2002, p72).”

The value of
asynchronous

on
-
line

writing support
thr
ough emails, tutorials and conferencing is described by Coogan (1995) in relation to
research into email tutoring at the State University of New York
-
Albany.

He describes how
email tutoring changes the usual pattern of inherent in face to face communicatio
n and
conferences, two important facets of which are “shared space and limited time (Coogan,
1995, p 171).” On
-
line conferencing or tutoring slows down the communication process by a
few days, and within this process Coogan describes how tutors and student
s are
represented in their texts.

The advantages of this are that contemporary technology
facilitates writing because:




it promotes collaboration and encourages communication about writing
;



t
ime allows greater reflectivity from the tutor about the student’
s writing; and from
the student about the tutor’s comments
;



r
evision can take place a number of times through collaboration, but it is
constructive and facilitative rather than evaluative.


In addition to
asynchronous

on
-
line

support for academic writing p
rovided by the majority
of US OWLs

described above
, Ganobcsik
-
Williams (2009) describes some US OWLs, which

also offer
synchronous

support through
on
-
line

conferencing; either through chat room
style communication, or video conferencing with Skype, for ins
tance. Among these are
OWLs attached to
the
University of Denver, Bowling Green State University and the
University of Maryland. There is little US research which evaluates the benefits of
synchronous
on
-
line

tutorials. However in Part 3, there will be fur
ther discussion relating to
findings of studies conducted in UK universities which demonstrate the effectiveness of such
support.


Part 3


UK
O
n
-
line
S
upport for
A
cademic
W
riting:
E
merging
P
ractice


A number of UK university centres, and projects, offering
on
-
line

support for academic
writing have been recently emerging. Many of these mirror US OWLs by combining
elements of the writing support models described in Part 1. Based on theoretical principal
s
established by previous work discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, these projects and centres
adopt
on
-
line
, and particularly Web 2.0, technologies to facilitate writing development, by
encouraging collaboration and creativity.

Some initiatives may combine tra
ditional face to
face tutoring with
on
-
line

asynchronous

mentoring or support.

Some may combine
synchronous and asynchronous

on
-
line

support for writing.

The needs of different student
or staff groups, in different disciplines, are also taken into account
in website design in this
context.

In many cases research is being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the
16


provision.

The projects will now be described, and where accompanying research findings
are available these will also be discussed.



The Open

University:
the E
Write
S
ite and COWS


It is not surprising that one UK institution to offer various on
-
line resources which support
academic writing should be the Open University (OU) since it caters for distance learning
students. Therefore
on
-
line

supp
ort for writing is imperative in this context.

One example of
this support is the OU EWrite site.

This was primarily set up to support the academic writing
needs of a diverse and international group of postgraduate distance learning students who
were study
ing on the MAODE course (Masters in
On
-
line

and Distance Education)

Goodfellow, R. (2005).
The EWrite site offered two main areas of
on
-
line

support:




Students’ and tutors’ testimonials, advice and practical activities to support the
writing of assignments



Students’ and tutors’ testimonials, advice and links to engage in different types of
on
-
line

tutorials


Types of
on
-
line

tutorials varied and were
asynchronous
.

They included:


“...structured discussions and debates, pair or small group collaborative task
s,
responses to activities in the study guide, or in some cases just informal conversation
about course topics (Goodfellow and Lea, 2006,
http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/workspace.cfm?wpid=561
1
).”


An action research study accompanied and evaluated students’ engagement with this
on
-
line

resource. The findings suggest that
a significant number of students found the web
resource supportive and needed;

and that
the website encouraged students to
examine and
question traditional academic writing practices, through their active use of the on
-
line space

(Goodfellow, 2005).

As previously described, Mary Lea suggests
asynchronous

written
conferencing is effective for two
main reasons:


1.

It

is an opportu
nity to reflect on writing because of the time delayed
communication
.

2.

It

helps students rehearse for writing the more formal essay, because students use
the arguments of other students to inform their writing.


The latter, Lea points out, is crucial for t
he formation of a good argument in their writing,
and is what Lea describes as a new writing genre:


“By drawing explicitly on the voices of others and investing them with the kinds of
authority which have traditionally been reserved for published authors, students are
able to draw on a wider range of rhetorical resources than those available to them
from

published works alone
(Lea, 2001,
p179).”


17


Having introduced the EWrite site within the MAODE course and found it to be successful
for masters students on this course, the developers wanted to create an
on
-
line

resource
which could be applied generically
across the University. However, they wanted to adapt
the resource to sui
t different disciplines at post
grad
ua
te level.

They wanted this support to
remain at MA level because research conducted at the OU suggested that there was a focus
on “higher level iss
ues of discursive writing (Strauss, Goodfellow and Puxley, 2009)” within
students’ need for writing support. They are therefore now developing COWS
(Contextualising
On
-
line

Writing Support) which will integrate some of the EWrite site in a
new resource.

Th
e idea behind COWS is that a generic website offering
on
-
line

support for
academic writing can only go so far in supporting students’ writing in a general sense; but
may not be subject specific enough.

Therefore, as described above,

on
-
line

writing
resources are being developed which can be:




applied

at a generic level within different disciplines
;




adapted by course designers to provide more specific writing support suitable for

different subject areas.



The COWS resources are soon to be t
rialled in Masters in Education courses at the OU and
New Zealand, before they can be adapted and implemented more extensively across the
OU, and in other institutions in the future.



Write Now CETL

and London Metropolitan University Writing Centre


Fund
ed by
Higher Education Academy
, the Write Now CETL was established in 2006.

This is
led by London Metropolitan University, in conjunction with Liverpool Hope University and
Aston University.

All universities which are participating in this CETL project off
er support
for academic writing and have their own websites. However, this section of the Synthesis
focuses mainly on the work of London Metropolitan Writing Centre, which provides the
most substantial
on
-
line

support (Write Now CETL, 2009). In addition to

traditional writing
workshops for staff and students, London Metropolitan University Writing Centre offers
synchronous and asynchronous

on
-
line

support in academic writing for undergraduates and
postgraduates. Their website also includes a variety of prin
table
on
-
line

resources on
different aspects of writing.

For students there is:



a writing mentor scheme where students requiring help are paired up with trained
undergraduate and postgraduate writing ment
ors from a range of disciplines;




more f
ocused suppo
rt for international and postgraduate students, where they will
be paired up with mentors of an appropriate level
and background.


Although such tutorials with mentors can be face to face, the London Met
ropolitan

Writing
Centre has recently introduced
sync
hronous

one hour
on
-
line

tutorials using Live Chat
software (London Metropolitan Writing Centre, 2009).

The central aim of this tutorial
system is
to
promote

collaborative and “
non
-
directive” one
-
to
-
on
e

on
-
line

support
,

18


described as unusual in the UK (Harrington, O’Neill and Bakhshi, 2007, p27). The Writing
Centre developers believe that this type of
real time tutorial

is vital in promoting reflective
thought which develops from dialogue; and that this process helps overc
ome problems with
writing.
S
tudents


mentoring of
other students

is
described as
appropriate
,

because
student
mentors

have a
good

understanding of the problems which the mentees are experiencing

with their writing
.
Asynchronous

on
-
line

support is also prov
ided in the form of providing
feedback about written assignments during the draft stage. As with the COWS project,
in
addition,
specialist staff from the Writing Centre work with colleagues from specific
disciplines across the London Metropolitan Universit
y.
The specialists
help lecturers

to

incorporate writing components within courses which are tailored to supporting students’
writing development within
their own fields
.

An initial evaluation into the student Writing Mentors Scheme showed that “as traine
d
Writing Mentors, students are able to facilitate the kind of dialogue around writing that can
help peers develop into more confident and competent academic writers (Harrington et al.,
op.cit, p31).”

Reasons they found for this success were that
the mento
rs
were

able to

directly refer to their own writing development journeys

and
provide empathetic support
which encouraged the student mentees.


Although further research may be necessary, it is suggested that this is a good model for
other universities to f
ollow in providing writing support.

In 2008 an additional research
project was conducted accompanying a collaborative on
-
line student writing venture, which
was led by students within the mentoring scheme.

The
on
-
line

initiative included a wiki
5

and
a blog to encourage student discussion around an essay.

This essay was made accessible to
students on
-
line, along with
:



preparation notes



drafts



a stage by stage reflective commentary



a
ssessment comments and criteria for marking the essay

The
research showed that this project was very popular.

Moreover, the blog and the wiki
attracted a large number of contributions, which helped students voice their opinions and
challenges about academic writing.

The project has now become a resource which has

been
used in other areas of academic writing support across the university by lecturers.

It is
argued that this type of
on
-
line

resource can be effective and may be adapted to facilitate:



student discussion about the writing process



writing group activiti
es



assessment activities



understanding key concepts associated with different subject areas




5


Please see the glossary of technological terms.

19


(O’Neill and Reynolds, 2008)


AWESOME: Academic Writing Empowered by Socially Mediated On
-
line Environments

Funded by JISC, and led by the

University of Leeds

in
partnership with the Centre for
Academic Writing

at Coventry University and the School of Lifelong Learning at Bangor
University, the Awesome project was started in 2008.

The basis for this initiative is that the
grading of dissertations is vital in affect
ing students’ overall success within their degrees.
However, dissertations are also identified as
the most difficult stage within a degre
e
when
many students and their supervisors may experience major issues and challenges (O’Rourke,
2009)
.

Although curren
t support for dissertation guidance is widely available in HE, this may
be too limited in terms of not giving students’ opportunities to use their knowledge about
dissertations in practice. The main aim of creating the Awesome Dissertation Environment
(ADE
) was to support students’ dissertation writing through creating a Web 2.0 on
-
line
environment which

incorporates and encourages practical creativity and collaboration
through supporting student dissertation writing

and
“enhances traditional face to face
s
upervision (O’Rourke, 2009, p5).”

The ADE provides

previous dissertation examples which relate to specific disciplines

and
includes a step by step integrated commentary to: “guide students right through the
dissertation writing process (O’Rourke, 2009, p4).”
It is suggested that th
e

provision of
examples with commentaries facilitates student access to lecturers’ advice about w
riting.
Such advice might otherwise not be articulated, since lecturers might assume that giving
such advice is unnecessary
,

and already known by the student.

This
is what is described as
“tacit”

knowledge

about writing
(Elton, 2008, p207).

The latter is a
rgued to be

particularly
important for students to know about in the dissertation stage
, but sometimes

more
difficult to
access

during
this period, since

students may often be
come

more isolated

from
tutors and peers (O’Rourke, op. cit.)
.


The ADE environme
nt helps with different aspects of dissertation writing including:



c
hoosing a research methodology



sourcing and writing literature reviews



developing
writing style and structure


The ADE incorporates social networking technology which enables the collabor
ative creation
and sharing of work between teaching staff and students; offering a way of seeking and
giving constructive advice about writing on
-
line.

The most distinctive technological element
of the ADE is that it uses a SemanticMediaWiki
6

which permits

gathering and comparing
complex information, within different thematic groups.

These are described as “properties”



6

Please see glossary of technological terms

20


such as different types of literature reviews, or examples of good and bad writing in specific
disciplines for instance (O’Rourke,
op.cit
, p
4).

Specific tools in the ADE environment include:




b
logs to enable written dialogue between students, peers and staff



s
ocial tagging

7

to develop literature reviews, for instance



annotation
8

tools to give and receive individual advice from, and dialogue with
critical friends and

tutors about writing



a community directory to compile helpful on
-
line information, relevant to individual
study



audiovisual
on
-
line

media to enable access to actual c
ase study experiences of
dissertation writing

(O’Rourke, 2009, p6)

The development of the ADE project comprised three stages (2008
-
2009):

1.

A

model
ADE was developed
based on
a
staff

and
student needs analysis
. This was

followed by
initial
user

trials and fu
rther evaluation and feedback.

2.

A model ADE was piloted within 2 disciplines in the University of Leeds: Education
and Fashion Design.

3.

Further piloting of ADEs at Coventry and Bangor Universities took place; followed by
discussion of an ADE being set up for

the

Higher Education Academy

Philosophy and
Religious Studies subject centre.

Following the trials there was very positive feedback from staff and student users, and
evidence that there was a need for ADEs in all the institutions where they were piloted.

Staff
could see the real value of ADEs in
providing dissertation students with the extra time and
support needed that
the supervisors

were unable to provide
. They also saw the benefits of
the resource in positively influencing

the students’ final levels of

achievement within their
degrees which were often adversely affected by dissertations
.

Students found that the ADE

offered them emotional support through collaboration
,

and communication

with peers and
tutors
. This
helped to counterbalance the isolation t
hey felt by while undertaking the
dissertation “lone journey (O’Rourke, 2009, p17).”

The findings of feedback from trials also suggested that students wanted to remain
anonymous in most discussion and communication with peers or tutors on the ADE
.
F
eedbac
k from staff tutors rather than student
peers was also suggested as a preference of
some student research participants.

Other areas
identified
for development within the ADE
was that the user interface was
described as

rather overwhelming at first. This
finding
is still
being taken into account during current redevelopment of the ADE.

Several different
versions of ADE which were developed for each institution are still being used, although
these are
not
currently
available to the public.

However, there is

a public
version available
at
:

http://awesome.leeds.ac.uk/wiki/publicinstance/index.php/Main_Page




7

Please see the glossary of technological terms.

8

Please see the glossary, as above.

21


The ADEs are still subject to continued trial and improvements; especially

with regard to
user interfaces.

Moreover, further evidence and research will be needed to support the
value for money of these
on
-
line

resources before they are adopted on an institutional, or
sector wide basis which is the future aim of this project.


CO
WL


University of Coventry On
-
line Writing Lab

COWL is a current project led by the University of Coventry (2008
-
2010), and is also funded
by JISC.

Coventry On
-
line Writing Lab (COWL) is an on
-
line development of the University’s
current writing centre, C
AW which supports students’ academic writing at all levels
(
http://www.coventry.ac.uk/cu/caw
). Like COWS, Awesome,
London Metropoli
tan Writing
Centre, and Thinking Writing (which will be subsequently
discussed);

an important
pedagogic aim of COWL is to tailor writing support in the context of different academic
disciplines. The main
aims of

initiating

the COWL project
were

to enhance current CAW
provision, by offering:



writing support for a larger numb
er of students, which is not currently possible with
traditional face to face

tutoring
;



better support
for
distance learning, part
-
time students or those who do not
physically attend the University often.


The setting up of on
-
line support in COWL has been

based on careful evaluation of previous
provision at the University and elsewhere during the first phase of the project.

The
evaluation
particularly
explored administrative and pedagogic processes within the existing
Coventry Centre for Academic Writing (
CAW
). During

P
hase 2

of the project they

used this
evaluation
to inform the initial development and trialling of

on
-
line support within 2
academic disciplines: Paramedic Science and Economics.

The
se

subjects were chosen
because of the two different extreme
s of students.

The first are predominantly work
-
based;
and the second are traditionally taught at the University. By the end of Phase 3 which is not
yet complete, the COWL project team plan to extend COWL provision across the University
(Simkiss, 2009).

Bo
th synchronous and asynchronous on
-
line support for writing is offered to individual
students by COWL.

Asynchronous support takes the form of writing tutors providing
feedback on students’ written work, and this must be provided within 5 working days.
Sync
hronous writing tutorials are also offered and are either 20 minutes or 50 minutes long.
In addition the COWL website will include an
on
-
line

questionnaire to ascertain the
individual needs of the student,
and the

type of support they require
. In addition
there will
be

on
-
line resources to help students with different aspects of writing challenges
,

in a
vari
ety of text and audio
-
visual on
-
line formats (Childs and Deane, 2009).

COWL will
incorporate

technologies
which are based on the University of Coventry’
s current on
-
line
environment, CUO
On
-
line
. The main technologies planned are:

22




.

Filtering system and diagnostic element: Moodle (and Accutrack


.

Writing resources: CURVE (and audio visual enhancements as appropriate)





.

Asynchronous feedback: Riffly
plus enhancements


.

Synchronous feedback: Megameeting ”




(Childs and Deane, 2009, p12)

Currently, this project is still work in progress, and is due to be completed in 2010.

Learn H
igher Academic Writing
W
ebsite

and WAC
:

Nottingham Trent University

Maintained by Nottingham Trent University, Learn Higher has a substantial section on
academic writing support for students and staff:
(
http://www.learnhigher.ac.uk/learning
areas/academicwriting/home.htm
).



For students, this provides

web pages with advice on specific areas of academic
writing; and also includes podcasts offering academic writing advice.




For staff, the website provides downloadable academic writing teaching
resources;
and relevant bibliographies and advice.




There are also links to other useful academic writing websites in USA, Australia and
at the Open University.


In addition, the website also informs visitors about the Writing Across the Curriculum
project

(WAC), which is running from 2008
-
2009. The WAC approach views writing as a
means to “develop learning” (Bell and Foster, 2009, p1). The idea as with many of the
projects described above is to support students’ academic writing in their particular
discipl
ine.

During the project academic staff at Nottingham Trent University are given the
opportunity, guidance and resources to implement WAC within their courses.

This support is
flexible and lecturers may vary in the levels of writing support they wish to pro
vide for their
students.

Taking full advantage of the support offered by the Centre for Quality
Enhancement (CASQ) might entail 2 stages of writing support for students throughout their
degrees.




In the first two years: “
Writing to learn

uses informal, gen
eric, short writing tasks, to
helps students structure their thoughts and ideas (Bell and Foster,
op.cit
, p1).”




In the third year “
Writing in the disciplines

uses discipline focused activities to
develop students’ writing so that they are able to communic
ate as scholar in their
field (Bell and Foster,
op.cit, p1
).”

23


There has been no formal evaluative research accompanying this project to date.

However
the majority of informal feedback from students whose lecturers’ have trialled WAC within
their courses ha
s been very positive (Bell, 2009
b
,
p1
http://www.learnhigher.ac.uk/learningareas/academicwriting/thewacproject.htm#Feb%20
mtg
).


Developing
C
ollaborative
A
cademic
W
riting
C
ommunities and a
C
ollaborative
W
riter’s
T
oolbox

This project funded by Escalate (2009) is led by the University of Bristol in conjunction with
Oxford Learning Institute, Keele University and University of Plymouth.
(
http://escalate.ac.uk/5616
)

Its pedagogic aim is to:

“promote the discussion and development of writing styles and identities as a
creative, collaborative aspect of life in the academy for staff and students alike
(ESCalat
e, 2009, p1).”

The project developers are in the process of creating on
-
line resources for supporting
lecturers and postgraduate students with their academic writing.

Based on research,
evaluation and discussion across a range of different HE institutions,

on
-
line

resources are
being

developed to cater for a wide variety of students and staff.

It is intended that the
resources will use a range of tools, including Web 2.0 technologies, to enable collaborative
discussion and reflectivity about writing, includ
ing writing for publication: through blogging
and giving and receiving critical peer feedback. The project is due to be completed this
December 2010 (ESCalate, 2009).


Thinking

Writing: Queen Mary University of

London


Thinking Writing

is a website which has been set up and developed as a result of the Queen
Mary University
of London
Writing in the Disciplines project, currently funded by

the Higher
Education Academy
.

Originally the Writing in the Disciplines project aimed to address the

needs of undergraduate students within different academic disciplines.

The rationale behind
the project is their support for writing:




.

recognises the differences between literary cultures and reasoning styles of


different disciplines
;


.
avoids stigm
atising a minority of students as in need of remedial help
;


.

pays explicit attention to developing student autonomy and their powers of


reasoning and articulate expression through the subject content of the


discipline;

24



.
and

helps students see writing as integral to learning, and not just as an end
-



product

f
or assessment purposes
.”



(MacDonald Ross2007,


http://prs.heacademy.ac.uk/view.html/prsdocuments/
388
).


In addition to face to face consultation offered by the project team to staff across the
University,

the aim of the on
-
line resource is to primarily support academic staff within
different disciplines.

With the exception of WAP at the University of
Brighton , such on
-
line
support is unusual within the context of most other projects, which mainly aim to help
students.

The website

helps staff to develop academic writing elements within their own
courses across the University, and is similar to the WAC
project in this sense.

The resource is
extensive in terms of the information it provides.

On the website ‘Thinking writing’ is
described as a pedagogical

approach to writing development, where the emphasis is on
“writing to learn (
Queen Mary University of
London:
Thinki
ng

Writing, 2003, p1
).”

Examples
of learning and teaching resources tailored to specific disciplines are available to download
can be found on the website.

In addition, there are sections of the website devoted to
ways
in which
:




writing jour
nals helps to develop

students’ reflective thinking



formative assessment can be used to develop students’ writing.


There is also an on
-
line discussion board for staff about this approach to academic writing
development.

Currently, the Writing in the
Disciplines project is still in progress, and
research accompanying this project has not been published.


University of Brighton: Writing for Academic Publication and
c
ommunity
@b
righton

In 2009 the University of Brighton (UOB) initiated a new Writing for A
cademic Publication
(WAP) course, incorporating a significant on
-
line element. This is principally aimed at
academic staff within the University who need support in helping them to publish research.

As mentioned above, the UOB is unusual in offering writin
g support principally aimed at
academic staff in the first instance. The main reason behind this decision to support
academic staff is because there is an increasing pressure on academic staff to publish their
research, particularly in post 1992 universiti
es (Sikes, 2006). The aim of this course is
therefore to support staff in their academic writing and overall professional development
within this context. The
on
-
line

element incorporates Web 2.0 technologies to foster
collaboration in writing development
within the WAP participants al
so helps to disseminate
good on
-
line writing support and development practice among the academic staff
community at the University; which can eventually filter down to students and become a
sustainable development.


25


WAP incorp
orates an assessed on
-
line element in the form of a writing development blog
which course participants must submit with their final paper, article or book chapter at the
end of the course.

Course participants are also encouraged to engage in additional on
-
line
elements enabling communication about writing development with tutors, a small number
of critical friends within the course group, and the entire group when relevant. The WAP
environment is part of the University’s own social networking site,
communit
y@brighton.
Important facets of the
on
-
line

environment include:



a
shared space
to enable blogging and
on
-
line

discussion about writing development
within the whole WAP group and tutor;



a
personal blog
to develop a more individual
on
-
line

journal about writing
development, which may be shared with a few critical friends;



e
mail
where course participants can
communicate with

the whole group or
individual members; and ask for feedback from critical friends about work in
progress.


At the end
of the course participants were asked to provide feedback about ways in which
on
-
line elements:



supported their writing developments
;



could be further enha
nced to provide greater support.


The following key findings have been identified from course partici
pants who provided
feedback:

1.

The
on
-
line

aspect of the WAP course which respondents found most useful was
email communication, and sharing writing, between small groups of critical friends
within the course.

These groups were established first within the f
ace to face setting
within the course.

It was commonly confirmed that face to face support was the
most valued part of the course; and that on
-
line communication about writing
between small groups who shared some common ground in their writing or research
interests enhanced this face to face communication and support. These small groups
which developed communication did help to support writing development; as
writing is described as a solitary activity, and communication in relation to work can
help to main
tain the writer’s confidence.

Several respondents mentioned the
usefulness of giving and receiving feedback, and dialoguing about writing, using
reviewers’ comments in Track Changes, which was described as valuable in this
context.

2.

As well as emails being

viewed as the most useful form of on
-
line communication
within the WAP course; respondents added that they found emails the quickest and
easiest form of on
-
line communication which they were used to.

This finding is also
linked to unfamiliarity with other

forms of on
-
line communication, such as blogging.
26


Pressures of time, and some difficulties in navigating the WAP interface, also
increased reticence to engage in blogging.

3.

There was a consensus that the WAP
on
-
line

environment, including a
s
hared
s
pace

bl
og did provide a forum for general discussion and a sense of community and moral
support which was valued.

4.

As mentioned above, respondents were often hesitant in engaging in the personal
blog accompanying their

writing development. However, some
respondents did
value the idea of a blog as a reflective writing journey and record of their
development in writing.

This very personal blog could only be shared with critical
friends with whom respondents said they had established trust, as described earl
ier.

Such a need for greater trust is suggested by some respondents as a reason why they
were hesitant in engaging in the personal blog and sharing it with critical friends.
Some respondents felt they had not spent sufficient time face to face with peers o
n
the course in order to develop the required cohesiveness and trust in this context.
Moreover, there was some uncertainty about required levels of privacy with regard
to sharing writing within the WAP environment.

Based on this feedback, the course devel
opers aim to develop the WAP user interface for
next year’s course. They also note the usefulness of using Track Changes and comment
(word functions) in interacting with and dialoguing with participants’ written work in a
formative manner. Continued evalua
tion of the
on
-
line

elements of the course will take
place in order to inform further extension of the WAP course provision.

The Centre for
Learning and Teaching at the UOB is now pursuing funding opportunities in order to support
their plans for the devel
opment of on
-
line support for academic staff and postgraduate
students’ academic writing in the future.


Part
4

Discussion of
K
ey
F
indings

1.

Research has recently focused on the changing nature of academic writing and its
support across the HE sector.

Several articles in this context suggest that greater
academic writing support is increasingly required; and that this should meet the
varied needs and abilities of a growing number of students and staff in academic
writing.

Provision of such support throu
gh
Internet

technologies, particularly web 2.0
technologies employing
on
-
line

tools such as emailing, blogging, wikis and social
networking environments are argued to be an effective means of helping large
numbers of students (or staff); and catering for t
heir different needs. In addition,
on
-
line

tools have been shown to effectively integrate different elements of three
traditional writing support models described in the background to this study (Skills,
Socialisation and Literacies). Previous work also su
ggests that there is a greater need
27


for recognition of emerging on
-
line writing trends as legitimate forms of writing
within the higher education community.

This will help to counteract the suggested
difficulty that some students (and staff) have found in
being accepted into the
academic writing community; which until recently has been reputedly elitist.


2.

Several research studies have been conducted in universities across the HE sector
which propose that on
-
line technologies and tools, including blogging,
texting,
emailing and social networking promote collaboration and creativity in writing.

These
on
-
line

practices are currently considered by researchers to be an appropriate
means of helping students and academic staff to develop their writing skills.

For
instance, reflective journaling through blogging is suggested to unlock creativity, the
writer’s voice and the ability to reflect critically on writing.

Blogging can also be a
collaborative means to communicate with peers and tutors about one’s writing,
st
imul
ating the ability to debate. On
-
line support offered through website channels
can therefore simply be a way of facilitating this development.

In addition active on
-
line support by tutors and mentors can involve giving feedback on writing, or
providing
on
-
line tutorials.


3.

On
-
line Writing Labs
(OWLs
) have been operating in the US
since
the
Internet

first
became available
.

These OWLs

have provided models and evidence about effective
on
-
line support for academic writing, which UK institutions
have recently
been able
to

follow.
OWLs offer either or both: synchronous (real time) support, such as on
-
line tutorials; and asynchronous (time delayed) support, such as giving and receiving
advice on written drafts attached to emails. The latter often involves annotat
ion
software tools such as Track Changes. B
oth systems of support are
demonstrated to
be
effective, as long as website interfaces
are
user friendly and engaging; and the
support offered is also friendly and non
-
threatening.

Research into OWL provision
also

clarifies that the purpose of on
-
line support is to enhance rather than replace
face to face writing support.

Many US OWLs offer generic support across institutions,
which is still unusual in the UK.

However, all UK institutions which are leading
projects

in
on
-
line

support for academic writing aim for implementation of
institution wide support over the next few years, to be followed by further extension
across the HE sector.


4.

As mentioned above, several UK higher education projects

have recently been
init
iated, whose aim is to provide active and substantial on
-
line support for academic
writing for students and staff. Many of the universities leading these projects
already
offer significant support for academic writing across the
ir

insti
tution through writi
ng
centres. In this sense, such institutions already have systems and websites in place
which can be enhanced by offering synchronous
on
-
line

tutorials or asynchronous
feedback. The mission of projects varies to a degree, and different student or staff
28


gro
ups have been targeted for support. However, several projects, including
AWESOME, COWs, London Metropolitan Writing Centre and COWL aim to help
postgraduate students, since these students have been identified as having a great
need for support, particularl
y during the dissertation stage.

Some projects also aim
to help undergraduates, and academic staff.

In all projects the need to tailor support
to cater for the needs of staff and students in different disciplines is seen as crucially
important.

Most projec
ts offer asynchronous support providing on
-
line feedback on
submitted written work from tutors; and some projects, including COWL and London
Metropolitan Writing Centre offer on
-
line synchronous tutorials. The latter may be
provided by student mentors or t
utors, and there is evidence that both can work
well. Many projects also adopt Web 2.0 technologies which provide students and
staff with opportunities to communicate with peers about their writing through
blogging, wikis or
on
-
line

conferencing.

There is
evidence that this element is
important in facilitating collaboration and creativity in writing which helps to
develop the academic writer’s voice, reflectivity and ability to debate critically; all of
which are vital ingredients of good academic writing.

The majority of projects
operating through

on
-
line writing centres or specific websites are still undergoing
trials within specific disciplines, and on
-
line interfaces are procedures are being
evaluated and developed before final support can be more extens
ively implemented
across institutions.

In some cases, further development is also dependent on
additional funding.

However there is substantial evidence in the majority of projects
that the on
-
line support is needed and valued by students, and that it work
s
effectively in benefitting their writing development and wellbeing.

Recommendations for Practice a
cross the HE Sector

Based on the evidence from previous literature, research and the findings of evaluations
accompanying current HE projects which are deve
loping on
-
line support for academic
writing describe in this Synthesis, the following
recommendations for good practice

can be
proposed:



In

proposing to provide or develop
more substantial institutional
on
-
line
support for academic writing, project develop
ers should decide wh
om

they
are going to support
.

They should base this decision on

a needs analysis of
students or staff
, in particular stages of writing development,

in the context
of their institution, and in specific disciplines.



There is evidence from

the projects described that a
synchronous support
is
effective

because

it permits flexibility, and sufficient time for both students
(or staff), and mentors or tutors

to reflect deeply on their communication
about the written work or draft.

This may includ
e direct email feedback;
and/or annotating and commenting on work in more detail through Track
29


Changes.

In addition, these same processes can also occur in peers’
collaborative blogging, wikis, and on
-
line asynchronous conferencing.



If there are
sufficient

resources and technological capacity, synchronous
on
-
line

tutoring through Skype or Live Chat, for instance, works well, in addition
to asynchronous support.

Synchronous support may be provided by tutors or
student mentors, and both methods appear to be v
aluable and effective. For
instance, in research accompanying the Mentor scheme at London
Metropolitan University, students appeared to value the empathetic support
offered by a friendly student mentor. However, in research accompanying
the AWESOME project
, students said they would prefer to be supported by a
staff tutor in the context of their dissertation writing.

Further research may
therefore be needed to explore these differences in attitude.



On
-
line support in writing should be tailored to work in the

context of
different academic disciplines; since in these contexts writing customs vary
considerably. The different projects described are tailored to disciplines in a
variety of ways.

For instance:

AWESOME adapts web environments to suit
particular subje
ct areas
;

London Metropolitan Writing Centre provides
consultancy to

staff across academic Schools; and Queen Mary University
of
London provides discipline specific resources which may by applied by staff
within their courses.



Web 2.0 technologies includin
g blogging,

wikis and written conferencing are
proposed to be an effective means of facilitating a less formal dialogue and
communication about writing among students, and peers.




It is important to trial, evaluate and redevelop user interfaces of websites
, or
web pages which are the portals for academic writing support.

Research
consistently demonstrates that there is a reticence among some students and
staff in engaging in blogging, which relates to concerns over privacy and trust.
Moreover, busy students

and staff will be easily deterred by on
-
line support
facilities which are not easy to navigate.

Therefore, technologists and project
developers must work together in order to ensure that the aspects of on
-
line
support which relate to accessibility, engage
ment, privacy and navigability
are effective.



There is a need to carefully plan what degree of on
-
line support can be
realistically provided by institutions; and evaluate systems in place for
providing this support. Projects should not try to be too ambiti
ous in the first
instance, as developing effective on
-
line academic writing support
mechanisms is described in research as a time consuming process, which
requires a considerable need for collaboration among a variety of
institutional stakeholders.



On
-
line

academic writing support should be offered to enhance face to face
support, and to provide greater capacity and flexibility, not to replace it.


30





Conclusion

Previous research, and current projects which are developing on
-
line facilitation for
academic w
riting across the UK HE sector, demonstrate that there is a g
reat need
for such
support. Moreover, research accompanying some of the emerging UK projects provides
evidence to demonstrate that this support is highly

valued
, particularly
by students. They
pe
rceive that it not only helps them to develop their writing ability, but also to increase
their confidence and engagement in writing.

This is suggested to be important since writing
can be an isolating and challenging journey for students (and staff) to un
dertake.

However,
there may still be some further questions which remain unanswered in relation to
measuring the real impact of on
-
line academic writing support and practices.

The research
studies which are mainly described in this Synthesis identify a com
mon perception that
on
-
line

support for writing and associated practices can positively affect student retention; and
students’ achievement. However, does this perception reflect a reality in terms of a
measurable increase in student scores or completion r
ates? Does on
-
line writing support
really produce a difference in the standard of students’ and staff academic writing which is
evident across the sector? To what extent do newer and more informal genres of writing,
such as dialoguing about feedback with
critical friends through Track Changes, and
asynchronous computer conferencing, affect success in academic writing? Will academic
writing be redefined by these new written genres? These questions can form the basis for
future wider scale research across th
e UK higher education sector.

Such research could then
more clearly demonstrate that valuable projects, such as those described in this Synthesis
provide a return on investment. UK higher education is now at an exciting stage in enabling
students and staff

to complete their academic writing journeys by offering on
-
line
facilitation in this context.

More extensive institutional rollout of the on
-
line support
proposed by the emerging projects described in this Synthesis is expected within the next
few years.
In turn, these projects can contribute to a major breakthrough in ways in which
the
Internet
, including Web 2.0 technologies, afford widespread academic writing support
and development across the UK higher education sector.






31





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37


Appendix:
Glossary of
T
echnological
T
erms

(Adapted from Wikipedia)

Asynchronous conferencing


Asynchronous communication is a mediated form of
communication in which the sender
and receiver are not concurrently engaged in communication.

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asynchronous_communication
, p1)

Blog


A
blog

is a type of
website
, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of
commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are
commonly displayed in reverse
-
chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb,
meaning
to maintain or add content to a blog
.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more
personal
on
-
line

diaries
. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs,
Web
pages
, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave commen
ts in an
interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual,
although some focus on art (
Art blog
), photographs (
photoblog
), videos (
Video blogging
),
music (
MP3 blog
), and audio (
podcasting
).
Microblogging

is another type of blogging,
featuring very short posts.”

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
, p1)

Chat room


The term
chat room
, or
chatroom
, is primarily used by
mass media

to describe any form
of
synchronous conferencing
, occasionally even
asynchr
onous conferencing
. The term can thus
mean any technology ranging from real
-
time
on
-
line

chat

over
instant messaging

and
on
-
line

forums

to fully immersive
graphical social environments
.


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chat_rooms
, p1)

Media Wiki


MediaWiki

is a
web
-
based

wiki software

application used by all projects of the
Wikimedia
Foundation
, and many oth
er wikis. Originally developed to serve the needs of the
free content

Wikipedia

encyclopedia, today it has als
o been deployed by companies for internal
knowledge management
, and as a
content management system
. Notably,
Novell

uses it to
operate several of its high
-
traffic websites.
[1]

Media
Wiki is written in the
PHP

programming language, and can use either the
MySQL

or
PostgreSQL

relational database management system
. MediaWiki is distributed under the
terms of the
GNU General Public License

version 2 or any later version while its
documentation is released under the
Creative Commons BY
-
SA 3.0

license and partly in the
public domain
,
[2]

making it
free and open source software
.”
(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_wiki
)

38




On
-
line

annotation tools


A
web

annotation

is an
on
-
line

annotation

associated with a web resource, typically a
web
page
. With a Web annotation system, a user can add, modify or remove information from a
Web resource without modifying the resource itself. The annotations can be thought of as a
layer on top of the existing resource, and this annotation layer is usually visib
le to other users
who share the same annotation system, making it a type of
social software

tool.

Web annotation can be used for the following purposes:



to rate a Web resourc
e, such as by its usefulness, user
-
friendliness, suitability for
viewing by minors.



to improve or adapt its contents by adding/removing material, something like a
wiki
.



as a
collaborative

tool, e.g. to discuss the contents of a certain resource.



as a medium of artistic or social criticism, by allowing Web users to reinterpret,
enrich or protest agains
t institution or ideas that appear on the Web.



to quantify transient relationships between information fragments.



(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_annotation
)

On
-
line

community


A
virtual
community
,
e
-
community

or
on
-
line

community

is a
group

of people that primarily
interact via communication media such as
newsletters
,
telephone
,
email
,
Internet

social
network service

or
instant messages

rather than face to face, for social, professional,
educational or other purposes. If the me
chanism is a
computer network
, it is called an
on
-
line

community
. Virtual and
on
-
line

communities have also become a supplemental form of
communication between people who k
now each other primarily in real life. Many means are
used in
social software

separately or in combination, including text
-
based chatrooms and
forums that use voice, video text or
avatars
. Significant socio
-
technical change may have
resulted fro
m the proliferation of such
Internet
-
based
social networks
.
[1]


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
On
-
line
_community
, p1)

On
-
line

filtering


Content
-
control software
, also known as
censorware

or
web filtering software
, is a term for
software

designed and optimized for controlling what content is permitted to a reader,
especially when it is used to restrict material delivered over the
Web
. Content
-
control
software determines what content will be available.

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_filtering
)



39



On
-
line

journals


On
-
line

diaries began in 1994. As a community formed, these publications came to be
almost exclusively known as
on
-
line

journals
. Today they are almost exclusively called
blogs
,
though some differentiate

by calling them
personal blogs
. The running updates of
on
-
line

diarists combined with links inspired the term 'web log' which was eventually contracted to
form the word blog.

In
on
-
line

diaries, people write their day
-
to
-
day experiences, social commentary
, complaints,
poems, prose, illicit thoughts and any content that might be found in a traditional paper diary
or journal. They often allow readers to contribute through comments or
community posting
.”


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
On
-
line
_diary
, p1)

Skype


Skype

(pronounced
/
ˈ
ska
ɪ
p/
) is a
software application

that allows users to make
voice calls
over the
Internet
. Calls to other users of the service and, in some countries, to free
-
of
-
charge
numbers, are free, while calls to other
landlines

and
mobile phones

can be made for a fee.
Additional features include
instant messaging
,
file transfer

and
video conferencing
.


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype
)

Social networking


A
social network service

focuses on building
on
-
line

communities

of people who share
interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of
others. Most social network servic
es are
web based

and provide a variety of ways for users to
interact, such as
email

and
instant messaging

services.

Social networking has encouraged new ways to communicate and share information. Social
networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people.

While it could be sai
d that email and websites have most of the essential elements of social
network services, proprietary encapsulated services gained popularity in the first decade of
the 21st century.

The main types of social networking services are those which contain cate
gory divisions
(such as former school
-
year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self
-
description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now
combine many of these, with
Facebook

widely used worldwide;
MySpace
,
Twitter

and
LinkedIn

being the most widely used in North America;
[1]

Nexopia

(mo
stly in
Canada
);
[2]

Bebo
,
[3]

Hi5
,
StudiVZ

(mostly in
Germany
),
iWiW

(mostly in Hungary),
Tuenti

(mostly in
Spain),
Decayenne
,
Tagged
,
XING
;
[4]
,
Badoo
[5]

and
Skyrock

in parts of Europe;
[6]

Orkut

and
Hi5

in
South America

and
Central America
;
[7]

and
Friendster
,
Mixi
,
Multiply
,
Orkut
,
Wretch
,

Xiaonei

and
Cyworld

in Asia and the Pacific Islands and
Areapal

in India.

40


There have been some attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate
entries of friends and interests (see the
FOAF

standard and the
Open Source Initiative
), but
this has led to some concerns about privacy.”
(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Networking_Sites
)

Social tagging


A
folksonomy

is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of
collaboratively

creating and managing
tags

to annotate and
categorize

content
;
[1]

this practice
is also known as
collaborative tagging
,
social classification
,
social indexing
, and
social
tagging
.
[
cit
ation needed
]

Folksonomy

is a
portmanteau

of
folk

and
taxonomy
.

Folksonomies became popular on the
Web

around 2004
[2]

as part of
social software

applications such as
social bookmarking

and photograph annotation.
Taggi
ng
, which is
characteristic of
Web 2.0

services, allows users to collectively classify and find information.
Some websites include
tag clouds

as a way to visualize tags in a folksonomy.
[3]

Attempts have been made to characterize folksonomy in
social tagging

system as emergent
externalization of knowledge structures contributed by multiple users.
Models of
col
laborative tagging

have been developed to characterize how knowledge structures could
arise and be useful to other users, even when there is a lack of top
-
down mediation (which is
believed to be an important feature because they do not need laborious expli
cit
representations as in
semantic web
). In particular, cognitive models
[4]

of collaborative
tagging c
an highlight how differences in internal knowledge structures of multiple users can
lead to different emergent properties in the folksonomy of a social tagging system.”
(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wi
ki/Social_tagging
)

Synchronous conferencing


Synchronous conferencing

is the formal term used in
science
, in particular in
computer
-
mediated communication
,
collaboration

and
learning
, to describe
on
-
line

chat

technologies. It
has arisen at a tim
e when the term
chat

had a negative connotation. Today it is occasionally
also extended to mean
audio/video conferencing

or
instant messaging

systems, given they
provide a
text
-
based

multi
-
user

chat function. The word
synchronous

in this case is not to be
considered a technical term, but rather describing how it is perceived by humans

chat
happens in
real time

before your eyes.

Synchronous conferencing protocols include:



IRC

(
Internet

Relay Chat)



PSYC

(Protocol f
or SYnchronous Conferencing)



SILC

(Secure
Internet

Live Conferencing protocol)



XMPP

(Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol)



(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronous_conferencing
, p1)

User interface


The
user
interface

(also known as
human computer interface

or
man
-
machine interface

(MMI)) is the aggregate of means by which people

the
users

interact

with
the
system

a
41


particular
machine
, device,

computer program

or other complex
tool
. The user interface
provides means of:



Input
, allowing the users to manipulate a system



Output
, allowing the system to indicate the effects of the users' manipulation.



(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_interface
, p1)

Video conferencing


A
videoconference

(also known as a
videoteleconference
) is a set of interactive
telecommunication

technologies

which allow two or more locations to interact via two
-
way
video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also
been called
visual collaboration

and
is a type of
groupware
. It differs from
videophone

in that it is designed to serve a conference
rather than individuals
.” (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_conferencing
, p1)

Virtual learning environment


A
virtual learning environment (VLE)

is a
software

system designed to support teaching and
learning in an educational setting, as distinct from a Managed Learning Environment, (MLE)
where the focus is on management. A VLE wi
ll normally work over the
Internet

and provide
a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked
automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of
students' work, peer assessm
ent, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing
student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc. New features in these systems include
wikis
,
blogs
,
RSS

and
3D virtual learning spaces
.

While originally created for distanc
e education, VLEs are now most often used to supplement
traditional face to face classroom activities, commonly known as Blended Learning. These
systems usually run on
servers
, to serve the course to students
Multimedia

and/or
web pages
.”


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_learning_environment
, p1)

Web 2.0


The term "
Web 2.0
" is commonly associated with web applications which facilitate
interactive
information sharing
,
interoperability
,
user
-
centered design
[1]

and
collaboration

on
the
World Wide Web
. Examples of Web 2.0 include web
-
based communities,
hosted
services
,
web applications
,
social
-
networking sites
,
video
-
sharing sites
,
wikis
,
blogs
,
mashups

and
folksonomies
. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change
website
content
, in contrast to non
-
interactive websites where users are limited to the passive
viewing of information that is provided to them.


(
h
ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
)

Web conferencing


Web conferencing

is used to conduct live
meetings
, training, or
presentations

via the
Internet
. In a web conference, each participant sits at his or her own
computer

and is
connected to other participants via the
Internet
. This can be either a downloaded application
42


on each of the attendees' computers or a web
-
based application where the attendees access the
meeti
ng by clicking on a link distributed by
email

(meeting invitation) to enter the
conference.

A
webinar

is a
neologism

to describe a specific type of web conference. It is typically one
-
wa
y,
[1]

from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, such as in a
webcast
. A
webinar can be collaborative
[1]

and include polling and question & answer
sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. In some cases
, the
presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, while pointing out information being
presented onscreen, and the audience can respond over their own telephones, speaker phones
allowing the greatest comfort and convenience. There are web conferenc
ing technologies on
the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP audio technology, to allow for a
completely web
-
based communication. Depending upon the provider, webinars may provide
hidden or anonymous participant functionality, making participants
unaware of other pa
rticipants in the same meeting.


(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
On
-
line
_conferencing
, p1)

Wiki


A
wiki

is a
website

powered by
wiki software

that allows the easy
[1]

creation and editing of
any number of
interlinked

Web pages
, using a simplified
markup language

or a
WYSIWYG

text editor, within the browser.
[2]
[3]

Wikis are often used to create
collaborative

websites
, to
power community websites, for personal
note taking
, in corporate
intranet
s
, and in
knowledge management

systems.

Most wikis serve a specific purpose, and off topic material is promptly removed by the user
community. Such is the case of t
he collaborative encyclopedia
Wikipedia
.
[3]

In contrast,
open
purpose wikis

accept all sorts of content without rigid rules as to how the content should be
organized.”

(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W
iki
, p.1)