Online Comp–Suitable for IRW or Basic Reader/Writers?

In reference to Scott Warnock’s book Teaching Writing Online: How & Why: Personally, I buy into the notion that the more writing you do, the better you become at it. The same is true for reading, and furthermore, the skills are interrelated and mutually supportive. For these reasons more than any others, I love the idea of online  courses for composition-only courses. However, I wonder about the viability of setting an integrated reading and writing course in cyber space, especially if the course is aimed at basic readers/writers. My concern is threefold. First, much of the work we do in such courses involves the discussion and practice of metacognitive tools, such KWL, double- or triple-entry journals, PPPC, etc. I think it would be difficult to demonstrate the use of these tools if you couldn’t hold up a book in one hand and write on the board with the other. Second, though students may become better readers through sheer dint of having to read all their classmates’ postings, the fact of the matter is  they arrive not yet having reading skills or metacognitive tools adequate to the task. I’m not sure where a teacher would begin to get students up to speed so they could participate effectively in class. Third, as Warnock says, “…students who enroll in [online or hybrid] courses need to consider… their own ability to be a self-starter….” (14). Basic reader/writers are already on cognitive overload, so it’s not a great idea to add another make-or-break complication to their lives.

What do you think? Using a hybrid format may solve the first two problems, but maybe not the third. Any other ideas or solutions?

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2 comments on “Online Comp–Suitable for IRW or Basic Reader/Writers?

  1. I think sometimes we reduce writing, learning, and literacy to a set of skills or competencies or – – evidently from your Warnock quote – – ideological aptitudes. What about the importance of social relations? In at least two ways: how does the online environment “socialize” writing and learning in different or similar ways? and, more importantly, how does it represent academic literacy?

    E.g. many years ago, in an influential essay, David Bartholomae wrote that “every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion.” ( http://firstyearwriting.wikispaces.com/file/view/Inventing+the+University.pdf) E.g. asking students to write within a particular situation requires them to imagine the context and their role within it – – every writing assignment depends on a relation to “academic” knowledge, identity, institution. As a basic writing teacher for some years, this imaginary university can be very (but often oddly) enabling (e.g. working-class students imitating a representation of academic voice and authority – – e.g. trying to sound like Professor Henry Higgins) and also very baffling for students – – e.g. “How do I (a working-class Dominican from 157th St.) fit into this place of white people, “elevated” language, and strange practices – – or not?”

    What kind of universities do students “invent” when that university is represented to them virtually? How does the online environment alter students’ understanding of the university, and hence what kinds of selves and literacies must be mobilized to speak within that virtual university?

  2. I think you raise very good points here, L. It seems that a fully online course may be too much for, say SFSU’s 104. Although, as Warnock points out, so much more reading and writing get done in an OWcourse. Perhaps could be introduced as a unit, or used during the 2nd semester of these year-long courses.

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