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OLOR Effective Practices Publications, 2020-2021

Supporting Online Learning with Writing-to-Learn Activities

by Amy Cicchino

Writing-to-Learn assignments are short response activities that encourage critical thinking and active learning. While writing-to-learn assignments must be connected to a course’s outcomes, these activities are low-stakes opportunities for students to engage with course content outside of high-stakes assignments. However, a writing prompt is not writing-to-learn just because it is low-stakes. Writing-to-learn prompts use writing as a tool for learning through activities that encourage students to explore ideas, refine thoughts, and apply new knowledge. This article will describe writing-to-learn activities from hybrid professional writing courses and online, asynchronous introductory composition courses. However, writing-to-lean can be used in any course, even courses outside of writing studies. This practice addresses OLI Principle 3, which states that when appropriate, “reading, alphabetic writing, and multimodal composition theories from traditional instructional settings” should “migrate and/or adapt” to online learning environments.

Blackboard Ally: Can Digital Tools Help Us Identify Teaching Accessible Practices?

by Amy Cicchino, Lindsay Clark, and Traci Austin

Using screenshots from our own courses, we demonstrate how Ally brought specific accessibility issues to our attention. We also discuss how this experience prompted us to consider the degree to which these changes increase the accessibility of these resources and what other considerations might be overlooked by the program. This practice addresses OLI Principle 1: "Online literacy instruction should be universally accessible and inclusive."

Introducing Students to Writing on the Web

by Jason Custer

Writing on the Web builds on decades of traditional composition theory that suggests students learn more and become better writers by participating in the process of writing (Berlin; Britton; Murray). The waves of scholarship that brought this thinking to the forefront of composition studies, however, came at a time when composition studies only just started to wrestle with supporting digital writing (Holmes; Summerfield). While this activity builds on the aforementioned tradition in composition studies of encouraging students to develop writing skills and metacognition through the practice of writing, it presents a way to do that task in online environments. Contrary to the insistence of some pundits that modern students are “digital natives” whose computer skills are well beyond our own (Prensky), I find that a low-stakes activity like Writing on the Web helps students better understand how writing online differs from writing on a standard page in a word processor.

Content Delivery for Remote Learning: An Accessible Approach that Combines Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning

by Katelyn Stark

The teaching approach outlined here combines short, small-group synchronous online class meetings with asynchronous activities in order to deliver dense content while encouraging student engagement and participation. This approach was originally employed in an upper-level Rhetoric course that started as a f2f course in Spring 2020 but moved online due to COVID-19. As remote instruction continues for Fall 2020, this article will explain how a dual approach to remote instruction can be carried out for content-heavy courses across the disciplines. The practice addresses OWI Principle 1 and OWI Principle 4.

“The Provoker” Discussion Board Threads

by Scott Warnock with Lisa Schepis-Myers

"The Provoker" is a contradictory voice on the course discussions who challenges students with hyperbolic and oftentimes outrageous positions. Teachers who use discussion boards as dialogue platforms in their courses as regular practice can add a Provoker thread. The goal is to help students develop arguments using evidence, logic, and rhetorical skill—instead of succumbing to hostile discourse; indeed, a key strategy of Provoker threads is to help students practice civilized, respectful digital discourse.

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