OWI Principle 11: Online writing teachers and their institutions should develop personalized and interpersonal online communities to foster student success.
Effective Practice 11.1: OWCs should have no more than 20 registered students (see OWI Principle 9). Online environments have built-in community meeting spaces. However, classes larger than 20 make it difficult for students to know each other and each other’s writing, which often requires written personal attention to a large number of peer discourse opportunities. Furthermore, larger classes make personalized connections between teacher and students and among students and peers difficult.
Effective Practice 11.2: OWC teachers should develop course community early by employing “icebreakers” and other activities that make use of the LMS and that engage student writing.
Effective Practice 11.3: Instructors should set expectations about course objectives, assignments, and learning by communicating with students one-to-one and as a group, regularly and systematically, using both asynchronous and synchronous modalities.
Effective Practice 11.4: As with any composition course, teachers should respond to students’ formal projects in a timely manner that has been outlined clearly for students (see Effective Practice 3.12). Particular to OWI, however, they should employ the kinds of strategies suggested in Effective Practice 3.3 and Effective Practice 3.4, and take advantage of the unique opportunities of the online environment as described in Effective Practice 3.2.
Effective Practice 11.5: Informal student writing integrated in the course (e.g., asynchronous discussions, blogs, reading responses) should use the technological opportunities that most likely will elicit meaningful responses among class participants.
Effective Practice 11.6: Teachers should seek regular, course-specific feedback on OWI course implementation and activities, instructional goals, and performance. Such meta-feedback should make use of private communication venues within the LMS in order to develop the interpersonal relationship between teacher and student. When possible, for student comfort, such feedback should be collected anonymously and implemented publicly.
Effective Practice 11.7: Teachers should develop forums, threads, and assessments in which students can have open discussions, either with or without teacher involvement, about course dynamics. Not only does the OWC provide a place for course-specific self-reflection, it can also provide an ideal setting for more broadly evaluating the nature of student learning such as online modalities for writing, the effectiveness of the LMS, and the like. If students are given opportunities to express their experiences and to vent their frustrations, perhaps in threads like “Lounge” or “Comments about our learning platform” or in an anonymous midterm course evaluation, that might engender a greater willingness to persevere in a new or different learning setting. Additionally, such communications enable OWI teachers to make adjustments and provide feedback to their administrators.