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18: The Future of OWI

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    Chapter 18. The Future of OWI

    Beth L. Hewett

    CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in OWI
    Defend & Publish, LLC

    Scott Warnock

    Drexel University

    This chapter asks readers to consider future trends in OWI by understanding its contemporary nature. Given the rise of online, computer-mediated technologies such as an LMS for many writing courses, we argue that more and more in the near future writing instruction will be hybrid in nature—if it is not already so. We further suggest that OWI can influence composition writ large for the better in the twenty-first century by setting the pace for teacher training, working with and beyond text, rethinking the student, thoughtfully teaching with technology, sharing resources openly, reframing research and assessment, and always keeping access in the forefront.

    Keywords: access, alphabetic writing, assessment, collaboration, composition writ large, ethics, “good” OWI, hybrid, literacy, multimedia, reading, House of Lore, MOOC; MOOEE, OWI Online Resource, research, WPA, writing pedagogy;

    Throughout this book, the authors have provided detailed explanations of principles that emerged from research about OWI. But as these writers mention repeatedly, the OWI principles also are good writing instruction principles in general. Thus, as we look to the future of OWI, we must address the nature of composition instruction itself. How much of what we say about OWI is the same for all composition/writing courses? In our travels to conferences and other institutions and in our many virtual interactions, educators are telling us that the OWI principles can be applied broadly to the motivations and the exigencies for composition writ large.

    We believe that OWI is composition writ large because OWI enables teaching students to write with, through, and about the next wave of writing technologies. Dennis Baron (1999) explained that writing itself is a technology, and Michael Halloran (1990) detailed some of the tools with which writing became a common technology in the nineteenth century, leading to a rise in the American middle class and a postsecondary focus on writing as well as oral declamation. When writing then superseded the once-primary orality for the citizen rhetor, institutions and teachers sought to teach it both in person and at a distance using such tools as US mail correspondence, television broadcasts, and audio/video tapes; now, of course, we continue this trend digitally (Declair, 2012; Hewett, 2013). This cycle of shifting educational technologies will continue. As with writing technologies of times past, those used for OWI also will change—particularly in terms of mobile devices, as detailed in Chapter 16. Indeed, some technologies have returned us, not coincidentally, to orality through audio/video technologies. In fact, OWI Principle 1’s access requirements remind us—because both educators and the general public may forget about textual literacy in the face of visual communication—that written transcripts must accompany those more oral and visual productions to ensure inclusive communication. Walter Ong (1982) said, “Writing can never dispense with orality” (p. 8), and we are seeing that orality cannot dispense with writing in OWI.

    We believe one major change in OWI will be the gradual—but not necessarily slow—diminishment of distinctive features between a hybrid OWC and one that traditionally has been considered onsite and face-to-face. Such a change will emerge naturally as digital devices infiltrate onsite writing courses—by individual instructor initiative, institutional decree, and a trickle-down cultural effect—and as teachers rely more often on the Internet and an LMS of some kind to distribute content, collect writing, and provide feedback. As evidenced through what many now call Web-enabled onsite courses, teachers increasingly will learn to develop their courses with interactions mediated both physically onsite and through Internet technologies (see Chapters 1 & 2), which is a key aspect of hybridity regardless of designated seat time. Although there certainly will remain core differences regarding geographical presence when considering the interactions of face-to-face and fully online meetings, we go one step further in this prediction: In time, many differences among teaching in onsite, hybrid, and fully online classrooms will begin to disappear, creating a fluid transition from one educational environment to the other. For example, almost all composing will be accomplished digitally through keyboard and even voice-recognition technology, so pen and paper will become, if not old fashioned, then simply a different way of approaching the technological problem of composing texts; these digital tools will be invisible technology-wise in the same ways that we do not now differentiate composing by pencil (e.g., wooden, disposable, and refillable mechanical) versus pen (e.g., fountain pen, ballpoint, and rollerball). Many contemporary students are not taught cursive handwriting—or even keyboarding—as they grow up pecking and swiping on hand-held devices (Shapiro & Voisin, 2013). They are interacting—albeit more socially than educationally—via computer technology (Hewett 2015a). Educational computing certainly will become the norm rather than the choice that it now is, and educators and students alike will need to work with it as education all too slowly aligns with the cultural attraction to digital technologies. The culture will then move inexorably ahead of education, as it always seems to do (Jukes, McCain, & Crocket, 2010), leaving educators to keep what is the best of what we now know as OWI and to attend to ever new technological advances requiring pedagogical adaptation.

    The future of OWI is not down the road. It is now. Even a book that purports to be up-to-date reflects the past more than the future. The publication of this book is like any other book in that it leaves a time gap from its inception to when it is in the hands of readers. However, that future of OWI also is now because digital technologies will not wait on educators to catch up. Digital technology’s nature requires continuing change, and the strategies that teachers and tutors can and should use to teach students online must follow, albeit a few steps behind. Indeed, we hope we will see composition studies use OWI to elbow its way to the financial and production tables and participate in necessary conversations about the development of technological innovations. As Christina Haas (1996) once indicated, the changes in technologies inevitably change the landscape and nature of composition itself, which is the primary theme of this final chapter.

    Interestingly, perhaps, the kind of broader disciplinary absorption of OWI practices and approaches into what we just generally think of as composition means a re-thinking of our terminology. OWI may end up being reserved for the administrative side of composition and for the logistical and material considerations of teaching via computer and online technologies instead of in an onsite classroom. As Jason Snart demonstrates in Chapter 2, logistics and place still matter in terms of how courses are designed and deployed. But pedagogically, the term OWI may mean less and less to us.. We will need a new way of thinking about the ubiquity of digital tools, a new term—and we wonder whether maybe that term is simply composition. Thus, OWI is and will continue to be about composition—not just composition taught in an online setting but, we argue, composition writ large. In this sense, we smile to think that the CCCC OWI Committee as it currently is named and conceived is moving toward obsolescence given that its specialized online work is becoming that of writing instruction more generally.

    “Good” OWI

    At the end of this book, we find ourselves trying to articulate what we believe comprises “good” OWI. For those who have paid attention to OWI itself as merely a supplemental educational approach for composition writ large, the ongoing, global march of digital technology into all composing processes and educational venues offers the potential to revitalize composition instruction overall—to enable new views of composition, some subtle, some overt. OWI offers all writing educators a new lens for framing our work. To that end, good OWI extends the potential to revisit what we think about composition overall and how we, as a discipline, want to move forward.

    Good OWI Means Being a Good Teacher

    Good OWI means that one first must be a good teacher. To this end, we strongly believe that OWI Principle 7 rightly grounds OWI teacher preparation. One first should be a good teacher of text-based composition—remember that alphabetic writing is not going away—then a teacher who can teach composition through text as well as image and video, and then a teacher who knows how to do these things using digital technologies. The writing studies field, perhaps through re-designed graduate training, will need to prepare new teachers by painstakingly and methodically addressing all three of those needs.

    To expound on these three needs, first, it seems clear that knowledge of writing studies with respect to teaching writing is crucial. There are fundamental concepts without which teachers of writing cannot proceed. Some scholars (Meyer & Land, 2006; Wardle, 2012) have explored writing studies’ “threshold concepts,” which are crucial to teachers’ understanding of what they do as well as helpful for students who strive to make sense of what they are being taught and why. The notion that “conceptions of writing matter, come from somewhere, and various conceptions of writing are more or less accurate and helpful” is important for grounding the teaching of writing in a stable body of knowledge. Such concepts also include “text mediates human activity; people don’t write in a vacuum” and “‘composing’ goes far beyond our usual conceptions of it as related to alphabetic/print-based writing. What counts as composing changes as our world and technologies change” (Wardle, 2012). These concepts underscore the commonality of this field of study, recognize its challenges for pinning down a single theory of writing, and validate its flexible nature.

    The second aspect—the ability to convey that knowledge through text, images, and video—is a newer factor, however. In years past, writing primarily has been conveyed through textbook content and oral lecture. In OWI, composing knowledge is conveyed asynchronously through thousands of teacher’s words and students’ written responses (Warnock, 2009). Hewett (2010, 2015a, 2015b) theorized that some students fail to persist and/or succeed in OWCs because writing is taught through teacher writing and student reading of that writing. Students’ basic reading literacy skills particularly need to be strong in OWI because much of their understanding of writing strategies is gained primarily by reading text-based instruction. Where their literacy skills are weak—and we think many contemporary students have suboptimal traditional literacy skills—they can become lost in what often is an effort to teach themselves how to write through comprehending and applying to their own writing what they are reading about writing (see, for example, Fleischer, 2010; Hewett, 2015a; Rose, 2012). Where teacher writing skills have not been developed with instructing through text as the goal—and most contemporary teachers have been prepared primarily for oral instruction and the use of others’ professional, edited textbooks (see, for example, Britton & Gűlgőz, 1991; Hewett, 2015a)—then teachers strain to make themselves understood (to fully-online students particularly); they may find themselves frustrated with their OWI students. These situations must change with focused teacher preparation for primarily text-based instruction.

    The third need for good OWI teachers is that all teachers, not just the select few OWI pioneers, should understand how to use digital technologies effectively and flexibly to reach the wide variety of student learners matriculated into contemporary postsecondary institutions. This means teachers need training and support in an access-friendly LMS through which the teaching of writing is stressed over how to use the technology acontextually, and they need to use their writing studies knowledge to benefit a wider variety of learners than ever before. To foster teacher satisfaction, Effective Practice 12.1 suggests that only teachers who are best suited to OWI should be assigned OWCs. That practice makes sense given that some educators have taught onsite for decades and may find online teaching to be so different or off-putting as to hurt their effectiveness and to damage students’ writing course experiences. Consider that even today many teachers have no model of online instruction from a participant view: They have never taken such a course. However, in what might seem like an unfair turn-about, we believe that in the OWI future that is now, all new teachers should be being prepared to teach writing in hybrid and fully online settings. The future of OWI as composition writ large will not be able to accommodate teachers who function well only onsite where technology does not intrude or does so in merely a Web-enhanced manner. When digital technology is part of all writing instruction, as we believe it will be, every writing teacher should be able to function in that milieu.

    Good OWI Means that Composition Is Both About and Beyond Text

    Good OWI also encourages and enables the field of writing studies to continue the redefinition of what it means by “composition” beyond text and then to use the digital strategies, such as those described in this book and articulated through research with other experienced instructors, to help students learn how to produce both traditionally text-based writing and digitally and multimedia-enhanced products. Rhetoric and composition educators have long thought in terms of alphabetic, text-based writing; while we strongly believe this is a necessary literacy focus that needs continuing attention, as technorhetoricians point out (see Chapter 14, for example), however crucial textual literacy remains, multimodal composition also is important. Undoubtedly, composition is about a broader digitally produced, image- and audio-based type of writing that integrates with text to convey a message, and composition researchers have looked at composition in terms broader than text for some time. For example, Mary Hocks and Michelle Kendrick (2003) said we need to move beyond stark binaries and instead focus on the “complex, interpenetrating relationships between word and images” (p. 5). In the opening chapter of her co-edited anthology, Writing New Media, Anne Wysocki (2004) said she need not even argue “that we need to open writing classes to new media” because so many similar arguments had already been made; instead, she stated, “I want to argue that new media needs to be opened to writing(p. 5, emphasis in original). Indeed, because OWI naturally is connected to digital tools, multimodal composing processes may be reinvigorated and strengthened in this learning environment—although significant differences remain when teaching such composing processes as ways to engage digital technologies versus teaching those processes online, at a distance, and through digital technologies. OWI platforms are almost always digital and thus invite new communication media into the writing process and product because all media forms are arguably more easily accessible, reproducible, and shareable online.

    Textual, visual, and oral/aural literacies are, of course, increasingly necessary to communicate in the globally digital world that is home to us and our students. Teaching these literacies means rethinking the types of texts, genres, styles, purposes, and audiences on which a composition course focuses. It means, as well, reconsidering the notion of literacy in the face of text, image, and audio/video media. Is the expository or argumentative researched essay that students have been taught in FYW and supported in upper-level writing courses still the most viable or crucial genre to teach? If so, why? If not, what elements of that genre should be carried into the instruction of new or different genres? These questions represent a miniscule part of the conversation that writing studies educators should address broadly because OWI is not only a tool, style, or strategy for teaching writing. Writing online is the essence of composing for the many students and teachers who have grown up with digital tools.

    Contemporary students certainly must supplement their traditional reading and writing skills with the additional rhetorical strategies of visual and oral/audio literacy. However, students often are not getting this instruction because many instructors resist learning how to use these technologies, perhaps thinking that teaching how to compose with them is optional, and many administrators directly or tacitly support this perspective. With OWI, instructors minimally will need to learn different technologies and how they support pedagogical goals. This task perhaps is not easy or intuitive, yet as digital tools become inherent components to all writing instruction, we should become more able to incorporate these approaches into what we do. If students are to develop highly critical literacy skills in written, visual, and oral/aural venues, then composition writ large must change. In addressing that need, we believe teachers will become better by teaching with and through digital technology.

    Good OWI Means Rethinking Our Students

    Suppose that writing teachers really can be better at what we do because we use technology throughout our instruction. If this is the case, how can we help students become better students because they learn to write with and through the same technologies?

    The CCCC OWI Committee believes the OWI principles fundamentally hold regardless of modality, media, or digital device, but we recognize that we—we as a committee as well as the writing studies field—will have opportunities to refine teaching practices, and some of these refinements no doubt will be based on our student populations. The question then becomes one of understanding our student populations, perhaps in new ways. Does OWI lead us to the creation of different approaches for thinking about the types of students in our courses?

    For certain, educators must continue to improve how we work with underserved populations, as OWI Principle 1 stated. These populations include, but are not limited to, first-in-the-family college students, those who work full time, those who return to college after previous postsecondary failure or attrition, and those who leverage their future through student loans. They include, as Part 3 of this book indicates, students with physical disabilities; both significant and minor learning differences; multilingual backgrounds; socioeconomic disadvantages; and access concerns inherent to remotely rural, urban, incarcerated, and military populations. The committee’s overarching drive in including access front-and-center is to help us think more about who is in our courses and work creatively to address them, using a generosity of spirit that accommodates all.

    Good OWI Means Teaching with Technology in Thoughtful Ways

    As we mentioned, the time may be upon us to move from the dichotomy between onsite and OWI and into the frame that all writing instruction is now taught through/with digital technology and students in all settings share the promises, challenges, and responsibility of writing in the technology-centric twenty-first century. “Computers simply are not going to go away,” said Tim Mayers and Kevin Swafford (1998; see also Hewett & Ehmann, 2004), arguing that we need to put them to good use (p. 146). From the perspective of 2015, we argue that digital tools are even more ingrained.

    Luddites might rankle at the idea of digital ubiquity, but think about how such technological commonality might advance several educational causes. For example, educational technology is siloed in writing studies. At the CCCC conference, those who teach OWI can choose to submit or attend a panel from the “Information Technology” cluster. At other venues, the conferences of NCTE or MLA, the “computer people” (or people who think about teaching literacy skills through digital technologies) are off to the side. (Think how ridiculous it would be to have a “cluster” about pencil-based writing!). So-called computer people may only be the majority at the Computers and Composition conference. If we begin to think about digital technologies as woven into the writing and communication experiences of all teachers and students and as an essential part of composition writ large, the conversation about OWI will change. OWI suddenly will be less a colorful addition to writing studies’ tapestry and more the weft to the warp with every OWI line, shape, and color becoming just as important as traditional onsite writing instruction. Just as OWI Principles 3 and 4 offer a yin and yang position between developing theory and practice for OWI and migrating appropriate onsite theory and pedagogy to online settings, a more integrated sense of OWI into composition will enable teachers to provide ways for students to learn that occur on a continuum of sorts. Teachers and tutors then will have techniques to teach with their best selves and strategies while they also engage innovative digital strategies based on what they want to do in a class[room].

    The perspective that OWI = alphabetic text remains locked into the mindset of many institutions, and, again, we strongly believe alphabetic writing remains important. But as we mentioned above, the exciting—and access-based—ways that OWI encourages multimodality and other experimental or newer permutations of composing will continue to demand attention as new digital developments appear and writing evolves (or, by ancient standards) returns to composing in varying media. The premise of such work might be, although it does not have to be, technologically deterministic: How do learning technologies shift pedagogy and philosophy? For example, as work by Jeff Sommers (2002) and others (e.g., Warnock, 2008) have shown, using audiovisual commentary to respond to student writing may alter students’ interactions with their own writing because the medium may shift how they understand the feedback and apply it to their composing processes; these shifts are beyond the platform and form of commentary yet also related to them. As we continue to explore the ways that OWI inspires us to use multimodality for teaching and learning, we will have to think about how we communicate with and teach our students and how those approaches shift in varying environments—as well as how what we teach as composing and process change. In line with Sommers (2013), how might different means of communicating with students about their writing change those very conversations? How might technologies that link students and provide easy spaces to share and comment on peer texts? What might that mean for teaching? Other fundamental questions arise, such as how does multimodal OWI alter relationships between teachers and students and among students themselves? As Gail Hawisher (1992) pointed out, asynchronous dialogue can be liberating in its reduction or outright elimination of barriers based on identity. How will multimodal OWI change that dynamic in both positive and negative ways? Thoughtful answers to such questions certainly emerge from a well-considered research agenda and sharing of both empirical and experiential studies, as we discuss next.

    Good OWI Means Cataloging the House of Lore

    Who has the next killer app to help students access course material? Is that app really wonderful for students or just interesting to technologically sophisticated teachers? How can we create, as part of our fundamental course structures, environments that provide access—and opportunity—for all learners? Will opportunities for us to use big data tools help us not just know our students demographically but also understand their writing profiles in new ways? What can we learn about writing from these tools? What is the best support in terms of online tutoring, library access, and counseling access for online writing students? Why do we think so? What do we need to know? The fields that comprise writing studies could do a lot more to design research that help us think through how particular applications, technologies, and technology-facilitated approaches affect student populations.

    Stephen North’s (1987) House of Lore is oft cited because it is an enduring and endearing metaphor of composition teaching knowledge—“a rambling, to my mind delightful old manse” (p. 27)—but we have wandered that house for too long without cataloging it. Writing instruction in general needs a better collective memory so we are not all reinventing student interactions, pedagogical strategies, and assignments (Haswell, 2005). Composition itself, if for no other reason than the widely varied number and types of offered writing courses coupled with the quasi-professional status rendered upon so many writing teachers, has a large, specific problem in this way. Writing teachers who meet each other annually at professional meetings may not realize that they are inventing the same innovative teaching practices. To help end this serious problem for OWI, the CCCC OWI Committee has undertaken the major work of developing an OWI Online Resource. We hope that writing educators who teach online will submit their own OWI effective practices for possible publication. This peer-reviewed, open-source, community-themed resource is designed to assist all OWI instructors in sharing, developing, and refining teaching practices that are connected to the OWI principles and effective practices. Of course, in line with the broader point we are making here, this endeavor will evolve into an open, free resource for all writing instructors.

    Good OWI Means Re-Framing Writing Research and Assessment

    As Chapter 17 indicates, one of the most prominent obstacles in the way of advancing powerful writing education is a dearth of empirical research. Consequently, many people in positions of community, state, federal, and corporate power—people who do not know anything about teaching writing—have been given the opportunity to dictate how teachers generally and writing teachers specifically teach and assess our classes. Again, OWI can help reverse engineer the entire field of writing instruction and influence composition writ large by tapping into the campus and national curiosity that online learning engenders to develop strong, concrete research that demonstrates what students are learning, how they are learning, and, perhaps, what methods are most effective for helping particular student populations learn. Our humanistic work does not require scientific reproducibility, but the lack of concrete markers for success undoubtedly has contributed to the disciplinary respect issues of writing studies.

    Viewed from this perspective, this book does not merely provide methods for teaching writing online more effectively but also a map for launching into empirical research not just for OWI, not just for composition writ large, but for teaching in general. As the Introduction asserts, the CCCC OWI Committee made such strides by engaging in data gathering and research that otherwise does not exist regarding real teachers conducting real OWCs. To this end, good OWI certainly requires quality and kairotic writing research.

    Writing assessment itself has too long had its own place as an uncatalogued branch of composition’s House of Lore and needs to be addressed more straightforwardly and even eagerly. To that end, good OWI requires an understanding of teaching effectiveness through assessment, which should be developed based on OWI principles and effective practices. Both teachers’ work and the students’ learning need such evaluation badly because we know too little about how to effect genuine and lasting change in student writing in online settings. OWI’s fundamental connection to technology through AWE opens up many assessment opportunities, as described in Chapter 17. We need to know what students are learning in their composing and whether and how their writing looks and changes over time. The digital technologies inherent to OWI capture and archive student writing in connection to teachers’ assignments, content, and feedback. And if we open our minds to the possibilities of technology-assisted assessment, we can harness the wealth of available data to describe writing characteristics and qualities, learning empirically the nature of writing in our time.

    Why should researchers, WPAs, and OWI teachers be aggressive here? We might view our OWI assessment prospects with AWE as analogous to how composition treated the machine grading of student writing: The field did not act, and now these types of applications have spread like kudzu (Haswell, 2006) yet they do little to help teaching and learning. If we do not design assessment measures that make sense based on writing class and program outcomes—as well as on the characteristics inherent in genuine student writing—without question such measures will be defined for us and implemented upon us. Going forward, OWI teachers need to construct and pilot ways of measuring their courses and student writing growth in terms of change that allow sensible, applicable results. We also need to study and share such assessment measures with students, whose feedback is essential to refining these assessment tools. To this end, we should consider how OWI provides entrée into empirical ways of research; such research should inform our assessments going forward.

    OWI’s inherently technical nature meshes naturally with AWE, corpus analysis, and data mining because digital platforms provide unprecedented ways of helping writing researchers get at tough questions about writing instruction and its effects. In fact, we envision a continuing shift in graduate programs to help those who want to specialize in composition toward hybrid-type research methodologies that involve statistics, social science, ethnography, linguistics, and rhetorical and textual analysis. In their introduction to a special issue of College English, “The Digital Humanities and Historiography in Rhetoric and Composition,” Jessica Enoch and David Gold (2013) discussed how the invention by digital scholars of “tools to mine and make sense of this archival infinitude,” in the context of the digital humanities, “is breeding a new type of scholarship: digital historiography” (pp. 106-107). There are, in short, new research methods and tools that will be developed as we deal not only with the newness of these texts but also with their sheer volume and our need for ways to access and assess them. (The rest of the issue addresses specifics for how to do just that.) Again, because of the inherent digital nature of the teaching, learning, interactions, and community of OWI, these approaches, we believe, are a natural part of the overall composition endeavor.

    While the teaching of writing undoubtedly will change by virtue of OWI, we worry that without the kind of conscious actions discussed in this book that composition itself, in fact, will not change the way it needs to. We worry that digital technologies simply will be used as a mechanism to replicate the troubled structures of traditional, onsite writing instruction: bad pay, no respect, few full-time professional opportunities, and lack of shared development among others. If that happens, our CCCC OWI Committee is concerned it will have served no one. June Griffin and Deborah Minter (2013) talked about Cynthia Selfe (2009, 1999), to whom we return here: We must pay attention to not allowing OWI to worsen education and social inequities, both larger and within the field writ large. The danger certainly exists (Griffin & Minter, 2013, p. 141). Our hope resides in the fact that the artifacts of writing revealed and presented so beautifully via OWI can help us; the “digital classroom record can be mined for information,” and it can help change the material conditions of teaching for the better because the “intellectual work” of the class “might be more easily documented now that online classrooms have the long memory of the digital” (Griffin & Minter, 2013, p. 153). One thing is for certain: We have always been confident that if external audiences and stakeholders could see and understand what we do in composition courses with students, they would be amazed and come to understand the incredible complexity of teaching composing.

    Good OWI Means Ethical and Moral Writing Instruction

    It is appropriate for us to end this chapter, and thus the book, where A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for OWI begins: The fundamental responsibility we have is to make sure that OWCs are inclusive of and accessible to all learners. As education, especially higher education, continues to ask difficult questions about accessibility, OWI educators now find ourselves at the forefront—a place where composition itself also should be. Based on our committee’s research, unfortunately the overall field of writing studies is not at the forefront of access issues. As OWI Principle 1 insists and all the chapters of this book support, ethical and moral composition instruction means being thoughtfully inclusive and providing willing, flexible, and generous access at all stages of the writing instructional process and with any tools necessary. To put access first—to be proactive and not retroactive—changes the nature of every administrative and pedagogical decision that follows (see, for example, Part 3 of this book and Oswal & Hewett, 2013). Every question asked of or by a WPA is changed in light of proactive access policies. Every student need should be considered in light of whether inclusivity and access are at issue, and not just for the sake of legality but because such consideration is a reflection of who we are as rhetorician/compositionists and as human beings

    The OWI principles in A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for OWI stress genuinely fair treatment of OWI students and teachers. These OWI principles, if applied, suggest practical approaches to experimental, online, educational venues such as the massification of writing courses involved in MOOCs. We would not, as a committee, try to undermine the extraordinary openness that computers can represent (as described so optimistically by those like Bonk, 2008), but composition never has been and never will be able to be represented by a massive dumping of content. It cannot be leveraged with approaches of massiveness. For example, if 15 to 20 students are the maximum any OWI teacher should have in any one course, as OWI Principle 9 stated, obvious mathematics indicate how many teachers and/or set of tutor-teachers need to be involved if a MOOC counts as a credit-worthy writing course where students receive individual, learned feedback. Principle-generated thinking encourages such creative options as designating the MOOC to be more a writing lab or other supplementary or non-credit bearing educational experience, what Warnock calls a MOOEE in Chapter 4. OWI Principle 13 also calls for online tutoring that matches the OWC’s modality and medium, creating a smoother technological transition for students from OWC to OWL assistance. Indeed, applying the OWI principles to online tutoring clarifies that providing accessible learning support is more crucial than how that support is provided or paid for—enabling administrators a different way into the problem. We treat students ethically and morally when we provide them with appropriate preparation and sufficiently well-prepared teachers and tutors. The OWI principles call for fair and appropriate compensation for teachers’ work, class sizes that enable genuine instruction to occur, and professional development that helps teachers fit the teaching modality to themselves rather than the other way around.

    Thus, good OWI that is composition writ large means using the intentions of the OWI principles to foreground all of our teaching with access and inclusivity no matter how much doing so might require changing our personal teaching strategies. Accessible OWI means rethinking the very nature of writing by enabling and encouraging students to write with both text and voice (e.g., using computer or cell-phone voice recognition software for drafting) to compose their ideas and perhaps even to deliver them. Access-focused OWI means letting go of some habits of thinking about composing and recognizing that being straightforward, using linguistically direct language, and providing students flexibly varied entry points into writing are not cheating but rather teaching them to use the best available means for their composition purposes. It means modeling how to write, re-teaching reading strategies that some never learned well, and thinking differently about collaboration and plagiarism worries (Hewett, 2015a, 2015b, 2010). Such changes can enhance the moral and ethical practices for writing instruction overall.

    Good OWI inevitably will—must—change the face of composition by its ethical and moral practice. This future that is now offers an invitation we should accept, and we should try not to step back into the mass of colleagues who teach online in rote ways that ignore the complexities of writing and writing through and with digital technologies. Students at all levels of education and with all kinds of backgrounds take writing courses. They all need our attention no matter how challenging their backgrounds make them as writing students.


    Good OWI should help the field of composition be better. We believe that OWI will—if allowed—change how people in our profession view their work as writing teachers overall and ultimately change how outsiders view us. Good OWI should move composition, the whole structure, forward. As we discussed earlier, our terminology may not be keeping up with the pedagogical approaches of composition now, approaches that draw from and fundamentally use not just the actual tools but also concepts of digitality and virtuality. A challenge going forward for our committee may be to re-frame the term OWI, separating conceptually the logistical offering of courses in different modalities (online, onsite, hybrid/blended) from the composition pedagogies that all use digital tools—no matter whether teachers breathe the same air as their students once a term, once a week, or never. For now, though, we see OWI as merging into a compositional future when digital composition and creation will be inherent.

    Many scholars have labored to study the effects of the computer and other digital technology on composition, teaching, and learning. In fact, this book is dedicated in honor of their work and contributions. Without them, there could be no principled study of OWI. Over 25 years ago, Lisa Gerrard (1989) said that we must remember that the computer is an additional tool, not the primary one (p. 107). Perhaps that reality has changed in that the computer has become—if not a must in postsecondary institutions (as well as in most places of business)—then at least a transparent part of the cultural and communications landscape: We are one with these devices; they are part of our lives. Those without adequate access to OWI continue to suffer from the resulting digital illiteracies much as those who cannot read or write do (Selfe, 1999, 2009). In fact, all of their literacies necessary to navigating their world suffer by extension. The future of OWI is composition in flux. It is composition in tension where traditional literacies and digital composing strategies must learn to collaborate in the digital production of messages. As technology becomes ubiquitous—even to those who currently are denied adequate access—and as it changes to become increasingly common, OWI necessarily and repeatedly will return to a need for textual, alphabetic literacy.

    OWI indeed offers composition writ large the opportunity to supplement traditional reading and writing skills just as it requires higher levels of attention to those same traditional literacy skills. OWI takes the worn-out role of teacher we are used to and forces us to rethink it as well as notions of literacy, student, reading, writing, composition, collaboration, and course. OWI offers us opportunities to reconstruct not only our roles but how we go about teaching—and treating—students of all physical abilities, ages, learning styles, economic backgrounds, and languages as humans who want to learn how to use reading, writing, images, and oral/aural means to think.

    Using the OWI principles to guide online writing instructional work is what this book has been about; yet, as this chapter suggests, these OWI principles can help to guide composition to a new place. The future of OWI is now. How shall we take it on?


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    This page titled 18: The Future of OWI is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Beth L. Hewett and Kevin Eric DePew, Editors (WAC Clearinghouse) .

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