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Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Succeed in an Online Writing Class: Plan, Revise, Discuss:

This site is a document written as a kind of 'how to' for online writing students. 

It is important, especially in short online classes but also in any writing class, for students to realize that they need to plan out their work carefully, identifying as specifically as they can when they can fit their work into often hectic schedules. 

Students also ~ mistakenly ~ minimize the importance of both discussion and revision. In an online course for credit, students are more or less forced into discussion because it is a large % of their course grade. When there is no grade or credit, students feel than participation and writing discussion is not important. 

Of course they (you) will not get bad grades for not discussing or revising: nor will you learn how to write. 


Students often want to know the "secret" to doing well in a writing class. I am afraid there is no single secret! Still, there are at least three things that you can do to make sure that you do well. If you turn these three ideas into your three main goals for the course, you will learn more and your grade will show it.
1. Plan: Planning is one of the most important writing skills; in a brief course, it is essential to success. By the end of the first week, you should have the entire course planned out, week by week, day by day, assignment by assignment. How much time do you need to do each assignment? Where can you fit you coursework into you schedule? How much time do you need for school each day, given the work you need to do? You can adjust this schedule after each week, according to what you learn about the time commitment you have found you need. You don't want to simply meet each deadline; you want to post work early and often.
2. Revise: If you have planned your session carefully, you will have enough time to post each assignment a few days before the due date. That allows me to comment on your work and it allows you to do at least one revision for each assignment. If possible, do two or more revisions for each assignment. All writers revise; the more you revise, you more skilled you will become as a writer. Don't just revise your writing assignments, use the ongoing discussions to revise and refine your thinking. If the assignment asks you to do a peer critique, make sure that you take full advantage of the opportunity. Don't simply comment, offer substantive criticism.
3. Discuss: One of your goals as a writer is to become an effective critic. Every assignment gives you an opportunity to work on this skill and you should take advantage of it as often as you can. Again, peer critiques are one opportunity to do this while simultaneously working on your writing skills. If we are having a discussion, do not simply post your own ideas. Read your classmates ideas and respond to them; read the responses to your post and respond to that too. Read the responses to the responses and respond to those too. These discussions are the best way to learn.
Cross-posted from Ray Watkins' Writing in the Wild

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