To everyone who has been responding to my request for ideas and advice
on introducing computer-asssisted writing support into our writing
centre, THANK YOU. I am especially intrigued by the comments about the
differences between face-to-face consultation and providing written
feedback electronically, and how this difference may create "challenges"
for undergrad peer-tutors. At the moment, some of our peer tutors do in
fact provide written commentary on hard copy drafts for distance
courses, so some of them might be said to be "experienced;" however, I
am quite persuaded by your comments that we should not blithely waltz
into a situation that places unrealistic demands on our peer
tutors--they have a hard enough job as it is. I think I'll make sure
that our proposal includes the personnel angle as well as the
hardware/software angle--as Mary Louise says, we need people who are
experienced/qualified in both writing pedagogy and technology.
It seems as though the software that other people have been using for
"virtual" consultation varies considerably--I'm assuming that this has
to do with institutional contexts but also, I wonder, how does the
choice of software affect the off-campus student's ability to
participate in the consultation? I am really terribly unknowledgeable
about things like "html" and "webboard" and so on. . . I f I ask for
money for software (specifically for consulations), what ballpark area
should I be thinking of? $5,000? $25,000? Is there any easy answer
to this question?
Finally, I wanted to know whether anyone has ever worked with software
that (ostensibly) "teaches writing"--you know, the kind where you can
assign a module and then have the student--whether on-campus or
off-campus--work independently to complete the module. I've seen a
couple of web courses somewhat like this, but are there other kinds of
software I should know about? Is this extremely dangerous territory to
venture into, in the sense of being counter to "progressive" writing
theory? Does anyone see benefits to these kinds of programs? (assuming
they exist--I know of a couple in French, essentially grammar
programs) Can they play a useful supportive role in some kinds of
language/writing learning, as long they SUPPORT and don't REPLACE
people? Or should we avoid them like the plague?
thanks again for listening to my questions--please ignore them if you're
tired of the subject.