Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Effectiveness of Online Writing Labs (OWLs)

By Sean Scarpiello

As the year 2015 quickly approaches, one interesting educational technology tool to keep an eye is Online Writing Labs or OWLs. These writing tools are designed to engage high school and college students in improving their writing skills to fit what college professors are looking for in essays and reports. More importantly, OWLs focus on improving writing in general, an important skill to have in all careers, regardless of the exact field of study in college. Different colleges such as Purdue University and Excelsior College offer their versions of OWLs online at no cost to users.

As OWLs are an online based technology, they can be accessed 24/7 from any laptop, tablet, or other device from any place with an internet connection.
Within the OWLs offered by Excelsior College, there are 8 different modules for improving college level writing. There are modules that focus on the actual process of writing. These processes  help students think about how they should go about brainstorming, developing arguments, looking at opposing viewpoints, and more. From there, students can find modules that help lay the foundations of what to include in their introductions and main content. In a series of fun to read and interactive instructional pages, students can also learn how to write without plagiarizing, control their voice, develop concise yet effective thesis statements and more. Plus, these pages include tips on how to revise and edit their papers so students can easily understand what areas their professors are focusing on during the grading process. One study showed that, on average, students using OWLs raised their final grade in a course by 6.6 points. While this is great for students’ transcripts in the short term, the long term benefit is improved writing styles which they will inevitably take with them beyond their educational career.

In addition to OWLs pages of content for improving writing, Excelsior College’s OWL  includes modules on how to craft writing for different audiences. There is an essay module and a grammar module which guides students  on how to write in the type of rhetoric that professors look for while retaining the proper grammar and format in their college essays. Another module that is especially useful is the digital writing module which instructs students on how to write for readers in the 21st Century. This includes information on writing blogs, discussion boards, online journals, social media, and more. To help pull all of these skills together, there is an interactive game called Paper Capers, which helps students apply what they have learned in the OWL. The game is designed to teach students how to understand the writing process and apply their knowledge by answering questions and judging if aspects of writing, such as different thesis statements and research methods, are effective.

Overall, regardless of the field of study in college, writing is an important skill which will follow students for the rest of their lives. Therefore, OWLs are a great resource for students  as they contain a wealth of knowledge and interactive media for improving writing skills and style at no cost. Plus, the programs online format enables them to be accessible from anywhere with any device at anytime. OWLs will no doubt go on to improve the quality of education as more students can utilize technology towards improving their education.

Excelsior College's OWL: http://owl.excelsior.edu/

2 comments:

Sunita Gandhi said...

Its very informative and i am sure it will help many other people like the way it helps me. Thanks for the information.
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Sunita Gandhi said...

That's great , keep it up!
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