WRD 545: Teaching Writing Online (Spring 2019)

Course Description

Today, nearly one-third of students in American colleges and universities are taking at least one of their courses online, and online and partially-online writing courses are standard at most institutions of higher learning. To better prepare you to teach writing in online environments, WRD 545 will introduce key theories and research about how to design and deploy online writing activities, assignments, courses, and learning environments. You will explore and apply these theories by participating in and reflecting on online writing activities, creating course materials, and engaging with the course materials of others. Note that WRD 545 is a hybrid course: to better understand the experience of teaching and learning online, we will conduct 50% of class online, meeting face-to-face (F2F) every other week.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe and reflect on your current attitudes and values as an online learner and online teacher
  • design effective assignments, activities, and multiple forms of interactivity in online and hybrid environments
  • describe, using professionally accepted standards and frameworks, the rationale for particular design and delivery choices in online writing instruction
  • investigate and better understand topics in online writing instruction (OWI) using both disciplinary research and professional resources


Borgman, J., & Dockter, J. (2018). Considerations of access and design in the online writing classroom. Computers and Composition, 49, 94-105.

Chang, C. F. (2012). Peer review via three modes in an EFL writing course. Computers and Composition, 29(1), 63-78.

Choi, J. (2014). Online peer discourse in a writing classroom. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 26(2), 217-231.

Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Roadblocks and getting back on track. In Facilitating online learning: Effective strategies for moderators (pp. 165–200). Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Conference on College Composition and Communication (2013, March). A position statement of principles and example effective practices for online writing instruction (OWI). Available: http://www.ncte.org.ezproxy.depaul.edu/library/NCTEFiles/Groups/CCCC/OWIPrinciples.pdf

Garrison, D.R. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century: A community of inquiry framework for research and practice, 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

Gillam, K., & Wooden, S. R. (2013). Re-embodying online composition: Ecologies of writing in unreal time and space. Computers and Composition, 30(1), 24-36.

Salisbury, L. E. (2018). Just a tool: Instructors’ attitudes and use of course management systems for online writing instruction. Computers and Composition, 48, 1-17.

Stewart, M. K. (2017). Communities of inquiry: A heuristic for designing and assessing interactive learning activities in technology-mediated FYC. Computers and Composition, 45, 67-84.

Warnock, S. (2015). Teaching the OWI course. In Foundational practices of online writing instruction (pp. 151–181), eds., B.L. Hewett & K.E. DePew. Available: https://wac.colostate.edu/docs/books/owi/chapter4.pdf

Warnock, S. and D. Gasiewski. (2018). Writing together: Ten weeks teaching and studenting in an online writing course. Urbana, IL: NCTE.


  1. Online Assignment Sequence: To apply your learning about OWI design, you will migrate an existing assignment sequence—a series of reading, writing, discussion, and peer-review tasks that, over 3-4 weeks, build to a major project—from a F2F to an online learning environment. You may use an assignment that you are familiar with from another context, or, complete the project using an assignment provided. The project deliverables are an assignment sheet for the project deliverable, a course “blueprint” that aligns online activities with learning outcomes, an outline of all online activities in the sequence, and <2000-word Design Brief that explains your design decisions.
  2. Online Class-Visit Report: To help you to better understand the design and logistics of online writing courses, you will ‘visit’ an online writing course and talk with its instructor. In addition to making an individual visit, you will share your visit notes with the class and read your classmates’ notes, to better understand both trends and innovations in online writing instruction. The project deliverable is a 3-4-page report that both summarizes your visit and synthesizes key trends and innovations from across the set of visits.
  3. Professionally or Pedagogically Useful OWI Deliverable: The course’s final deliverable is an open-topic, open-form deliverable that extends the work you have begun in WRD 545 in a professionally or pedagogically useful way. It is an opportunity to pursue a curiosity that has arisen from your work-to-date, and may be grounded in additional reading or research, production of pedagogical materials, and/or reflection on your practice.
  4. Online Activities and Class Participation: Online discussion and engagement are vital components of this course. The discussions provide opportunities to process the readings, to advance your understanding of ideas in discussion with others, and to identify and develop project ideas. In addition to participating in one or two online discussions each week, you should expect to participate online through peer review and occasional quizzes.