University of Minnesota
teaching with writing
center for writing

Teaching With Writing.Center for Writing's home page.

Why respond to student writing online?

Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch, Linda Clemens, Kirsten Jamsen, Mitch Ogden
Writing Studies and the Center for Writing

Benefits and opportunities

  • students practicing writing multimodally and continuously in online environments
  • student and instructor comfort with thinking and composing on a keyboard
  • student comfort in online environments (a more welcoming space for some students who don’t feel comfortable in a traditional face-to-face classroom)
  • ability to highlight text and make pinpointed comments with room to elaborate and explain
  • ability to manipulate text (example: pull out a paragraph and model revision)
  • students can actually read and save our comments
  • opportunity to create a virtual writing community where writers write to real readers, readers share responses, and everyone can contribute to this dialogue
  • online activities and interaction “primes the pump” for class discussion and peer review (and continues those discussions beyond class time)
  • lots of choices about how and when to respond and with what tools (examples: making students responsible for responding to each other while you observe, participating and modeling how to give to feedback, giving global response to the entire class)

Pitfalls and challenges

  • possible instructor and student discomfort in online environments
  • forgetting what we know about effective response when faced with a student paper on screen (read the entire text first, move from global to local issues, prioritize suggestions, motivate with praise, etc.)
  • desire to address every issue and concern in a paper
  • danger of spending endless time
  • expectation of immediate feedback
  • overload when faced with lots of choices about how and when to respond and with what tools