eTutoring and Collaborating Online

Passaic County Community College began using etutoring for writing several years ago. We are part of a consortium of colleges in the northeast. We supply tutors to support the service based on the amount of usage our students put into the platform. Our students use it a lot. (See info links at bottom)

Our large ESL department requires students in some classes to submit papers, and we are making it a requirement for the Writing Intensive courses that are part of the Writing Initiative I am directing. Each paper can be submitted up to three times and will receive a reading and comments from one of the consortium writing tutors (generally higher ed instructors with at least a Masters degree).

PCCC has labs and tutors for the ESL students and for students entering at a Basic Skills level (pre-college) but actually does not have a center for he college-level students. That's where eTutoring came in.

Lots of students and teachers don't consider etutoring to be a substitute for face-to-face writing center help. But, for a strongly part-time student community like that at many community colleges, online help offers 24/7 advantages.

This summer, two of us at PCCC started working with colleagues at the Writing Studio at Fairleigh-Dickinson University on a pre-conference workshop on writing centers and moving writing online that the four of us will be doing at the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference this fall.

We see many similarities between what we do on the ground, and what we do with writers in the computing cloud. Using online tutoring is a part of that (and FDU may be joining the consortium too this fall). For example, what students need to do to get the most out of a submission to an eTutor, applies to live sessions too: provide the tutor with as much information as possible about the assignment (ideally, the teacher’s written instructions), plus a brief reflection by the student on the assignment sometimes starts a very revealing conversation between the writer and tutor.

On another end of this writing online is online collaboration. More and more researchers are collaborating online. That includes email, file sharing and web conferencing, but it also includes shared access to a single collaborative document. There are a number of free and inexpensive tools to accomplish this especially if you are working at different schools and don't share access to a common network.

Some popular options (I think I have written about all of these at least once on this blog, so you can search the archive for more) are:

Google Docs:

I have used all 3 of these with students in classes and with one or more colleagues as a way to work together on a document. We are using a Writeboard to organize our fall presentation for the conference (and we'll demo techniques in the workshop).

If you have never used something like this before, please try out this little collaborative blog post experiment that I'm launching today.

Go to the Collaborative Writing document that I started
Anyone can log in with the password: collabwrite 

The idea is that you, dear reader, might collaborate with me on a future blog post for Serendipity35 about collaborating and writing online. I wrote a bit there to prime the pump, but I don't mind if you change the direction of the post towards your own concerns about the topic.

Hopefully, it will give those of you new to using this kind of tool the chance to try it out, and give you a chance to actually trying collaborating online. I know how reluctant readers are to comment on blogs (here's a post on another blog of mine about just that), so there's a really good chance that the response to this will underwhelming. Still, I'll get a blog post out of it a few months (and I'll use it at the conference in November) whether I write about its success or failure. I hope you'll participate so that it's the former.

Links About Our eTutoring Efforts - part of the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium

A guide for students at PCCC using eTutoring


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