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U North Carolina Pembroke Tackles Student Writing with Technology

Following on a two-year effort exploring how to boost student success, the University of North Carolina in Pembroke will soon be launching a multi-pronged program to improve student writing. As part of that effort, the university will be applying technology--including software from Waypoint Outcomes and The Rich Co.

As required by accrediting body Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the university has drafted a five-year plan specifically addressing student writing, encompassing skills in four areas: rhetorical knowledge; critical thinking, reading, and writing; processes; and knowledge of conventions. As laid out in that plan, the institution has begun updating the curriculum of existing courses. The overall plan requires students to complete an intensive writing course; provides faculty with training in best practices for assigning and responding to student writing; bolsters the university's writing center; and applies technology where appropriate. Starting in fall 2010 the results of the new efforts will be monitored with Waypoint Outcomes' software.

"Waypoint is an intricate part of our plan," said Elizabeth Normandy, director of the center for teaching and learning and SACS coordinator for the university. "The software will allow the university to assess our progression, support classroom learning and ensure we achieve our milestones."

Plans for technology enhancement also include hiring an instructional technologist with a writing specialty to develop online resources using features of the university's Blackboard course management system. The university will also purchase WCOnline, a scheduling, record-keeping, and reporting application with an online tutoring module, for use by the university writing center. In order to assist with instructor evaluation of student writing, as well as tracking student writing performance, Pembroke will also develop an online portal to provide faculty training and reporting.

According to the university, the Waypoint software allows faculty to give students detailed feedback on their writing based on rubrics created by the instructors or provided by the company. A detailed critique is then e-mailed to the student or posted in the gradebook in Blackboard, which integrates with Waypoint. The program also collects and aggregates data on large numbers of evaluations of student writing that can be used for assessing student learning outcomes.

Data from the Waypoint Outcomes Software will be collected on a course-by-course basis every semester and will be aggregated for all courses at the end of every school year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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