Multiple win for online writing research

6 January 2011

Researchers associated with the faculty's CoCo Research Centre have been awarded funding by both the ALTC and Google for their work using online technologies to support the teaching of academic writing. The ALTC grant will fund the creation of the Online Writing Centre (OWC); a customised learning and teaching space designed to develop students' writing in the engineering disciplines at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales.

CoCo PhD student and Head of the University's Learning Centre, Helen Drury, and CoCo member and Director of the LATTE engineering group, Rafael Calvo, will receive an ALTC grant of $200,000.

The work has also been recognised by Google, as Calvo and his team have received a Google Research Award to investigate the impact of feedback (including peer, instructor and computer produced) on the writing process. For more on this segment of the project, see the UniNews article Google grant to enhance online writing tutor.

The work is also linked with previous work funded by the ARC involving Calvo and CoCo Professor Peter Reimann. See the CoCo project page Learning to Write in Collaboration.

Surveys of actual work practices indicate that engineers spend 40-60% of their time communicating, but many engineering students find writing difficult. They often struggle to understand the unique and specific requirements for report writing in their discipline and the teaching of writing skills is often considered a low priority in the engineering curricula. Many lecturers also find teaching writing challenging, especially when faced with a diverse student cohort.

The OWC aims to support both lecturers and undergraduate students in the engineering discipline as they move from first to honours year. When completed it will be a customised one-stop shop, including both face-to-face and online resources. It will allow students to build a portfolio of their written work and the creation of learning communities to promote peer feedback, as well as online learning management by staff.

On completion, the OWC will be made available through the ALTC as an open access resource, providing a model for other faculties to use across the higher education sector in Australia and beyond.

Contact: Rafael Calvo

Email: 3839011b2929761623364e2c751c40550852567813112f43313f