Encouraging undergraduates’ academic writing development in e-learning contexts that students access independently or in subject-based groups

Trevor Day, Linda Humphreys, Bridgette Duncombe

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E-learning approaches employed in a variety of contexts, from instructional to collaborative and contested, currently support academic writing development (e.g. Goodfellow, 2005; Peretz, 2005; Brown et al., 2008). This paper is an early report on progress in developing a suite of six instructional e-learning modules on aspects of critical reading and writing at a research-intensive, science- and engineering-strong university. At this university, non-remedial academic writing development is supported by subject teaching staff, Royal Literary Fund Fellows, the English Language Centre and through information skills courses run by the Library. The current project seeks to complement the existing provision by providing undergraduates with guidance through e-learning modules that engage the students in learning tasks that can be completed independently or under the guidance of teaching staff in subject disciplines (shifting between more instructional to more cognitive-constructivist and social-constructivist approaches; Mayes and de Freitas, 2004). Strengths of the e-learning project include collaboration between staff from widely different backgrounds, including a professional writer and academic writing facilitator, a faculty librarian, and a teaching fellow. In addition, detailed feedback on each module’s learning efficacy and ease-of-use is being gathered systematically from students both during the module’s development and after its launch. In designing the e-modules, the researchers and developers have been driven by pedagogical imperatives (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004; Beetham and Sharpe, 2007; Biggs and Tang, 2007; Race, 2007) rather than wishing to be led or overly constrained by perceived limitations of online technologies. Among the challenges have been how to design online activities that facilitate deep learning (Marton and Säljö, 1976; Biggs, 1987) and how to create experiences that are relevant to students from a variety of disciplines. The paper will consider the extent to which such aspirations have been met.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2010
EventWriting Development in Higher Education (WDHE) Conference 2010 - London
Duration: 28 Jun 201030 Jun 2010


ConferenceWriting Development in Higher Education (WDHE) Conference 2010


  • instructional
  • surface learning
  • strategic learning
  • deep learning
  • e-learning
  • online


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