Writing Center grows up into virtual realm

The Gannon University Writing Center initiated a giant step into the virtual world Monday as it launched its first online tutoring program, but it seems it has some even bigger and better plans in the works.

Beth Kons, the Writing Center director, said that in addition to the online tutoring program, the center also unveiled its new brand: GROW – Gannon Resource for Online Writing.

Kons said that no appointments have occurred since the site went live earlier this week, but she said that the center is very excited to open it up.

She also said the online tutoring is opening up services for students who couldn’t necessarily take advantage of the Writing Center before.

“The services right now are perfect for the student who lives on campus,” she said. “It’s perfect for the student who has those specific hours between classes that they can come down.” But  Kons said the Gannon community is not specifically limited to that particular population of student.

She said the online portion of GROW is focusing primarily on students who have a hard time getting to the Writing Center, such as dual-enrollment students, those who have full-time jobs and families to take care of, and students who take all of their classes online.

“We want to be able to appeal to those students as well,” Kons said. “The idea of coming up with an online tutoring platform just seemed like, first of all, natural. It’s the natural evolution of the university – everything is going online right now. We wanted to keep up with the times.”

The times, she said, will hopefully evolve GROW into a database that not only Gannon students, but people all over the Web, will use.

Many students at Gannon and other universities are encouraged to use Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) for help with their papers, but Kons said the goal is for students to no longer need that.

“It’s a great launch for Gannon, and when students need to find out about certain citation questions or grammar questions, too often our students are referred to other universities’ websites,” Kons said. “It’s always Purdue. The goal of my Writing Center is that you never have to go to Purdue again. That would be the end goal, with our new portal page and what we have to offer, we would like to be in competition with something on the level of the OWL.”

Additionally, Kons said she is thankful to the current Writing Center staff for jumping on board with the online project. “I’m very proud of the fact that this staff in particular has been so amenable to this new development, because it’s not easy,” she said. “The idea is we’re so used to face-to-face communication, but we don’t live in a face-to-face communication world.”

Diane Cassarly, a junior English major and a consultant at the Writing Center, said she is looking forward to working with students online. “It’s going to be something different,” she said, “but I’m confident that we’ll get used to it as consultants, and students will take advantage of it once they’ve had time to explore it.”

Kons said one of the challenges for herself and the consultants will be to figure out how to tutor online. She said that there is a plethora of material online that suggests the best ways to tutor online, but she knows that the best way to go about it is to dive in and try it.

“We still believe writing is the center of everything, so the idea is just to help everyone express themselves better. I’m very excited about this,” she said, “but it’s definitely going to be something that’s going to involve a lot of trial and error.”

Kons said the biggest challenge, however, will involve the atmosphere that the Writing Center creates for students. “The most important thing about the Writing Center here is we have nice seats, and it’s a nice environment, and we have color – it’s things we hope will be inviting, as the Student Success Center is, to the student,” she said. “The challenge of replicating that setting in a virtual world is probably going to be our greatest task, and probably going to take some time, but we have to start.”

 

KELLY MORELAND

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