OpenEd17: The 14th Annual Open Education Conference
October 11 – 13, 2017  ::  Anaheim, CA

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Thursday, October 12 • 8:30am - 8:55am
Excelsior's Open Online Writing Lab: a community college collaboration to improve students' basic writing skills

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Writing, critical thinking, and reading comprehension are essential for academic and career success. Yet, adults in the U.S. score below average on these basic literacy skills. Excelsior's open multimedia Online Writing Lab (owl.excelsior.edu), developed in partnership with 8 community colleges, is a tool designed to address this issue.

The OWL applies best practices in education technology and instructional design to deliver students an immersive user experience. Over the past seven years, the OWL has secured over $2 million in grant funds and garnered 12 national awards for educational innovation. These innovations are based on a wealth of research indicating that greater engagement, scaffolding, and immediate feedback lead to increased student learning.

Two multi-campus, controlled pilot studies demonstrate the OWL's effectiveness. The OWL increased final grades by 6.62 points, improved student writing in 3 of 5 areas on the AAC&U writing VALUE rubric, and strengthened argumentative essay writing.

Designed to be easily incorporated into traditional, online, or blended courses, the OWL offers a free and easy-to-use textbook alternative. According to a 2014 report by U.S. PIRG, textbook costs are a major obstacle to student success. The free OWL replaces textbooks in English 101 and 201 at Excelsior, for a total savings of $153,000 in student costs annually.

OWL modules include: The Writing Process, Research & Citations, Rhetorical Styles, Argument & Critical Thinking, Online Writing & Presentations, Grammar Essentials, Avoiding Plagiarism, ESL Writing, Educator Resources, and writing process game – Paper Capers.

Presenters will review these modules, as well as demonstrate how to create Owlets (customized versions of OWL) and embed interactive writing activities into course materials. They will also debut the new open Online Reading Comprehension Lab, set to pilot in spring 2017. Come learn how to transform your approach to writing and reading instruction.


Michelle Abeyta

Project Coordinator, Excelsior College

Christie Allred

Professor, English Puente Co-Coordinator, San Diego Mesa College

Thursday October 12, 2017 8:30am - 8:55am PDT
Terrace A - C