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Eli Review Fun Facts: Fall 2016 Edition

As folks start new academic terms, we thought it would be fun to start off the year with a few facts about Eli Review. If you’re new to Eli or an old friend, there’s bound to be some info here you didn’t know about the app that helps you promote critical thinking and better writing.

Can you believe … ?

Eli Review is almost ten years old! It started off as an experiment in classrooms at Michigan State University and has grown into a business. Here’s a brief timeline of how Eli came to be:

  • 2007: Eli Review began on paper in the Writing in Digital Environments lab at Michigan State University. It was invented by three writing teachers:
    • Jeff Grabill (@grabill), now Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning, and Technology,
    • Bill Hart-Davidson (@billhd), now Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, College of Arts & Letters, and
    • Mike McLeod (@mcleodm3), now Head of Product and VP Product Design and User Support.
  • 2012: Institutions and students outside of Michigan bought Eli for the first time.
  • 2015: Eli added its second full-time employee, Melissa Graham Meeks (@MelissaGMeeks), as Director of Professional development.
  • 2016: Eli captured the 1,000,000th comment left by a student reviewer for a student writer.

We’ve been working steadily over the last ten years to move the needle in writing instruction and the data suggests we’re making a difference. This chart, pulled from our 2015-2016 deep dive into Eli’s data, demonstrates that we’ve not just got more folks using Eli, but that the proportion of activities (writing/review/revision) is coming into alignment with what research tells us leads to better writers – more feedback and more revision.

Did you hear … ?

That Eli Review is a learning technology company? Here’s how Jeff explained the difference between learning and education technologies in his keynote at Computers & Writing 2016:

We started a business as the best way to change how writing is taught in the US. . . . The effective use of Eli requires a network of relationships to support it. To sustain high quality software and high quality professional learning around that software requires resources that are predictable and reliable. And that requires a sustainability model that led us to start, run, and maintain an organization that can make sustainable decisions.

Our argument is that if we provide a high quality *learning technology*—fundamentally a proven pedagogical scaffold + analytics—and the professional learning to support highly effective teaching and learning, then we will be a good partner for others.

As a learning technology company, we help students, teachers, and administrators accomplish goals associated with learning. We are very different from educational technologies, which tend to help with the business of school but not necessarily with learning and teaching.

We partner with departments and individual instructors to help them learn to make peer learning routine and powerful. We also consult with researchers about their projects, from questions to downloads to analysis.

Did you realize … ?

That Eli Review is small, independent technology business? We’ve got two full-time employees (Mike and Melissa), two partners (Bill and Jeff), and are run by Drawbridge, Inc, which is the business spun out of Michigan State, where Eli was invented. Here’s how the team spends much of their time:

  • Writing: 98% of the words you see in the app, on the support and marketing site, and in our social media channels are written by Mike and Melissa with feedback from Bill and Jeff.
  • Professional development: Jeff and Melissa work every day with teachers from K-12 and at all levels of Higher Ed to ensure success, not just in using Eli, but in teacher development and student learning.
  • Sales: Melissa and Mike process all orders from schools and bookstores; Melissa sets up schools in Eli and Mike prints, packs, and mails bookstore subscription card orders.
  • Design: Mike and Bill drive Eli’s development from the database to the source code to the smallest details of the user interface.
  • Engineering: Mike works with a software engineering company, Venturit, to build the app and to keep it and our support services running 24/7/365.

In reality, being a small, independent team means that there aren’t clear boundaries between jobs and everybody contributes to each initiative. Being small, however, makes it easy for us to stand by our principles – that teachers and students retain full ownership and copyright of their work, for example.

Did you see … ?

In her CCCC 2016 chair’s address in Houston, Texas on April 7, 2016, Joyce Carter featured a number of apps and inventions made by writing teachers–Eli Review among them (31:43)–and offered this closing word:

Every company, every patent, every invention I’ve highlighted was made by a member of our profession, colleagues of ours who have sat and who still sit, right here in this room. What I argued earlier, and what I’ll argue here at the close is that these inventions, these patents, these companies should not be seen as anomalies, pet projects undertaken by writing teachers gone bad. My argument, rather, is that these inventions have come into being precisely because of the skills and beliefs that are foundational to our field: curiosity, a willingness to fail and revise, constructivism and social constructivism, and a commitment to make things out of nothingness. These instances of entrepreneurship or inventive disruption are more than just blips in our disciplinary history. No, they are the kind of activity that’s always been at the fringes of our field, one we ought to make more central in our organization and our discipline. Indeed, I think that they can show us a way forward, a disruptive and innovative way forward, especially in an era of scarce resources and paradoxes. . . . Disrupting is a stance, a mindset. (emphasis ours)

We appreciate Joyce’s point that there is a deep, rich underlying skill set that leads to making things that work in the world. Jeff likes to say that Eli was made “accidentally on purpose.” The pedagogy was always clear. Developing the app and building a business to disrupt the limits that make feedback and revision rare in writing classes continues to be a based on a “willingness to fail and revise.” And, to be more than “just blips in [the field’s] disciplinary history” requires the support of the community.

Have we told you lately … ?

That we appreciate you? If you are using Eli in your classes right now, thank you! We are honored to be part of teaching and learning in your class. Because of your support, almost 60,000 students have had the opportunity to learn from their peers.

Sharing experiences: we particularly appreciate your knowledge and experience and willingness to help your colleagues. Since we know learning is more effective from peers, would you consider sharing your experiences:

Please let us know on Facebook, Twitter, email, or the web if you’d be willing to share any of your experiences.

Sharing knowledge: another way to help your colleagues is to share resources that can help advance peer learning pedagogy and change how writing is taught in the US and beyond. We have a number of resources that are free and open source, many that are perfect for discussions and brownbags:

Cover photo credit: Victor U

Eli Review Fun Facts: Fall 2016 Edition was published to the Eli Review Blog in the categories Analytics, Pedagogy, Professional Development.

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