A new book from veteran online teachers and co-founders of the Online Writing Instruction Community Jessie Borgman & Casey McArdle offers a clear blueprint for building online writing classrooms that work like the best face-to-face classrooms: as a peer-learning driven writing studio. The book is titled Personal, Accessible, Responsive, and Strategic: Resources & Strategies for Online Writing Instructors and can be downloaded for free from the WAC Clearinghouse.
I was fortunate enough to write the afterword for the book. Here’s how I characterized the value of Borgman & McArdle’s PARS framework:
“Grounded in both the research on effective online learning and their own years of experience, this is very sound advice. In my own experience teaching online, I have found that the biggest obstacles stem from the radical shift to a much more low-bandwidth environment than both teachers and students are used to in face-to-face, in-person learning environments (see Hart-Davidson, 2014). What do I mean by low-bandwidth?”
Well consider how much information passes easily among all the members of a group of learners, including the instructor, when everyone is together in the same room. Just with a glance, as a teacher, I can get a very reliable measure of how well everybody is doing, who is engaged and who is not, who might need my help with something, and who among the group is willing and able to help others. Now consider what that same kind of status check would require in most online teaching settings. How long would it take you to work all of that out as a teacher? And once you had that information, how quickly could you act on it?”
Does that sound familiar? Have you made the shift from face-to-face to online and experienced this change in what feedback you have coming back to help guide you? Or maybe you are helping others – new TAs or faculty teaching online for the first time? – adjust their pedagogy to ensure that students get a rich peer-learning experience just as they would in a face-to-face classroom? If so, this book is a must have in your virtual library.
On a personal note, both Melissa & I have worked with Jessie and Casey over the years, and we are just over the moon that the expertise and wisdom that makes them great teachers can be shared. Thank you both for this outstanding book!