by Mary David Miller

Freshmen often struggle in English 1101 and 1102. High school curriculums teach students how to write in summary, but some are a little slim on analytical assessment – which is required for most college-level writing assignments. Seeing a need to increase analytical thinking and writing in first-year students, a group of University of West Georgia faculty decided to create a program to address this issue head on.

Log On for a Leg Up: Online Program Prepares Students for First-Year WritingWOLF: Writing Online for First Years is an online pilot class constructed by a team that includes English department Chair Dr. Meg Pearson, Wendy Grisham from Distance Learning, and a small group of faculty from the English department, with the goal of enhancing the writing skills of incoming freshmen.

The decision to create the module was based on the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is a plan designed to focus on an issue or topic that is to enhance student learning. Every college in Georgia uses the QEP to create a project and work on a specific topic or issue in the curriculum. UWG chose to work on undergraduate writing curriculum.

“Additionally, as the faculty who teach every single first year student on campus, the English instructors have long been seeking a tool that would help new students acclimate to campus and get a sense of what sorts of things would be asked of them in their First Year Writing Classroom,” said Dr. Pearson.

As a result, the online modules introduced three general topics for the students to learn: “How to talk to your professor and how to email,” “How to use campus resources,” and “How to know the difference between summary and analysis in writing.” 

The course was completely voluntary but immediately showed positive results in preparing freshmen for college English courses.

The WOLF course was completed by 839 freshmen over the summer and fall semesters of 2016.  Early results show a significantly higher percentage of students who took the WOLF course successfully passed English 1101 and 1102 compared to those who did not take the course.

“This small addition to our orientation – one that was not specifically an English course – made a significant and positive change in student success in ENGL 1101 and 1102,” Dr. Pearson said. “Little things are helping. This is a first step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

An anonymous survey was used to gather the thoughts and reactions of students regarding the course. One student found the module to be “educational and helpful. I do understand better what to expect when classes start.” Another anonymous student advised, “Freshmen need to take this.”

Based on the success of the module, the WOLF course will be offered again this upcoming fall and spring in order to retrieve more data. 

Posted on August 8, 2016