Published: June 20, 2013

First humanities MOOC could change writing instruction

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 Kristen.Parker@cabs.msu.edu

Hoping to appeal to a new generation of writers, Michigan State University will launch its first massive open online course in the humanities on June 30.

Jeff Grabill, professor and chairperson of MSU’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture, and Julie Lindquist, director of first-year writing, will teach “Thinking Like a Writer,” a free online non-credit course designed to help people improve writing skills.

“We hope the course can answer the question, ‘Is it possible to teach and learn writing online and at scale in ways that evidence suggests is effective?’” Grabill said. “Students in the course will be improving their own writing skills, but they’ll also be helping us create a new kind of experience for teaching writing to others.”

So who can benefit from MSU’s fourth MOOC? It runs the gamut: Students preparing for college-level writing; international students looking to improve their English language writing; and professional writers wanting to sharpen their skills, he said.

In addition, “Thinking Like a Writer” will focus on the review and revision process — the methods most likely to lead to better writing, Grabill said. It will include interaction with instructors and peers to give each student significant feedback on their strengths and weaknesses as writers.

The course also will help students with persuasive writing, narrative writing, summarizing texts and organizing thoughts in the writing process, he said.

“Thinking Like a Writer” was developed in partnership with MSUglobal, an entrepreneurial unit in MSU’s Office of the Provost that assists researchers with bringing academic ideas to fruition.

“We’ve designed this course to help people revise how they write and to allow them to collect a toolkit of effective reading, writing and learning strategies,” Grabill said. “Recognizing specific learning and communication practices and considering ways to employ them can make people more successful in future coursework—and in all communication.”

Students interested in the course can register online. “Thinking Like a Writer” also has Facebook and Twitter pages.

Click to enlarge

Jeff Grabill, co-director of MSU's Writing in Digital Environments Research Center, talks to students about digital writing. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

Jeff Grabill, co-director of MSU's Writing in Digital Environments Research Center, talks to students about digital writing. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

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