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Wednesday, June 18 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
CON3.01 – To Experiment and to Evolve: Meeting Students’ Needs through Online Skype Writing Consultations (Room A227)

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This presentation addresses how both university teaching and learning experiences continue to transform in response to new learning paradigms and pressures for online instruction and service delivery. The landscape of the Learning Commons is changing. In response to a nationwide increase in the number of distance education courses and the number of commuting students, Canadian universities must explore ways that virtual learning environments can both supplement and complement on-campus support services for students. Most university writing centres in Canada already provide various types of online learning and teaching tools. Some centres also provide writing consultations via email and over the telephone. However, I argue these mediums for writing support have a tendency to be too directive and didactic. Often they mirror traditional asynchronous forms of feedback, functioning more as an editing service than as a pedagogical opportunity for students to develop as writers.                                                              

As an alternative to in-person face-to-face writing consultations, online consultations require an increased awareness of new and emerging pedagogies and technologies for online teaching and learning. Educators need to determine which strategies can be adopted and which need to be modified in order to transform their professional practices to more effectively deliver writing support and instruction using online technology.

Skype is an online face-to-face conferencing software frequently used in professional settings that allows for communication at a distance. I propose Skype needs to be studied for its potential uses in university learning commons because it offers the opportunity for online writing support to be synchronous and face-to-face.

At the University of Guelph, Writing Services has been offering online Skype writing consultations since September, 2012. First piloted for graduate students, the option now extends to any Guelph student registering for a writing appointment. Our statistics show that most Skype appointments occur during the summer months, and graduate students primarily use the service. Currently, our student feedback is minimal and mostly positive.

This study evaluates the effectiveness of Skype writing consultations at the University of Guelph as a tool for providing synchronous communication and effective feedback in the writing centre. I am interested in determining how the physical separation between the consultant and the student’s paper during Skype writing consultations instigates the use of new pedagogical strategies. Does this multimodal teaching and learning experience decrease a consultant’s tendency to edit, increase the necessity for dialogical exchanges, and prompt students to take greater ownership of their writing and consequently become more active learners?

Ultimately, this study will help us better understand how Skype and other online consultation tools can be best used in one-to-one writing instruction. This knowledge will guide our development of best practices for online delivery of writing instruction, support, and feedback.


Jodie Salter

University of Guelph

Wednesday June 18, 2014 3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
A227 Duncan McArthur Hall, 511 Union Street Queen's University Kingston ON Canada

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