Go Online!

Reconfiguring Writing Courses for the New, Virtual World

by Laura Gray-Rosendale (Volume editor) Steven Rosendale (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection X, 218 Pages
Open Access


COVID-19’s impacts revealed that teaching writing online was no longer merely an issue of convenience or economic necessity—it was critical to public health and equity concerns as well. Now higher education faces one of its greatest historical challenges, expanding online offerings to fully engage and support students around the world. Gathering together educators who teach writing at college and graduate levels using creative hybrid, blended, and online/remote/virtual modes, this book should be required reading for all teachers and administrators. The volume features those new to online teaching alongside experienced online writing teachers. Referencing the latest research in online teaching and writing, contributors share stories of crucial successes as well as unforeseen difficulties. Essays address compelling concerns such as engaging diversity and cultural inclusivity, social justice, as well as global learning in online writing courses; radically reshaping graduate seminars for online delivery; flipping classrooms to promote more successful writing instruction; fostering greater community within online writing classrooms; examining the problems and possibilities of Learning Management Systems for teaching writing; sustaining remote writing-centered archival research; avoiding Zoom fatigue in writing classes by using design thinking; utilizing expressive arts in online writing classes; mentoring doctoral students online; constructing meaningful approaches to online peer writing feedback; as well as making access and inclusivity central to online writing course design.

Table Of Contents

  • cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Introduction (Laura Gray-Rosendale and Steven Rosendale)
  • Chapter One Designing for Connection in the Online Classroom: Lessons Learned in the Time of a Pandemic (Patricia R. Webb)
  • Chapter Two Disrupting Writing and Systemic Disruption (Kathryn A. Broyles)
  • Chapter Three Presence as Participation: Reflections on COVID-19’s Impact on a Graduate Seminar at an Urban Research University (Michael Harker, Keaton Lamle, and Rachel Woods)
  • Chapter Four Flipping Composition Instruction: Amplifying Flexibility, Increasing Delight (Tara Moore)
  • Chapter Five Writing as a Team Sport: Cultivating Community in the Online Writing Classroom (Abby Schroering)
  • Chapter Six Doing Archival Research from Home (Lynée Lewis Gaillet)
  • Chapter Seven Avoiding Zoom Doom: Creating Online Workshops with Design Thinking (Lance Cummings)
  • Chapter Eight Expressive Arts Curriculum in Online Writing Courses (Peaches Hash)
  • Chapter Nine Red Pen or Cursor? Assimilation and Resistance in a Digital Writing Workshop (Bonnie S. Sunstein, Michael Goldberg, and Claudia Pozzobon Potratz)
  • Chapter Ten Practical and Transferable: The Quest to Design Online Writing Instruction for Mentoring Professional Doctoral Students (Nicholas R. Werse)
  • Chapter Eleven Making a P-A-T-H to Transformation: Showcasing the Need for Culturally Inclusive Discussion-Based Teaching in the Online Classroom (Melissa Toomey and Jill M. Swirsky)
  • Chapter Twelve Reconfiguring Peer Feedback for the Virtual Composition Classroom (Dennis Koyama and Ghada Gherwash)
  • Chapter Thirteen Rhetoric, Empathy, and Service: Cultivating a Craft of Access in (and Beyond) Course Design (Brian Le Lay)
  • About the Contributors
  • Index

←ix | x→


Laura Gray-Rosendale and Steven Rosendale

On June 16, 2021 The United States Institute of Education Sciences released their preliminary findings about the various impacts that the COVID pandemic had had thus far on college students and higher education altogether in a report titled “2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20): First Look at the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Enrollment, Housing, and Finances.” As the title of this report makes clear, the Institute was concerned with examining many aspects of exactly how the pandemic impacted students’ lives. In their summary of findings, the writers detail a wide variety of discoveries such as the following: students withdrew from their colleges at far higher rates; students who were already struggling financially were more likely to move back in with their families and/or to have unstable housing situations; students who identified as gender nonconforming had far more trouble finding adequate housing; students of color experienced far higher rates of food insecurity; and childcare became a much more difficult issue for female students in particular (4). To put it mildly, college students’ lives were radically changed as well as made increasingly more and more difficult—with a disproportionate number of already marginalized students bearing the fullest brunt of these effects. These issues were also, of course, exacerbated by larger social, political, and cultural forces that were occurring at the exact same historical moment, forces that led, for example, to both the important strengthening of the Black Lives Matter ←1 | 2→Movement as well as some disturbing events that signaled backlash to these crucial strides.

Significantly, this report begins with one of the most essential changes in colleges and universities that resulted from the pandemic in the United States—it altered the entire structure of higher education in ways that no one could have fully anticipated. In short, the writers of the report note that faculty members (many of whom had little or radically different previous experiences teaching online) and students (many of whom had taken very few or not taken any online courses before) were now required to negotiate most if not all of their courses in an unfamiliar, online learning format. According to their study, “Overall, 87 percent of students experienced a disruption or change in their enrollment, with 84 percent having some or all classes moved to online-only instruction” (4). This was a truly seismic shift in higher education within the US., impacting all faculty and students in crucial ways, and promising to have lasting reverberations.

Given the nature of this shift, The United States Department of Higher Education has been forced to fully consider what the positive as well as negative effects of the pandemic have been on higher education as well as how they might be better addressed as we move into the future. “VOLUME 3 – 2021 ED COVID-19 HANDBOOK Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff,” also published in June 2021, sets forth “best practices” for potential in-person learning in a post-pandemic environment. However, it also reflects upon the recent past, assessing some of the effects that the abrupt change to online learning had on teachers and students in higher education during the pandemic. This document, much like the report from The United States Institute of Education Sciences, mentions various studies that reveal a distinct digital divide amongst students, describing that oftentimes adequate access to technology posed a real problem for students: “Nearly 60% of learners noted ‘having access to stable, high-speed internet access’ as a challenge” (18). Later this report also notes that the switch to online learning hit culturally marginalized students especially hard:

According to a nationally representative 2020 Strada and Gallup poll of more than 10,000 respondents, Black and Latino (or Hispanic) Americans reported higher rates of canceling or changing educational plans due to COVID-19. Tribal colleges and universities experienced an average decrease in student enrollment of 19% during the COVID-19 pandemic. (20)

In addition, the writers of the report point to a variety of studies that suggest that at times problems in course design were directly responsible for some of the concerns that students encountered. In order to combat this second problem, the writers suggest that “instructional designers and technologists” need to better “collaborate with faculty on the design and delivery of courses” and offer more ←2 | 3→training in online learning altogether (18). They do note important strides that teachers were able to make in quickly pivoting to the online learning environment. But they also contend that “despite the gains in perceived effectiveness of online learning, student engagement still presents a challenge. Overwhelmingly, a lack of engagement and interactivity has been identified as a particularly complex challenge in online and digital learning in higher education” (19). In order to address these concerns, they suggest that we will need to make significant changes to higher education such as the following: “1. Invest in professional development opportunities focused on digital learning, 2. Explore different models of delivery, 3. Leverage technology to promote student engagement, and 4. Invest in digital learning records to promote student mobility” (21–24).

In their essay “Online University Teaching During and After the Covid-19 Crisis: Refocusing Teacher Presence and Learning Activity,” Chrysi Rapanta et al. also offer a study of the myriad effects of the rapid move to online learning that was created by the pandemic. They echo the above suggestions from “VOLUME 3 – 2021 ED COVID-19 HANDBOOK Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff” with their conclusion that

For higher education institutions around the world to be competitive (again), evidence of faculty preparedness in terms of professionalism is necessary. Online teaching is an essential part of such professional preparedness but not the only one. Universities, now more than ever, should invest in teacher professional development of their faculty, for them to be updated on effective pedagogical methods with or without the use of online technologies. (942)

In other words, they argue, based upon their extensive research, that we need to come to understand how higher education can better support faculty pedagogies as well as offer faculty more relevant kinds of professional development opportunities—with the use of teaching using online technologies being just one key component.

Importantly, though, the pandemic’s effects on higher education were in no way confined by US national borders. Rather they had tremendous global impacts. In their essay titled “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Life of Higher Education Students: A Global Perspective,” Aleksander Aristovnik et al. survey over 30,000 students from 62 countries. Their study reveals the ways in which students across the globe seemed to experience real emotional and psychological difficulties adjusting to the idea of “the ‘new normal’; namely, education from a distance” (22). They also discovered the ways in which students both perceived their online education experiences as well as some of the inherent contradictions within those perceptions:


X, 218
ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2022 (October)
Pandemic COVID-19 online/remote teaching and technology teaching writing/composition online social justice/ equity and diversity global outreach and online education learning management systems flipped and hybrid classrooms Zoom/Collaborate online discussion/peer feedback Laura Gray-Rosendale Steven Rosendale Go Online! Reconfiguring Writing Courses for the New, Virtual World
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. X, 218 pp., 11 b/w ill., 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Laura Gray-Rosendale (Volume editor) Steven Rosendale (Volume editor)

Laura Gray-Rosendale, Professor of English and President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow at Northern Arizona University, has authored/edited books such as College Girl: A Memoir; Getting Personal: Teaching Personal Writing in the Digital Age; Me Too, Feminist Theory, and Surviving Sexual Violence; and Writers’ Stories in Motion: Healing, Joy, and Triumph (Peter Lang). Steven Rosendale, Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, has authored/edited books such as The Greening of Literary Scholarship; Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Radical and Reform Writers; Radical Relevance: Essays Toward a Scholarship of a "Whole Left" (with Laura Gray-Rosendale); and Political Moments in the Classroom.


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