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Writing Program

University Writing Program

For Students: WRIT in a Pandemic

Dear DU Writing Student,

On behalf of my 28 colleagues and Associate Director Richard Colby, I welcome you to WRIT courses at DU. We teach writing as our profession and passion, and we're delighted to teach you.

As you know, the Pandemic has scrambled how DU offers courses. You might have questions about what to expect in your winter WRIT course, so I'd like to share six characteristics of WRIT at DU, even during a pandemic.

  1. All of our courses, regardless of how they're taught, are highly personalized and interactive.
  2. We don't lecture very much, regardless of whether a class meets in person or online.
  3. Even our asynchronous classes offer real-time interactions among professors and students.
  4. We know our students and care about their success; that's why, for example, WRIT professors are asked to write many letters of recommendations.
  5. Students overwhelmingly rate DU writing professors as outstanding teachers, both in-person and online.
  6. We take pride in teaching well. Please recognize that actually takes more time and energy for us to teach online than it does to teach in person.

You'll likely receive a separate email from your professor with details about your section. But I'd like to elaborate each of these characteristics below, a couple of sentences each.

1. All of our courses, regardless of how they're taught, are highly personalized and interactive.

Whether your section is in-person, synchronous (common online meeting times), or asynchronous, your professor will know you personally and respond to you individually. Discussion and conversation are key to our courses.

2. We don't lecture very much, regardless of the mode of the class.

People learn to write by writing: by practicing carefully structured exercises and assignments, receiving feedback, and either using that feedback to revise a work in progress or applying it to future writing situations. Professors often present strategies or principles, but they will generally take only a quarter to a half of any class meeting—whether in person or online—in a lecture mode. The rest of the class, you'll be doing something.

3. Even asynchronous classes offer real-time interactions among professors and students.

The absence of a class meeting time assigned in the schedule often doesn't mean you'll never interact with classmates. Many of us have students sign up for small groups, at times convenient to each group members' schedules. In my own spring writing class, students gathered in small groups for an hour each week, and I joined every conversation. These were exhilarating meetings; in fact, one group enjoyed it so much, they continued meeting on their own throughout the summer to share writing. All writing professors will have regular opportunities for you to talk with them in real time, at least during student conversation hours, and sometimes in weekly tutorials.

4. We know our students and care about their success; that's why, for example, WRIT professors are asked to write lots of letters of recommendations.

We know our students and their abilities very well. Students recognize that we care passionately about their development as writers and as people, and they frequently ask us to write recommendations. We're happy to do so.

5. Students overwhelmingly rate DU writing professors as outstanding, whether they teach in-person or online.

Each quarter, over 1200 students complete course evaluations. One question asks students their level of agreement with the assertion, "Overall, this is an effective instructor." In spring 2020, when classes were entirely online, the mean response to that question was 5.2 out of 6.0, a very high level of performance. In spring 2019, when classes were entirely in person, the mean response was 5.21. If you'd like, you can read a selection of student comments about our writing classes.

6. We take pride in teaching exceptionally well. It actually takes more time and energy for us to teach online than it does to teach in person.

Absent the give and take of in-person meetings, online courses require a much higher degree of faculty preparation. Professors have to anticipate a range of possible questions or reactions—some of which may never come to pass—and plan for all of them. Of course, writing professors spend the vast majority of their time reading and responding to student work—usually about 8-10 hours per class, per week. We'd certainly love teaching in person if we weren't limited by health conditions or campus restrictions on how many courses we can physically offer.

7. If you want to learn to learn more

Sincerely,

Doug Hesse
Professor and Executive Director of Writing