Excelsior College Launches Highly Dynamic Multimedia Online Writing Lab Available to the Public

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The Excelsior College Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a free online writing service designed for adult learners

Screenshot from the Excelsior College OWL
Since the OWL was designed with the adult learner in mind, it is ideal for older students who may be returning to college but need to re-learn the writing skills expected in higher education," said Dr. David Seelow, director of writing programs.

Excelsior College, a private, nonprofit, distance learning institution in Albany, N.Y., today announced the launch of a robust, dynamic and multimedia online writing lab (OWL) available to the public. The Excelsior College OWL is a free online service that provides learners with an in-depth guide to all aspects of undergraduate writing, from basic grammar to complex research projects. It is a collaborative effort between Excelsior’s School of Liberal Arts and its Online Education and Learning services unit.

Current online writing labs available through higher education institutions are typically static offerings in which students learn through reading text. In comparison, the Excelsior College OWL is optimized for the web, offering a variety of multimedia lessons in which learners engage with the instructional material and, in turn, receive feedback.

“Most online labs offer informational text but no real instruction takes place, so we knew early on the Excelsior College OWL could fill a void in the educational marketplace.” said Dr. David Seelow, director of writing programs for Excelsior College’s School of Liberal Arts. “Since the OWL was designed with the adult learner in mind, it is ideal for older students who may be returning to college but need to re-learn the writing skills expected in higher education. It will also be a tremendous resource for community colleges and other institutions that lack the financial resources to launch their own labs.”

The Excelsior College OWL has four central components: Grammar Essentials, Essay Zone, Research Corridor and Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial. Each of the modules was created by expert faculty instructors from across the country unlike other similar programs that are written by graduate students or teaching assistants.

With Grammar Essentials students learn essential points of grammar through highly interactive exercises. The Essay Zone focuses on teaching students how to write coherent, well-developed essays in a variety of rhetorical styles. The Research Corridor guides learners through the entire research process from selecting a topic to citing sources.

Finally, the Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial, designed by Claire Siskin, project director for Excelsior’s English as a Second Language Writing Online Workshop (ESL WOW), provides English language learners with an understanding of plagiarism in the United States and strategies to avoid it. ESL WOW is funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

Plagiarism, the illegal use of other authors’ work, is a growing concern among higher education institutions. A 2010 Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics report found one in three students admitted to using the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. Said Claire Siskin, “It’s vital that all students understand what is considered plagiarism in the U.S. and what the consequences are if they are caught. Through quizzes, videos and interactive exercises this tutorial can help all students avoid plagiarism.”

Additional instructional modules are being developed for the lab and are expected to be unveiled in the coming year, including one devoted to ESL and another to the writing process, including prewriting strategies, editing and revision techniques.

“Writing can be a very difficult skill to learn, especially without the proper encouragement, so many people shy away from learning to be a better writer,” said Dr. Scott Dalrymple, dean of Excelsior College’s School of Liberal Arts. “With the online writing lab we now offer a resource to our students and the public that provides the tools, knowledge and encouragement to improve their writing at their own pace. We will continue to expand and improve upon the Excelsior College OWL moving forward.”


Excelsior College
Excelsior College http://www.excelsior.edu is a regionally accredited, nonprofit distance learning institution that focuses on removing obstacles to the educational goals of adult learners. Founded in 1971 and located in Albany, NY, Excelsior is a proven leader in the assessment and validation of student knowledge. It offers more efficient and affordable access to degree completion through multiple avenues: its own online courses and college-level proficiency examinations, and the acceptance in transfer of credit from other colleges and universities as well as recognized corporate and military training programs. Excelsior College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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