Distance Learning

Stanford Launches Online Writing Course for High School, College Students

Stanford writing instructors have partnered with undergraduates to create a non-credit course open to the public via Stanford Online.

Dubbed Adventures in Writing, the course is aimed at students aged 16-20 and was created by instructors in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric who then turned to undergraduates to illustrate it as a graphic novel.

"The course follows 'Maya' and 'Chris' as they interact with each other and others at a movie theater, baseball game, carnival, community garden and concert hall, and, along the way, learn some essential principles of effective communication," according to a university news release.

The self-paced course includes five modules and takes six to eight hours to complete. The modules end with writing exercises designed to reinforce the concepts addressed. The modules include:

  • Introduction to Academic Language;
  • Purpose, Audience and Context: Language as Communication;
  • Identifying Passive and Active Voice;
  • Punctuation: Signposts To Guide Readers; and
  • Argument: Making and Supporting Claims.

At Stanford, the course will be used as supplemental material for freshman and sophomore writing courses and to help teach high school writing students in the summer.

"We're hoping students who take the online class will see that writing is more than sitting in a classroom and writing papers," she said. "We show Maya and Chris in a variety of different contexts. Through these narratives, we're asking students to think about how these two people are learning to communicate effectively in a variety of situations."

Five illustrators — one for each module — created the graphic novel along with two colorists. "Megan O'Connor, an academic technology specialist who assembled the team of student illustrators and colorists, said the students represented a variety of disciplines, including computer science; feminist, gender and sexuality studies; symbolic systems; mechanical engineering; and arts practice," according to a news release.

"We had to think about the medium we were using," Alfano said in a prepared statement. "We couldn't just say this character is going to say this and this character is going to say that. We had to think: Is this panel going to have a close-up of a character's head? When a character is imagining a scenario, can we have that pop up in the background? How will this help make the writing instruction more engaging and effective? It was a great learning experience for us as writing instructors, because we were learning to be more creative as authors — and to think in those different modes ourselves."

More information is available at online.stanford.edu.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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