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posted: 2.20.13 by Nedra Reynolds

When I was starting to plan my 400-level seminar on “writing and rhetoric” for this spring, I received a fortuitous invitation from Joe Moxley at USF, who wrote,

I’d like to offer you and your graduate students an opportunity to participate in the conversation at Writing Commons, . . . since going public in February, thousands and thousands of readers worldwide have visited our open education site. Currently, we’re trending 1900 users a day.  We feel our goal—being a free resource for writers worldwide—is within reach.  So what’s our problem?  We’re having difficulty with our efforts to inspire writing teachers to submit new webtexts for publication.”

After getting assurance that advanced undergraduates were welcome to submit articles for review, I incorporated into my course plans a “contribution to a submission.” While I had not been actively seeking an experiential learning opportunity for this class, I couldn’t ignore the timing and opportunity of this call for submissions, especially when I was already interested in trying learning contracts and in finding a model of collaboration that was not simply “get into groups and each group creates one product.”

To facilitate this journey into new territory, I asked students to complete Learning Contracts that indicated the level of their interest in our collaborative submission and requested that the project count for 10, 15, 20, or 25% of their final grade—their choice. With the use of contracts, students have a choice about how much to invest in this project, and their evaluation will be based on reports they submit to me documenting their contributions. In addition, I’m anxious to see if we can work together to create two, five, or who-knows-how-many submissions, with everyone in the class taking on a variety of roles at different times.  Students will be accountable to the entire class, not just to their small group.

Based on their level of interest, I’ve assigned two leaders, and 13 more students are conducting a thorough inventory of the site in order to determine what’s there (and what isn’t).  Some are reviewing Professor Moxley’s invitation as well as the flyer he included for cues about this particular rhetorical situation, and we’ve tentatively decided to contribute to the materials on technical or professional writing.  Contributors are examining closely the TOC and investigating existing writing textbooks to see where the gaps or emphases are.  Another student is busy writing a press release about our project, timed to go out when we are firm about the topics and genres.

With Film Media majors in the class as well as others who are aspiring videographers and editors, our class has plenty of talent to submit a multimodal text that will stand up to the review process.  As Sara G. wrote on our discussion forums, “I can’t wait to see what we come up with!”


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