Online writing support coming soon to BC higher ed

Students at B.C. colleges and universities will soon be able to get help with their academic writing from online tutors. The service, called WriteAway, is scheduled to launch at four institutions at end of May or early June 2012.

“Academic writing skills are the key to success in higher education,” said Elaine Fairey, Associate University Librarian at Simon Fraser University. She explained that writing was chosen as the first provincial online tutoring subject for higher education because “the immediate bang for the buck is in writing support. There are consistent standards across institutions and good commonality among all the partners.”

College of the Rockies, Douglas College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser University are the first institutions to join the pilot, which is modeled on the province-wide online reference service AskAway. Expansion to other universities and colleges could happen as early as this fall.

Learning to write effectively and at an appropriate academic level is one of the most important skills a post-secondary learner must acquire, and one of the most challenging and in-demand. It’s a complex skill that needs to be learned and reinforced in many contexts, but the B.C. higher education system is up for the task.

“B.C.’s strength in offering a province-wide service like this is that we work together to deploy different areas of expertise to the various services – the partnership is gold,” said Ms. Fairey. The WriteAway partnership includes the participating institutions, the BC Council of Senior Student Affairs Leaders (CSSAL), the BC Electronic Library Network and BCcampus.

BCcampus will provide the software and information technology architecture that will allow tutors to staff the service, much like it does currently with the AskAway service. The chosen software is eTutoring, developed by the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium.

“Our involvement with AskAway makes perfect sense,” said Lawrence Parisotto, BCcampus Director of Shared Services and Collaborative Programs. “It brings together institutions and partners to provide a province-wide service that no one university or college could do on its own. Many universities already have writing support and learning centres, but WriteAway will be an ‘anywhere’ service available many more hours than a single institution can offer.”

“WriteAway will be an ideal companion service to AskAway,” said Elaine Fairey. “It has the potential to be a lifesaver for many students, helping them develop a vital skill for academic and career success.”

Edited May 10 to include eTutoring as the chosen software.