Online technologies for teaching writing: Students react to teacher response in voice and written modalities


English departments are increasingly under pressure to offer writing courses online, but research that informs effective pedagogies - including effective ways to respond to students' drafts - is still limited. By investigating students' perceptions of online teacher response to student writing, this study suggests that in order to develop sound online writing courses, instructional designers will need to understand better the hybridized nature of online modalities. Early studies promised that voice modality would enhance feedback to in-process drafts, not only because of a lower cost of production, but because this modality offers nonverbal as well as verbal information. However, as this study points out, students do not necessarily regard more information as better. In addition, the process of interpreting social information online may differ from the way we read information in a face-to-face setting. In this study, 39 first-year college students, working with texts that had previously been seeded with ten writing problems (five low- and five high-level problems), reacted to online responses to these texts from one of four teachers, both in voice and written modality. Based on prior studies, students were expected to prefer voice over written comments; however, they exhibited split preferences due to a significant teacher effect. This finding for teacher impact was complicated by the finding that 80% of students did not recognize the same teacher in the two modalities, suggesting that modality plays a role in the ways students construct the teacher behind the response. This study points to the need for further situation-specific research to guide the development of online instruction.

Publication Title

Research in the Teaching of English

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