University Writing Center Supports Writers Remotely During COVID-19

Writing Center Tutor Rachel Mason’s Workspace

In January the University Writing Center (UWC) added asynchronous (e-tutoring) appointments to complement its face-to-face and online (real-time) appointment options. Little did we know how crucial those alternative options would be in the coming weeks!

Starting March 16, we moved all Macomb and QC staff to the online and e-tutoring only schedule. Services were expanded to seven days a week, 14-15 hours a day. Our student consultants were amazing, volunteering to change their schedules so we could cover the expanded schedule. The UWC remained online (with reduced hours) through the summer and we had our busiest summer to date. Since spring break, UWC consultants have provided 370 online and e-tutoring appointments. We have also addressed many quick questions through our Grammar Hotline, Facebook Messaging, and scheduling online message center.

How are students adapting to online writing support?

One writing consultant, English MA student Maureen Sullivan, said, “They seemed excited to know about these options and happy to be able to work with someone on their papers.”

Nursing major Yin Thi Thi Oo noted, “When I had a question, they replied immediately to my message and helped me. I had an online appointment with video call and I really liked it because it is like real-life where I can ask questions.”

History major Joshlyn Lomax also shared, “I love the writing center because it has aided me in becoming a better writer,” she said. “In each appointment, the grammatical errors in my paper were not just fixed for me, but I was given an explanation on why the error I had made was wrong. Each time I write an essay, I remember the advice I was given so I do not make the same mistake twice.”

And how did our consultants adapt? Here’s what a few shared with me:

English MA student Meghan O’Toole: “My cats are keeping my company while I work! It can be hard to stay motivated and keep writing during this time, but I try to break up my day by task and make tons of lists to keep me on track. I also make sure to take plenty of short breaks to play Animal Crossing, read some of the book I’m reading for fun, bake something, work on my creative writing, or hang out with my cats!”

Vocal performance MFA student Rachel Mason:Here is a picture of my night shift setup and my assistant, Elmer, who only occasionally proves to help with productivity (but he’s cute, which helps with morale). My home ‘office’ has been makeshift and often bare-bones since the quarantine hit, as I don’t have many of the things I am used to having available when I am on campus. Sometimes it is hard to be productive in an environment where I usually relax, but I have found lots of time for research, personal writingand trying new recipes! It helps to know that we are not alone in our situation, even in our isolation, and seeing this situation as a challenge to learn rather than a loss, even when it feels like one.”

English MA student Rachael Aderoju: “The recent transition to alternative formats didn’t at first feel like a big change, but while trying to adjust my daily schedules I realized how much of a change it was. Adjusting to online appointments has not been so challenging for me, since we do this during normal school hours, except that I now have to do this every day for all my appointments. My usual technique for e-tutoring appointments is to write a couple of points I think my clients are referring to (since I can’t immediately hear from them to know what they mean) and write how each of those things can be adjusted. Although I sometimes feel I write long essays, I also like to get in conversations with my students through my feedback. However, I seldom feel the lack of motivation to work and study. Some days I feel energized, other days I feel extremely fed up with things. I try to get on Zoom meetings with families and friends on days when I feel like this. Other times, I make myself extremely busy so I don’t get to notice my motivation is decreasing. Overall, I still enjoy the freedom of working from my home space and not having to wait 10-15 minutes for a bus!”

The UWC will offer online-only services through December 2020. While we all hope to return to face-to-face hours in the spring, we are looking forward to another great semester of genuine collaboration and service in the virtual world this fall! UWC alums, let us know how you’re doing—say hi at https://www.facebook.com/WritingCenterWIU/.