Revolutionize Your Writing & Reading Courses with The Excelsior OWL

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) is an award-winning OER offering interactive, multimedia support for college and developmental writing and reading. During this session attendees will try out the OWL and all its interactive pieces, create an Owlet, and participate in a site scavenger hunt.The Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) is an award-winning OER offering interactive, multimedia support for college and developmental writing and reading. During this session attendees will try out the OWL and all its interactive pieces, create an Owlet, and participate in a site scavenger hunt.

Presenters

Michelle Abeyta has worked with the Excelsior OWL since its creation nine years ago. Michelle was previously the Learning Services Coordinator and Lead Instructional Designer for the Excelsior OWL. She created video assets, interactive activities, and content while managing key areas of the Excelsior OWL project. She is now soaring to new heights as the coordinator for the Excelsior OWL national outreach campaign where she is able to spread the word about the resource.

Extended Abstract

The Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) is an award-winning OER offering interactive, multimedia support for college and developmental writing and reading. The OWL was developed in partnership with eight community colleges and applies best practices in instructional design and education technology to provide students with a truly immersive user experience.

The Excelsior OWL was developed through a collaborative effort involving content and technology experts from eight community colleges who explored proven and innovative practices that leverage technology to improve student writing and reading. Two multi-campus, controlled pilot studies found the OWL to be effective in improving student writing and increasing their course grades. The OWL increased final grades by 6.62 points, improved student writing in 3 of 5 areas on the AAC&U writing VALUE rubric and strengthened argumentative essay writing.

The OWL can be easily incorporated into any traditional, online, or blended course. It can even be used to “flip” the curriculum by using the OWL as a free online textbook. The OWL offers a free and easy to use alternative to developmental writing and reading courses. It also provides resources to support Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing in the Disciplines. The Educator Resources section of the OWL offers tips and examples for how to implement the OWL effectively into courses.

As an online resource, the Excelsior OWL is also designed to stand alone as a self-paced resource for independent learning. Users can set their own goals and select the most relevant OWL resources to review. Each resource offers multimedia instructional content to engage users and interactive activities to evaluate learning. Each activity is auto-scored, and users can login to view a record of their activity performance for tracking progress toward self-defined goals. Presenters will share ideas and real-life situations where the OWL has been used to foster independent learning and encouraged students to take ownership of their learning.

The OWL content development team understands that every individual learns differently. The team is devoted to developing and designing content that is not only accessible but engages all learning types and utilizes technology fully. Presenters will discuss how OWL content, including interactive activities and engaging videos, can be integrated into a curriculum or utilized as an independent learning resource for students. Using their own devices, attendees will participate in a hands-on tour of the OWL where they will explore the content and interactive pieces (quizzes, learning activities, content presentations, help videos, content animations, etc.) as a student.

Session attendees will learn how to personalize student learning experiences using advanced OWL features, such as the “Create an Owlet” feature, which allows users to create a custom version of the OWL that serves their students’ needs. Participants will also have an opportunity to play Paper Capers (a video game for teaching the writing process) and compete in a site scavenger hunt. Presenters will discuss the needs of writing and reading instruction in higher education, facilitate a group discussion about the common challenges attendees face and show how the OWL can help meet those needs. They will also demonstrate how to embed interactive writing activities and how students can track their progress.

This session will increase attendees’ knowledge of available OERs in effective writing and reading instruction. They will learn how the Excelsior OWL is a valuable tool that can impact and engage their students’ learning by integrating it into their courses and using it as an independent student resource. Come learn how the OWL is a valuable resource inside and outside the classroom and how it can help transform your approach to writing and reading instruction.

Workshop Outline (with content/activities, time, and process): (including the workshop outline as part of the extended abstract)

  1. Introduction & Group Discussion (5 minutes)
    • The presenter will facilitate a group discussion using an online question and brainstorming application to talk about the common challenges facing attendees in writing and reading instruction.
       
  2. Explore the OWL (10 minutes)
    • As the OWL is presented, some, if not all, of the above challenges discussed will be addressed and the attendees learn how this resource can help those needs. Participants will receive a hands-on tour, complete with the chance to play with the different interactive features of the OWL.
       
  3. Play Paper Capers (5 minutes)
    • Paper Capers is a video game about the writing process. Attendees will learn how the game works and how it can help improve students’ understanding of the writing process. There will be time built into the presentation for participants to play the game for a short time.
       
  4. Create Owlet (10 minutes)
    • The owlet is a new OWL feature that allows facilitators to create their own customized OWL by streamlining the content available to their students. Session participants will receive an overview of the tool, learn how it could benefit their courses, and have the opportunity to create their own owlet.
       
  5. Embed & Student Tracking Demonstration (5 minutes)
    • The presenter will demonstrate how to embed activities outside of the OWL and how students can create their own user accounts to track their progress.
       
  6. OWL Scavenger Hunt (10 minutes)
    • After learning about the OWL, attendees will have the chance to put their new knowledge to use with a site scavenger hunt, complete with prizes.
       
  7. Question & Answers (during and any time remaining)
    • The presenter will be able to answer questions as they are presented and leave a few minutes at the end for any final ones.