So to continue my thoughts about OWCs and conceptual models. . . in this post I'll talk about some other conceptual models that I've encountered as ways to structure online writing centers. At the recent IWCA conference, I gave a workshop on how to use conceptual models to structure an online writing center. One of the exercises we did was to brainstorm as many metaphors as possible that would describe their online writing center. Not surprisingly, at this point, one of the participants raised her hand and said "how do you define an online writing center?" A good question. So, step one is to define/describe your OWC. For help doing this, check out an article in Kairos by Jane Lasarenko , who describes different levels of writing center service. Is your online writing center simply a web site that announces your f2f service? is your online writing center an asynchronous tutoring service? synchronous? both? Once you have a good understanding of the level of your service, you can begin thinking about metaphors that might describe your online service.
At the IWCA workshop, several good examples were given by participants. One woman suggested that their online writing center could be best represented by a subway map. Visually, there were different "trains" that students could get on. The "red train" might be a series of links related to asynchronous tutoring. The "blue train" might be a series of links related to synchronous conferencing. The "green train" might be a series of links with writing resources, and so on. The subway map was a compelling visual, as well. I think it's a wonderful example of how an online writing center can be represented conceptually. One of the things we need to remember about OWCs is the visual component is as much a part of the experience as the verbal component. If we can help students visualize the services we are offering online, students are more likely to use the service--and come back again.