Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Debra Jacobs

Keywords

crisis in education, freshman, learning, post-secondary, resistance, writing

Abstract

An increasing number of students entering college lack the academic skills necessary to perform well at the college level, forcing professors and academic institutions to lower standards. Students approach higher education as a commodity, and as consumers they assert their desire for easier course work by giving poor evaluations to instructors whose courses they find too demanding or difficult. Eliminating student evaluations is one necessary change that will help reverse declining standards in higher education and increase performance; providing effective venues for supplemental instruction is another. Teaching basic writing skills in freshman composition courses would waste valuable instruction time that must be spent on higher-order concerns, such as critical thinking, abstract reasoning, essay development, and research skills. Online writing labs offer lower-order instruction in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and style for students at any level, as do the learning programs that accompany composition textbooks and handbooks, yet these resources are under-utilized by students who need the most help. Usability studies would reveal site-specific reasons students avoid or abandon them. This paper includes an initial view of two online writing resources from the perspective of usability: what works about the design and functionality, and what most likely does not.

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