The vision for this community began after IWCA’s 2017 Conference in Chicago with four emerging scholars in online writing center (OWC) work. We often worked alone in our endeavors to advance academic and scholarly conversations about OWC work but also longed for a vibrant community that would keep us connected to other OWC scholars and practitioners beyond the annual conference(s). This community represents that vision—a dynamic and interactive space tailored for online writing centers—and we hope you’ll consider joining us.

How We Define Online Writing Centers

We support an expansive definition of online writing centers (OWCs) and online writing center work, as follows:

  • OWC work can occur in on-site or fully online learning commons, undergraduate centers, graduate centers, community centers, secondary- or high-school centers, and professional or corporate centers.
  • OWCs extend beyond the use of static websites, web-based scheduling systems, videos, or virtual handouts. Instead, OWCs include dynamic and/or interactive online writing support services such as asynchronous and synchronous consulting/tutoring, workshops, and question-and-answer services, among many other forms of support.
  • Because technology and pedagogy are inextricably connected in online writing center work, we remain open to innovation and the ways in which OWC work is defined, discussed, and designed.


OWC Community Mission

The Online Writing Center Community website brings together tutors, consultants, professionals, and administrators from writing and learning centers to establish online writing support as a professional area of study.

The following tabs outline the OWC Community values and activities, which are drawn from this mission.


OWC Community Values

Online writing center work is both similar to and different from online writing instruction and face-to-face writing support. While there are overlaps, the differences necessitate unique conversations, theories, and practices for online writing support. Therefore, we value the following:

  • A basic tenet that receiving online writing support is a powerful and effective mode of learning.
  • An inclusive vision of online writing center work that welcomes all modes, modalities, and technology platforms that consider the local context and/or empirical research.
  • A recognition that online writing support can and should look different depending on the unique needs of the institutional or corporate context.
  • A praxis-oriented model that moves beyond conversations of whether or not online writing center work is effective and instead focuses on how and why this work is effective in various contexts.
  • A focus on accessibility, both broadly and narrowly, in that materials and services are available in multiple, flexible formats for as many people as possible and are equally usable by persons with disabilities and by assistive technologies.
  • An emphasis on emerging research, theories, and practices that aim to extend the conversation in online writing support beyond foundational research and seminal texts.
  • The equal significance of formal and informal publications in online writing center studies, as both contribute to the intellectual, pedagogical, and theoretical knowledge of online writing support.
  • Training and professional development that is specifically focused on online writing support and prepares for varying technological literacies.


OWC Community Activities

The Online Writing Center Community website promotes initiatives that support the contextual needs of writing and learning centers, professionalization opportunities related to online writing center work, and foundational and emerging research in the theory and practice of online writing support. Thus, activities to promote our values may include:

  • Serving as a repository for foundational and emerging research, case studies, and resources for both beginning and experienced OWC consultants, professionals, and administrators.
  • Promoting and expanding professionalization opportunities for those involved in online writing centers and online writing support.
  • Encouraging and fostering collaboration among online writing center community members through listservs, conference presentations, and joint research publications.
  • Formalizing connections among IWCA, CCCC, GSOLE, SIGs, regional associations, and other writing and writing center organizations to reach mutual goals about online writing center research, theory, and practice.
  • Highlighting the uniqueness and complexity of online writing center work through program profiles, conference reviews, and technology reviews.
  • Sharing all forms of work on OWCs on a larger, more accessible scale, by inviting submissions of conference presentations from the state, regional, national, and international levels; accounts of ongoing research; informal blog posts; and eventually articles for an open-access, peer-reviewed journal.


OWC Community Co-Founders

Jenelle M. Dembsey

picture of Jenelle DembseyJenelle M. Dembsey (published as J. M. Dembsey) has worked in writing centers since 2010, as an undergraduate consultant, graduate assistant, and full-time administrative staff. She has been working with asynchronous and synchronous online consulting since 2012. She has experience managing the day-to-day operations of online writing centers, designing online consulting programs from scratch, and leading online consultant training. She also studies accessibility and Universal Design. She is passionate about supporting other writing and learning centers in developing online support services.

Sarah Prince

picture of Sarah PrinceDr. Sarah Prince is Manager of Writing Across the Curriculum at Walden University’s Writing Center. She earned a BA in English from Presbyterian College in 2004 and an MA and PhD in Women’s Studies in 2011 from Emory University. Sarah has been engaged in Writing Center work—as a tutor, consultant, graduate fellow, and professional staff member—for over 15 years. Her current professional interests include developing effective online writing center practices for adult learners, establishing course and competency-based writing center initiatives in virtual classrooms, and building a professional community of online writing tutors, consultants, staff, and administrators.

Cynthia Pengilly

picture of Dr. Cynthia PengillyDr. Cynthia Pengilly is an Assistant Professor of English at Central Washington University and often consults for the University Writing Center. She has nearly 10 years of experience in writing center studies as a graduate tutor, non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty tutor, and Assistant WC Director. Broadly speaking, her research explores the rhetoric and culture of technology which includes digital pedagogy for online writing centers (OWC) and online writing instruction (OWI).

Beth Nastachowski

picture of Beth NastachowskiBeth Nastachowski has worked in writing centers since she began tutoring as an undergraduate student. She has worked at the Walden University Writing Center since 2010 and is currently the Associate Director of the Office of Writing Instruction. She has particular experience and interest in how writing centers can support writers through webinars, videos, and interactive instruction; accessibility within the writing center; and how writing centers can engage in social issues.


OWC Mentors

The following individuals serve as mentors in the OWC Community’s mentoring program:

  • Sarah Agnihotri, Madonna University
  • Chessie Alberti, Linn-Benton Community College
  • Lisa Bell, Brigham Young University
  • Chet Breaux, Athens State University
  • Ramon Daines, Northcentral University
  • Jenelle M. Dembsey, Northcentral University
  • Shareen Grogan, University of Montana
  • Alysa Robin Hantgan, Concordia College
  • Christina Lundberg, Walden University
  • Heidi Marshall, The Chicago School of Psychology
  • Jennifer Mawhorter, retired from Azusa Pacific & Claremont School of Theology
  • Sheri McCord, Logan University
  • Beth Nastachowski, Walden University
  • Ann Nowak, Touro Law
  • Veronica Oliver, Walden University
  • Rachel Paprocki, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Luke Shackelford, University of Minnesota
  • Anne Shiell, Walden University
  • Rachel Willard, Walden University

Last Updated: August 8, 2020