Institution: Walden University
Institution Type: Public 4-year, for-profit
Location: fully online
OWC context within institution: Walden’s Writing Center is also fully online and is situated within the University’s Center of Academic Success.
OWC website: https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter
Number of Writing Center staff: 47 full-time staff; 3 part-time student workers
Types of OWC support offered: asynchronous, blog, Q&A (e-mail and chat), live/recorded webinars, course visits
Director or Lead/Title: Brian Timmerman, Writing Center Director (email@example.com)
Submitter/Submitter Title: Sarah Prince, Manager of Writing Across the Curriculum (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Beth Nastachowski, Manager of Multimedia Writing Instruction (email@example.com)
Walden University is a fully online, for-profit, public benefit (B-Corp) university with broad-access enrollment. Currently, the university’s 52,000 adult learners are from all 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries. Walden’s students are pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and certificates online across a broad range of disciplines—including health sciences, counseling, criminal justice, human services, management, psychology, education, public health, nursing, social work, public administration, and information technology—and educational formats—including online classroom and competency-based instruction.
Over 80% of Walden students are pursuing graduate degrees, while just 17% are working toward undergraduate degrees. Women make up 75% of the student population, with an average age of 39. Fifty-five percent of students are ethnic minorities, and over half are working full time with at least one child living at home.
Walden is a broad-access university, so students enter programs with a wide variety of writing skills and backgrounds. Because courses are delivered asynchronously, the programs are writing intensive, with most discussions, assignments, and conversations conveyed through written communication. Due to the high volume of writing in this learning environment, demand for services from the university’s Writing Center is high, with 35% of students reporting Writing Center use each quarter.
Walden’s Writing Center is situated within the university’s Center for Academic Excellence alongside the Library and Academic Skills Center. The Center is fully remote and is made up of two distinct offices with employees across the United States. The Office of Writing Instruction employs 20 full-time professional Writing Instructors, who support students during coursework, while the Office of Academic Editing employs 18 full-time Dissertation Editors, who support students in the completion of the capstone document. The Center also includes an 11-member leadership team, whose members manage staff in both offices as well as website, multimedia, and instructional services. Roughly 95% of all Writing Center staff members have humanities degrees, 70% in English or a related field; the majority have master’s or doctoral degrees; and all writing center staff members have expertise in APA style, grammar, and other aspects of scholarly writing. The Writing Center is responsible for APA expertise and support at the university.
The Writing Center also employees a handful of graduate students, which fulfill the role of either Academic Writing Assistants or Graduate Assistants (GAs). Our Academic Writing Assistants answer fellow student questions via e-mail and complete other projects throughout the Writing Center as needed. Our GAs assist the Writing Center in other functions, like in transcript development. Each student works 10 hours a week.
The Writing Center’s primary focus is on paper review appointments (Office of Writing Instruction) and form and style reviews (Office of Academic Editing). Paper review appointments are asynchronous and facilitated through a WCenter scheduling system, which we call myPASS. The form and style review is a part of the university review process for doctoral capstones, and its purpose is to “edit a capstone manuscript to improve the writing and to ensure that the manuscript conforms to APA and the prepublication formatting requirements set by both Walden and ProQuest” (Writing Center Form and Style Website).
The Writing Center also serves students in the following ways:
- Short answers via live chat hours, e-mail, and contributions to our university-wide FAQ system, Quick Answers.
- Tutorials via our website and blog.
- Social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter.
- Instruction via live and recorded webinars and presentations at in-person residencies for doctoral students.
Information and links to these services can be found on the Writing Center website. Faculty members are encouraged to refer students to the center for assistance, as needed, and may even require students to interact with the center’s web resources as part of a course. Faculty members should also encourage students working on coursework to make use of the one-on-one paper review service, which students may use up to twice a week. However, because the center cannot guarantee paper review availability, faculty members should recommend but not require this service.
In addition to student support, the Writing Center supports faculty members in their work with students by offering faculty-facing webinars, Web materials, and a dedicated faculty liaison. Visit the Writing Center Toolbox for Faculty to access these resources. The Toolbox site also contains request forms for services such as course visits, developmental editing, and faculty referrals. The Writing Center also acts as the university’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, consulting on writing resources and instruction in courses. Finally, the Writing Center also assists the university in its assessment of newly enrolled doctoral students.
One potential barrier and for opportunity has been the independence of the Writing Center within the university. The Writing Center is responsible for identifying, procuring, implementing, and maintaining all of our infrastructure. Because we are an online writing center, that infrastructure includes our scheduling system, website, webinar hosting, and multimedia hosting. While centralizing all of these responsibilities within the Writing Center has given us a level of control and flexibility, allowing us to develop a robust range of home-grown resources and services, it also has at times stretched the expertise of our staff. Many staff have taken on responsibilities within the Writing Center that they weren’t originally trained for and have developed their expertise and skills with the Writing Center.
Another barrier for our Writing Center is our place within the university, which does not have its own English department. Without an English department, the Writing Center is the central focus point for writing instruction at the university for all students and faculty. We are thus both a Writing Center and a Writing Across the Curriculum program, responsible for (a) tutoring students who choose to use the Writing Center; (b) reviewing and providing writing instruction throughout classes when consulted; (c) training and supporting faculty in their writing assignments; and (d) supporting students and faculty who are writing their dissertations. Put together, all of this means the Writing Center is responsible for many aspects of writing at the university and our services are in high demand. This has resulted in our expansion of services beyond traditional tutoring.