Writing Across the Curriculum Encounters Asynchronous Learning Networks or WAC Meets Up With ALN

Gail E. Hawisher, Michael A. Pemberton


This paper illustrates some of the problems and successes that the authors encountered while integrating ALN into a writing across the curriculum program and an online writing lab at a large research university. Using transcripts from ALN class discussions, the authors examine students’ networked interactions and analyze the classes’ responses to a variety of online assignments in a class on English composition and pedagogy, a course on electrical and computing engineering, and a class on writing technologies. In so doing, the authors set forth several pedagogical principles which emerged from their experiences with ALN in their individual classes but which also share a number of commonalities with effective WAC practices.


Computer Networks,Computers and Composition,Online Writing Labs,Online Forums,Electronic Conferences,Teaching of Writing

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Frank Mayadas of the Sloan Foundation coined the term Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALN) to denote educational contexts in which learning is made possible through current, affordable technology. According to Mayadas, “Remote resources in this context can mean other people: students learn from their peers and also from experts such as tutors or faculty. Remote resources can also include more static resources such as library or software-generated simulations, access to laboratories at a distance or access to the work product of several remote collaborators, such as a jointly-created database, or a report. Asynchronous means that access to any remote resource is at the student's convenience, "on demand", so to speak. Asynchronous access is made possible mainly by advances in computer and communications technologies. A student, for example, can contact a colleague or a teacher through e-mail, or engage in discussion with a group through a conferencing system or bulletin board; he/she may participate interactively in a team project with other students that requires problem analysis, discussion, spreadsheet analysis or report-preparation through a modern commercial groupware package.” See http://www.sloan.org/education/aln.new.html.

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PacerForum and FirstClass, both conferencing programs that allow asynchronous and nearsynchronous interactions among participants, were used in each of the classes described here as a supplement to regular class activities. The three instructors set up individual forums that corresponded to the structure of their courses. The writing technologies class, for example, participated in forums based on in-class student presentations and in other conferences titled teaching practices, gender and technology, reports on listserv discussions and many more. Both PacerForum and FirstClass are icon driven, with students clicking on the appropriate conference icon to join in class discussions. More information about the programs themselves is available from AGE Logic, 12651 High Bluff Drive, San Diego, CA 92130 for PacerForum and from Softarc Incorporated for FirstClass.

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Students' names used throughout the paper are pseudonyms.

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This paper was first accepted as a chapter for Donna Reiss, Richard Selfe, and Art Young’s Electronic Communication Across the Curriculum to be published by the National Council of Teachers of English.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v1i1.1940

Copyright (c) 2019 Gail E. Hawisher, Michael A. Pemberton