Using Online Writing Communities to Teach Writing MOOCs

Using Online Writing Communities to Teach Writing MOOCs

Rebekah Shultz Colby
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1718-4.ch019
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The immense enrollment capacity of massive open online courses (MOOCs) radically decenters student and teacher authority in the writing classroom. However, online writing communities teach each other how to write effectively within that community, a type of writing instruction which could be leveraged in a MOOC. The author qualitatively coded the types of writing questions and feedback posted on a technical writing forum, Technical Writing World and discovered that writing questions focused on technical writing genres, style guides, documentation practices, lower order concerns, and revision or outsourcing of work. Responses often directed the original poster to research the rhetorical situation within a specific company. The author then outlined three pedagogical approaches for writing MOOCs: students could ask writing questions from professionals on similar writing websites, conduct qualitative studies of similar online writing communities to learn their underlying writing values, and participate in MOOCs that were organized to be communities of practice.
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Writing teachers within rhetoric and composition have long embraced the collaborative nature of the decentered, student centered classroom. This pedagogical belief stems from the idea that knowledge is socially constructed (Rorty, 1970). Writing then becomes part of the shared conversation that is knowledge creation (Bruffee, 1984). Thus, students learn as they articulate for themselves how they see the world and their place in it and as they participate in conversations through talking and writing with their peers, co-constructing knowledge for themselves instead of being passive recipients filled with the teacher’s pre-packaged knowledge (Freire, 1970).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rhetorical Genre Theory: A type of genre theory concerned with studying genre conventions as a range of typified responses to a rhetorical situation that in turn create social action. As a type of rhetorical action, genre conventions can also be critically interrogated, resisted, and recreated according to the needs of the rhetorical situation ( Bawarshi & Reiff, 2010 ; Devitt, 2004 ; Miller, 1984 ).

Rhetorical Situation: The context for a text; the context is made up of the audience, the social purposes, the writer, the time, and the place of a text, which all construct the need or exigence for the text ( Bawarshi & Reiff, 2010 ).

Discourse Community: A way of conceptualizing the audience within a rhetorical situation as belonging to a community. This community is defined as having a shared purpose, a critical mass of experts, a physical means of communicating with each other, and a commonly shared and largely agreed upon vocabulary for communicating with each other ( Bizzell, 1992 ; Swales, 1990 ).

Online Discussion Forum: An online discussion; each discussion usually consists of an original post, usually a question but sometimes a provocative statement, which other participants than answer or respond to in subsequent posts.

Community Of Practice: A community engaged in a shared pursuit who have largely the same goals and purposes. The way community members enact their participation within the activities are continually negotiated and redefined as a group ( Wenger, 1998 ).

Activity System: An activity system consists of all the activities that specific communities participate in to complete the community’s goals. Discursively, activity systems consist of all genres needed in order to complete the community’s goals, or, in other words, genre systems which consist of typified and stabilized for now genre conventions that enact the community’s goals and purposes ( Schryer, 1993 ). Without shared goals and purposes, however, the activity system would break down ( Russell & Yanez, 2002 ).

Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) Game: An online game hosting thousands who synchronously play together.

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