A. Grigoryan

Petroleum Institute (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
The rapid increase in the popularity of online learning, which began in the late 1990’s, has resulted in an increased number of students taking online freshman composition course. However, attrition rates in online composition courses, or online degree programs, are much higher than those in face-to-face courses. Research suggests that one of a number of factors that contribute to attrition in online learning environments is the inability of online programs to fully meet the needs of multilingual and non-traditional students. In fact, a recent report by the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s (CCCC) Committee on Effective Practices in Online Writing Instruction (OWI) found that the needs of multilingual learners in online environments are either unknown or unaddressed [1]. The report further showed that only 50% of students reported having access to online tutoring services, which consisted of mostly asynchronous, text-based feedback.
A part of student dissatisfaction and resulting attrition in online degree programs may be related to the nature of student-instructor interaction in online learning environments, which requires overcoming the barriers to communication posed by transactional distance—the psychological and communication barrier posed by asynchronous, computer-mediated communication. An important part of student learning and interaction in online composition courses is the feedback students receive on their written work. In the field of composition pedagogy, feedback is widely accepted as an important component of learning to write through writing practice and revision of multiple drafts [2]–[4]. In online and face-to-face environments, most of the feedback students receive is in written form. However, numerous studies of teacher commentary indicate that students often find instructors’ text-based commentary “too vague, pro forma, global, or inconsistent” [5, p. 50]. In an online environment in which the students never meet the instructor face-to-face, the shortcomings of text-based communication could further exacerbate student feelings of confusion or isolation as they navigate through the challenges of their online learning experience.
Using transactional distance theory as well as an extensive literature review regarding effective principles for providing feedback to college composition students, the presenter will share practical strategies and approaches for using audio-visual commentary in online composition courses to overcome the limitations of text-based commentary in order to meet the needs of diverse online student populations. Furthermore, audio-visual feedback has the potential not only to overcome the problem of miscommunication inherent in text-based communication, but it can also reduce the time teachers spend on grading and providing feedback. The presenter will show how affordances of Web 2.0 tools that facilitate audio-visual commentary have the potential to reduce transactional distance and support less autonomous learners in online composition courses.

[1] B. L. Hewett, D. Minter, K. Gibson, L. Meloncon, S. Oswal, L. Olsen, S. Warnock, C. E. Powers, W. W. Newbold, J. Drew, and K. E. DePew, “The state-of-the-art of online writing instruction,” Conference on College Composition and Communication, 2011.
[2] D. Alamargot and L. Chanquoy, Through the models of writing. Dordrecht, Netherlands; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.
[3] C. M. Anson, “Response styles and ways of knowing,” in Writing and response: Theory, practice, and research, C. M. Anson, Ed. Natl Council of Teachers, 1989, pp. 332–367.
[4] R. Beach and T. Friedrich, “Response to writing,” in Handbook of writing research, Book, Section vols., C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, and J. Fitzgerald, Eds. New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2006.
[5] R. Straub, “The Concept of Control in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of ‘Directive’ and ‘Facilitative’ Commentary,” Coll. Compos. Commun., vol. 47, no. 2, pp. pp. 223–251, 1996.