Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Comparison of a Progression of Writing Competencies in Online Undergraduate and Graduate Courses: Results and Implications

Academic journal article College Student Journal

A Comparison of a Progression of Writing Competencies in Online Undergraduate and Graduate Courses: Results and Implications

Article excerpt

Students in undergraduate and graduate programs offered by community colleges, universities, and colleges of education are generally expected to have basic writing competencies at the outset of their studies based on completion of a high school curriculum and core college composition classes. With more programs and courses online or having a hybrid delivery with both traditional classes and platforms like Moodle or Blackboard, students' writing abilities become magnified in digital submissions. This paper addresses the results of a content analysis of three courses across undergraduate and graduate program areas at a rural Southern state university and a nearby community college. The community college is open admissions, and the university has modest entrance requirements for undergraduate and graduate students. Based on the results of this study, the authors identified areas of writing strengths and deficiencies and propose approaches to remediate or improve writing skills, critical for both academic and later professional success. The authors agree that proactively addressing writing deficiencies leads to overall better performance in classes and improved student morale.


Proficiency in basic reading and writing skills is a general expectation of all college students. This paper will focus on written language of both undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in one undergraduate-level community college course in speech communication, one undergraduate college course in communication, and one graduate-level university course in education.

The International Reading Association (IRA), now The International Literacy Association (I LA), in 2010, revised six professional reading standards for reading professionals. The standards are criteria for developing and evaluating preparation programs for reading professionals. Standard 2: Curriculum and Instruction states that candidates use instructional approaches, materials, and an integrated, comprehensive, balanced curriculum to support student learning in reading and writing. The role descriptions include Education Support Personnel, Pre-K and Elementary Classroom Teachers, Middle and High School Content and Reading Classroom Teachers, Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach, Teacher Educator, and Administrator. College teacher is not on the list of role descriptions. Furthermore, the Reading Standards 2010 Committee deliberated on issues in reading education that affected standards development. The committee agreed that "the most critical assumptions underlying Standards 2010 is that learning to read and write is complex, and readers and writers are complex as well. To be successful, instruction must be differentiated to meet the needs of individual children and for children sharing a variety of group characteristics" (IRA, 2010).

A research expert on writing, Graham (2009), states that writing is not a part of the national reform movement and not being emphasized in schools. He and his colleagues completed a national secondary writing survey with high school teachers. The results show very little writing is occurring in secondary schools. The writing that is occurring includes fill-in-the-blank, generating lists, and doing a short response on homework (i.e., one or two sentences). In short, students in secondary schools are not writing or being taught to write. Compounding this problem, the new SAT/ACT assessments are changing to include more writing on tests. Many college teachers are supporting this movement based on their assessments of their students' writing skills. Unfortunately, students struggle with writing on all levels of education, from elementary through college classes.

Graham (2009) recommends the following for improving the national writing challenge. First, holding schools accountable for writing. Second, writing must be taught, graded, evaluated, and assessed. Feedback on writing must be given to students to improve their writing. …

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