Master’s Dissertation: Making a Connection

cover625I received a distinction for the work completed on my Master’s dissertation for Durham University, England. Entitled Making a Connection: Studying the Uses of Needs Analysis in Asynchronous Writing Tutoring, the research focuses on the current relationship between the study of needs analysis and online asynchronous writing centers.

Abstract: A gap in the literature indicates that needs analysis and writing centres have yet to be explicitly studied side-by-side. This dissertation’s original contributions to knowledge are an investigation of how needs analysis is currently being used in asynchronous online writing centres, and a model that writing centres can use to focus their needs analysis efforts.  A questionnaire was created with the help of an informant, a seasoned writing centre director whose centre provides asynchronous tutoring, then emailed to an open mailing list for North American writing centre professionals. The questionnaire was primarily developed to ask participants about the way their centre: conducts asynchronous work, reports on sessions, and trains tutors. A discussion of the results suggests that there are various ways that writing centres are conducting needs analysis. In an attempt to organise a model that can be used for improving needs analysis efforts, this dissertation concludes that writing centres can benefit by: (1) using custom online asynchronous platforms; (2) collecting more and varied information; (3) using reports educationally; and (4) effectively training and positioning tutors to conduct needs analysis.

Please feel free to download it at your leisure.

SLCC Student Writing Center Online Tutoring Website

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I am the lead developer of the online writing center at Salt Lake Community College, which is used to facilitate in-person and online writing tutoring at the college.

This project is an in-house development for which I have had to expand my skills with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, and MySQL. From design considerations and content writing to back-end database management and coding, I develop and maintain nearly all aspects of the project in its current form. The director of the writing center has provided feedback and contributed to the project over its development.

Tutors use a system that allows them to learn more about the needs of students via thoroughly crafted and theoretically-sound needs analyses (filled out by students during appointment creation). Additionally, the process for creating and filling out reports has been streamlined into a simple form, which automatically propagates previously collected data (student IDs, emails, date/time, etc.), making for a far more efficient experience for tutors working back-to-back sessions in a physical setting. Furthermore, different online experiences for tutors are tailored to the type of service that the student requests (i.e. online written feedback, in-person appointment, focused tutoring, etc.).

Students are able to schedule appointments for in-person or online writing consultations, ask quick questions, submit their work for written feedback, get in touch with a tutor from a past session, view a detailed report of their session, and make use of our assignment sheet and course databases.

Administrators of the system are given access to a wide array of features, including: staff scheduling and student appointment management, demographic and other educationally-related statistics, as well as options to control each centers’ availability.

All users enjoy a clean UI that avoids clutter and makes use of clear design principles. AJAX is used throughout the site with the intention of improving user experience and server load times, as the project is heavily database-focused. A profile page was developed to give users access to statistical graphs of their sessions (average duration, most popular areas of focus, etc.) and other account settings.

In the many years that I have worked on this project, usage of the online tutoring service at the college has steadily increased. The innovations and tools, developed by myself with the guidance and assistance of my supervisor, have clearly shown to be effective for our staff and students. Instead of being a rarely used service, the online writing center at the college regularly assists students throughout each school year.

Ad Campaign: Reflect on Your Text

reflect-imageIn 2011 I worked with the students and staff of the Salt Lake Community College Student Writing Center to produce an original ad campaign that could be used to promote the services of the center. The videos were periodically shown on media devices throughout the school. The other “Reflect on Your Text” (ROYT) videos can be found on the SLCC SWC Youtube page.

This was an interesting project in part because of the videos’ intended audience. The writing center wanted something that could be shown throughout the school’s CCTV while students walked down halls or ate lunch. To approach this, we decided to use movement of elements on the screen to counteract the stationary nature of our interviews. Hopefully this brought more attention to the commercials, and ultimately more students getting help at the writing center.

Newspaper Column: What the Tech?!

I greatly enjoyed writing the What the Tech?! series for SLCC’s The Globe student newspaper. This project started out as a desire to have my work printed outside of my own abilities, and also to gain experience writing for a publication. I initially had the idea of creating an educational column because I wanted to write short, informational articles, but I’m not necessarily into writing about news or current events.

Instead of these, I thought it would be cool to have a source of writing that taught readers about basic computer theories and practices. I approached the faculty adviser for the The Globe and learned that she had been trying to get something like this written for over a year, but hadn’t found the writer. I saw this as an excellent opportunity.

Undergraduate ePortfolio

While attending Salt Lake Community College, I participated in a school-wide contest to create an online portfolio of my work throughout my time at the college. This project focuses on many aspects of undergraduate education; for example, developing a learning skill-set, highlighting exceptional past work, and formulating future plans and goals. I have left the writing in this project as is with minor grammatical edits. The writing for the portfolio pages was originally written Fall 2010. Assignments shown were completed between 2007 and 2010 at Lane Community College and Salt Lake Community College.

Click here to view this project…