Feminist Online Writing Courses
Civic Rhetoric, Community Action, and Student Success

Letizia Guglielmo



Drawing from the assertion “that shared knowledge and information forms a foundation for healthy communities” (Simmons & Grabill, 2007, p. 424), this webtext will illustrate that the online writing course, a virtual community in itself, requires a kind of civic action to foster student success; students must become active participants in course activities, must be responsible for identifying and solving problems, and, as a community, must draw from a common understanding of course goals and expectations, actions that are mediated by the online environment. Furthermore, it is through feminist teaching—both in the course design and delivery—that instructors of online writing courses may facilitate civic participation, “unit[ing] citizens” (Simmons & Grabill, 2007, p. 428) enrolled in the course, inviting students to become co-teachers, and allowing for access to and meaningful interaction with course materials that promote the construction of knowledge throughout the semester.

In supporting each of these claims, I draw from scholarship in computers and writing as well as the results of a semester-long study of two sections of first-year research and writing courses in which I implemented a feminist course design. This webtext will include examples of students' discussion board posts as well as their survey responses to illustrate the potential impact of a feminist course design on the development of community, students’ impressions of their place within the community, the decentering of the virtual learning space, and, ultimately, student success and retention in online first-year writing courses.


For the purposes of this webtext, the term computer-supported classroom refers to a course that is held in a classroom (face-to-face) at least one half of the time and includes computers with Web access for all students. The primary meeting space for these courses, in other words, will be a physical space on the school’s campus.

Alternately, the terms online courses and virtual classroom refer exclusively to courses taught at a distance, courses in which students complete and submit assignments, receive course materials, and communicate with peers and with the instructor through the Internet. Although many of these virtual courses may require one or two meetings during a semester, the primary meeting space is a virtual space established through a course website or course management system (CMS).