Teaching Writing Online: How and Why
Scott Warnock

Reviewed by Geoffrey C. Middlebrook
University of Southern California
Webtext design by John M. Bonham
University of Southern California

The Book

I would like to frame the coverage of Teaching Writing Online with two reviews that, in my estimation, best capture the book's strengths. The first of these, by Derek Mueller and Angelique Trent in Composition Forum, characterizes the text as a "pragmatic reference," refers to "evenness across the book's eighteen short chapters," and goes on to describe it as "a grounded, thoughtful […] introduction to online writing instruction." In The CEA Forum R. J. Lambert reinforces this response by noting, "Warnock succeeds at providing a useful guide to encourage writing instructors to migrate their teaching styles and personas to the online […] environment." Unlike Mueller and Trent, though, who believe "experienced online instructors may find […it] useful primarily as a quick reference handbook for mentoring new online" faculty, Lambert asserts the book "offers an accessible introduction […] that may cause even the most experienced […] to consider new ways to teach students to write effectively."

Notwithstanding divided opinion over the audience for Teaching Writing Online (Warnock, by the way, assumes that his readers are "new to online instruction"), it is clear that the author has produced a helpful primer. Nevertheless, I find myself somewhat restless with the book. One issue is the medium itself; more specifically, perhaps Warnock could have complemented the static ink and paper product with a dynamic website that incorporated multimodality and allowed for interactivity in addition to updating as the tools and techniques of online writing instruction change (while it serves a different purpose, a lively site is Writing@CSU from Colorado State University). I say this because according to the Sloan Consortium's 2010 survey-based report, at sixty-three percent of responding campuses the chief academic officers stated that "online education was a critical part of their institution's long-term strategy," and data furthermore indicate there "is no compelling evidence that the continued robust growth in online enrollments is at its end." Yet of greater significance than the medium is my wish to see the book considered more broadly, and for that I invite readers to the Context section.