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 Context

Given the above-mentioned data regarding the rising size and significance of online education, I am convinced Teaching Writing Online and comparable books should at a minimum be read through a matrix that Ali Jafari, Patricia McGee, and Colleen Carmean correlate with the needs and preferences of three key stakeholders: students, faculty, and administrators (among the latter are technologists). An even more illuminating analytical instrument can be found in the Sloan Consortium's Five Pillars of Quality Online Education: learning effectiveness; scale (cost effectiveness and commitment); access; faculty satisfaction; and student satisfaction. The aim of this framework is not a rigid taxonomy that implies finality and universality, but rather, in the words of Sloan, it is an evolving and flexible construct meant "to help institutions identify goals and measure progress towards them." What follows is a brief overview of the pillars, and in the Conversation section I discuss them with Warnock.

Learning Effectiveness

The objective here is that the learning of online students "should at least be equivalent to that of traditional students," which is not to suggest "online learning experiences should duplicate those in traditional classrooms."


Scale allows institutions to "offer their best educational value" as they seek "continuous improvement policies […] and cost-effectiveness measures and practices" that lead to "capacity enrollment," and thus a return on investments.


Access comprises the mechanisms whereby "all qualified, motivated students" complete their courses, degrees, or programs and it involves sustained and effectual academic, administrative, and technical support systems.

Faculty Satisfaction

Faculty satisfaction means that "instructors find the online teaching experience personally rewarding and professionally beneficial," which is made possible with institutional support, rewards, infrastructure, and training.

Student Satisfaction

This expresses the totality of the educational experience, and the aim is for those who "complete a course [to] express satisfaction with […its] rigor and fairness, with professor and peer interaction, and with support services."