Special issue


In 2019, I refreshed a tertiary writing unit in which, across two assignments, students planned and then produced their own creative non-fiction work. Peer workshopping was an important pedagogical tool to help students bridge the gap between their creative non-fiction plan and their final submission. In the discipline of Writing, peer workshopping is central to students’ degrees, allowing them to develop a collective wisdom that is difficult to replicate in digital learning environments. My regional institution offers “digital first” degrees, and around 90% of my students learn online. Therefore, I created workshops online in asynchronous, written form, to suit our cohort of mostly mature age students with many commitments alongside study. During the unit, many students expressed troubles in using online programs such as Google Docs, prompting me to reflect on how to best meet their learning needs. Students took part in focus groups, which formed the basis of my subsequent revision of the digital workshops in the unit’s 2021 iteration. The need for digital adaptations of disciplinary pedagogies became even more broadly relevant by 2021, as more universities moved online during the pandemic in an Emergency Remote Learning response, and many remain online post-pandemic. Reflecting on my improved 2021 workshops, I ask, how can the writing workshop be successfully replicated in an asynchronous digital space? My response will reflect on 2021 survey feedback on the outcomes of my revisions in digital skills instruction and managing students’ time investment.

Practitioner Notes

  1. When using digital tools for writing workshops, it is important to use those already known by students to lessen the burden of learning new technologies.
  2. Online writing workshops take longer than on-campus ones, but students also gain more experience in writing. On-campus workshops are also more useful if students write their peer feedback down.
  3. Online assessments can be completed asynchronously and flexibly, rather than replicating an exact on-campus experience, as research shows online students prefer asynchronous learning.
  4. Online students should be offered opportunities for important peer-to-peer social interaction. They have expressed a sense of “missing out” on what on-campus students are offered socially.
  5. When designing online activities, rather than being prescriptive, it is best to adapt the design based on student cohort, the institution’s technologies, the subject, and the teaching strengths of the educator.