Excelsior OWL (Online Writing Lab) Spreads Its Wings with New Updates

A photo of the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab (Excelsior College OWL)

By Dr. Francesco Crocco, Director of the Online Writing Lab

The Excelsior College Online Writing Lab (OWL) is on the move! From improvements to the OWL, to the addition of the new Online Reading Comprehension Lab, to the start of a national outreach campaign, the OWL team is busily expanding the OWL’s offerings and reach.

Last year, the OWL migrated to WordPress, allowing us to update the design and offer a simpler navigation menu. We also added a bunch of nifty new features for students and educators. Among them are: (1) the ability to create custom versions of the OWL called “Owlets” that display only the OWL content you want and have their own dedicated URL to share with students or link to from any website; (2) the ability to login in and track activity reports; (3) an updated, online Educator Guide with tips for using the OWL in the (virtual) classroom and sample assignments; (4) a new page that shows how OWL content aligns with the AAC&U Written Communication VALUE Rubric; and (5) improved search capabilities featuring a new site index and index of activities.

The OWL team isn’t resting on its laurels. We are currently updating the design of our APA resources for improved usability. By request, we’re also adding improved functionality to our activities so that students can share the results with professors, say if the activity is assigned for a class (such as our popular avoiding plagiarism self-check or APA activity). Finally, we’re excited to be working with the WAC task force to develop specialized content for our Writing Enhanced courses that supports writing in the disciplines, as well as a new Writing Refresher course to help students brush up on their writing skills. The OWL team is now meeting with every school to collect ideas for new resources to help our students. If you have an idea to share, please send it to fcrocco@excelsior.edu.

The OWL team has also been busy developing a whole new wing focusing on reading comprehension. The brand new Online Reading Comprehension Lab opened its doors on April 1. The Reading Lab, or ORC for short, is the first open, online, comprehensive resource supporting college-level reading. It features three main areas covering what to do before, during, and after reading. All told, the ORC offers 27 modules covering a range of topics, including previewing, questioning, annotating, inferencing, vocabulary strategies, paraphrasing, summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing. Just like the OWL, the ORC features the latest in instructional technology and design. Each module includes an animated video (with transcript), interactive activity(s), and downloadable reference guides and templates. Visit the ORC today to see how it can help you serve your students’ reading comprehension needs.

Finally, the OWL team is working on a new outreach project to expand the OWL’s impact and reach. We’re busy promoting the OWL at national conferences and on social media. Speaking of social media, the OWL Facebook page is now up and running. Our page will be a place to share interesting articles, ideas, and announcements related to the OWL or writing/reading instruction in general. Go like, follow, and share our page today! We’ve also restarted the OWL blog, Hoot. Hoot offers a range of interesting articles, from how-to pieces on using the OWL to conceptual pieces examining topics in the field, such as teaching writing online and writing in the disciplines. Finally, the OWL now has a new national advisory board with more than a dozen members from Excelsior and colleges across the nation. The board provides guidance and direction to help the OWL become a nationally-recognized leader for college-level writing (and reading) support.

So, what are you waiting for? Come check out everything the new OWL has to offer! Contact fcrocco@excelsior.edu for questions or comments.

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