For many people writing can be an aggravating exercise that too often leads to frustration, embarrassment or less than desired outcomes. However, Colorado State University can help through the world’s largest online writing center, Writing@CSU (http://writing.colostate.edu), which is free of charge and available to anyone who needs help with a writing project.
The English Department at Colorado State provides the Web site as an extension of the university’s award-winning Writing Center for students. Writing@CSU is designed to assist all writers, from beginners to paid professionals, with their work on a variety of projects including business memos, scientific research reports and even the great American novel.
"Colorado State University’s online writing center provides the knowledge and direction to help writers of all abilities improve their written communication, enhance their enjoyment of the writing process and explore new areas of writing," said English professor Mike Palmquist, who coordinates development of the site. "Tens of thousands of writers worldwide visit Writing@CSU each month to utilize this comprehensive resource."
The Writing@CSU Web site began 10 years ago when University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Palmquist and colleagues Don Zimmerman and Kate Kiefer received a Colorado Commission on Higher Education Program of Excellence award to start the program. Since then, the Web site has expanded to more than 25,000 pages of content. The success of the site has been made possible through continued funding from the university.
Web site visitors now outnumber Colorado State students who use the Writing Center on Colorado State’s main campus in Fort Collins. During an average 14-day period, Palmquist recorded more than 2 million hits during 81,000 individual visits to the Writing@CSU site.
According to Palmquist, more than 150 writers, including faculty, graduate students and professional writers, have helped turn the site into a resource used by faculty and students around the world.
"I receive e-mail from writers and writing teachers from overseas on an almost daily basis about materials on our site," said Palmquist. "The response has been overwhelming."
Writing@CSU offers services to everyone from experts to students to teachers. Expert writers can find guides for specific professional writing projects, with part of the site devoted to creating business documents. Students can receive help with the organization of their dissertation or thesis research. The site’s resources can also be used to help writing teachers; a section devoted to teachers includes guides for conducting writing classes, responding to student writing and catching and dealing with plagiarism. All site visitors can access writing guides, interactive tutorials, a writing gallery and a wealth of other helpful information.
Writing@CSU also includes online publications available for those proficient enough to publish their work. The "Nieve Roja Review" is an online literary magazine featuring poetry, short stories and essays by emerging creative writers. "Talking Back" is another online magazine where students in Colorado State’s composition program can publish their arguments and observations about current issues.
Others who are not as confident about their writing abilities can e-mail their work to a consultant for review and advice. The Writing Center employs 18 graduate students who are trained to help visitors improve their writing skills and learn the formats of specific documents.
The faculty working on Writing@CSU are also developing a next-generation version of the site. The Writing Studio, which will allow writers to create personalized, password-protected accounts on the site, is now being used to support the university’s required first-year writing courses. When completed, it will offer support for writers in everything from poetry to writing in civil engineering and other disciplines.
"The goal of the Writing Studio is to create an online learning environment where students can learn to write as they write," said Palmquist. "The Writing Studio is an attempt to move beyond the kind of writing support currently offered online."
The basic idea is to provide writers with as much support as possible while they’re actually writing. Writers can receive advice from teachers through video and text-based instruction, view animated examples of writing processes, read examples of good writing with comments from experienced writers and work on tutorials that help them do everything from generate ideas to revise their drafts.
"We’ve also developed tools that help writers share their work with other writers and teachers" said Palmquist. "So far, we’ve had more that 1800 students create accounts in the Writing Studio, and we haven’t even officially announced it."
Colorado State’s Writing@CSU has assisted writers throughout the state, nation and world. Palmquist recently hosted his third group of European visitors who are trying to set up a Pan-European Writing Center using Colorado State’s site as a model.
For more information about Writing@CSU, visit its home on the Web at http://writing.colostate.edu or call (970) 491-0222.