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Nest of OWLs
An Annotated List of Contemporary Online Writing Labs
Joel A. English, Old Dominion University

Since the early 1990s, writing labs everywhere have been using the Web, email, real-time conferencing, and classroom software to connect writers and writing tutors online.  Online writing labs (OWLs) take many different forms, and the following list describes and links to some of the more prominent OWLs currently providing tutoring services to students.

Though almost all contemporary writing centers provide Web sites that advertise their face-to-face services, hours of operations, and online links and resources, they don't all actually offer tutorials to students online.  This list includes only those OWLs that use technology to tutor students with their writing.  Whether they use email (asynchronous communication), chat (synchronous communication), or other learning environment software, these OWLs will provide a comprehensive look at the options for online tutoring that are currently in use.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock OWL offers a variety of student-centered options for receiving feedback from tutors, including an email-based response feature.  In addition to numerous handouts and online resources for grammar, research, and Internet use, this OWL offers the "English Microlab," a system that "intuitively teaches the writer to better construct their sentences with its many tutorials, and tests them of their knowledge in many grammar fields. It is a great tool for both the novice and advanced writer."
Bemidji State University
The Bemidji State University site is arranged in a fun, visual, and spatial orientation, offering links such as "The Bulb," offering invention strategies, and "The 'Puter," offering online links to various resources.  "The Live Wire" allows students to contact tutors via email, sending drafts and receiving commentary on that writing.  Students can also connect to a campus-wide chat facility and other online conversation resources for discussion of academic material.
Bowling Green State University
As well as offering numerous resources and handouts, the Bowling Green State University site allows students to connect to "Writime," a conferencing system that connects tutors and students via email.  Writime provides personalized guidance on getting started on writing, effective introductions and conclusions, audience awareness, transitions, sentence structure, clear and effective phrasing, grammar, and documentation formats.
California State University, Los Angeles
This site offers extensive resources for writers, contact with tutors, and an electronic tutoring system for registered users to send papers and receive commentary.  The site also features online workshops and informational documentation on identifying plagiarism in one's writing.
Cyberspace Writing Center Consultation Project
The Web site for the first synchronous online writing lab project, which began in 1994 between graduate tutors at University of Arkansas at Little Rock and undergraduate writers at Roane State Community College.  As the site explains, "[c]omposition, literature, and technical writing students at Roane State e-mail their class essays to graduate students in rhetoric and writing at Arkansas. The graduate students make suggestions and comments and e-mail the paper back. The two students then meet at a WritingWorks location, virtual reality writing centers created and programmed for their use, to discuss the essay one-on-one. There they discuss the paper in more detail, and, if they like, paste the revision directly into their conversation."  Due to its success, this project spawned extensive research and scholarship, and many other synchronous OWLs replicated its model.
George Mason University
The University Writing Center at George Mason University offers a number of student, faculty, ESL, and other resources within an attractive and student-centered design.  It's Online Tutoring system is a community-based utility that allows tutors and writers to communicate through email on student writing.
University of Houston-Victoria
The Academic Center at University of Houston-Victoria is a prime example of an integrated, interdisciplinary university testing and tutoring center.  The Academic Center administers placement and exit examinations, and it sponsors face-to-face and online tutoring in various disciplines.  The online tutoring component allows students to email papers to tutors, who "will provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. You will then be able to reexamine your paper and determine the appropriate changes to make."
University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Illinois at Chicago OWL uses synchronous conferencing on SkyMOOn (a MOO employing the EnCore Xpress interface) for real-time online writing conferences.  The staff suggest that "tutorials in a virtual environment resemble the sessions in our 'real-life' Writing Center:  the tutor will spend fifty minutes discussing the key issues of your paper with you."  The OWL's Web site offers various writers' resources, email correspondence to tutors, and a link to SkyMOOn.
University of Iowa
The Writing Lab at University of Iowa, established in 1934, was the first writing center ever established.  Its historic service to students is extended with online resources and email-based tutoring from its Web site.  The OWL also offers useful "invitations" for writers, which are "informal assignments [that] were designed to take writers through a writing and thinking process--from a stream-of-consciousness "Talking on Paper" to "Thinking on Paper," that is, explaining to readers why writers think events happened or why they believe as they do about certain issues."
Kansas University
The Kansas University Writer's Roosts is an OWL that provides numerous resources for students, instructors, and staff.  As well as offering email tutoring on papers, the Writer's Roosts employs Blackboard, KU's university-adopted online classroom environment, for asynchronous and synchronous tutoring.  This virtual classroom allows tutor and writer to share drafts, talk in real time, and collaborate on writing online.  This system is a model for schools who have campus-wide online classroom environments in place.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan OWL offers supplemental tutoring services for the Sweetland Writing Center.  The online resources offer numerous services, including email tutoring through an easy-to-use Web interface.
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota's Online Writing Center employs a comprehensive Web-based submission form for sending papers to tutors.  The form asks students to begin thinking about the kinds of help they seek on papers, the context of the writing, and other issues before sending the drafts in.  The OWC site also offers useful online resources and writing tips.
University of Missouri
The Online Writery at University of Missouri is one of the foundational online writing center projects from the early 1990s.  In its current form, the Online Writery opens with an impressive, animated collage of writing imagery, and its online resources are equally impressive.  Before sending a paper to tutors, students are asked to assess their assignment, their strengths and weaknesses in their draft, and their rhetorical approaches to the assignment.  The OW also features The Writery Cafe, a synchronous environment for meeting with other writers and tutors casually for discussions about writing.
Monroe County Community College
Monroe County Community College's writing center offers email tutoring for its students.  MCCC employs a team of "e-tutors" who "will respond to your paper by giving you suggestions for global improvements (e.g., thesis, topic sentences, paragraph development, and sentence structure), by explaining revision or editing strategies, or by suggesting other resources (e.g., handbooks, online help sites, follow-up appointments)."  The site also offers numerous online handouts for writers.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Writing Center site at University of North Carolina is an extremely advanced resource, which integrates informational material, online resources, tutoring resource across the campus, and the online writing tutoring.  Members of the online tutoring community can not only assess and submit their own writing through a detailed and intricate system, but they can retrieve previous submissions and assemble a portfolio of online tutoring work.  Non-members can browse the OWL site through a guest registration.  This site is a model for the future of OWL services.
Northeastern University
The Northeastern OWL allows students to think about writing with question prompts and submit essays to the online tutors.  The site also offers other online resources and information about scheduling face-to-face tutoring.
Online Writing Center Consortium
The Online Writing Center Consortium site is essential for OWL directors, tutors, and researchers.  This community provides a professional discussion list for discourse surrounding OWL work, consultants to contact for guidance and feedback about OWLs, and professional correspondence about tutoring online.  The site offers links to a complete OWL bibliography, the OWL Guide software, online OWL resources, and other useful links.  Organizations who are interested in starting OWLs should begin their research with the OWCC site.
Purdue University
The Purdue OWL has be appropriately named "The Mother of All OWLs."  This was the first writing lab to offer asynchronous tutoring in the early 1990s, and the research and scholarship "hatching" from Purdue's OWL has influenced the directions of writing tutoring across the country.  The OWL currently supports asynchronous tutoring, various online workshops and seminars, and a wide array of online resources for writers.
University of Richmond
The University of Richmond site offers numerous writing resources and information on the writing center.  The OWL project recently began between tutors at UR and writers at Middle East Technical University, where participants use WebBoard software for asynchronous tutoring.  This online environment allows an attractive and usable interface for registered users.
Rice University
The RICEOWL employs a unique conferencing software for Macintosh OS called Aspects, "which allows you and your consultant to simultaneously view your paper and talk about it using an adjacent chat box."  By integrating the paper and the synchronous conversation onto the screen, the tutorial team can talk about specifics of the text in real time.  Students can use the RICEOWL site to retrieve online resource, schedule conferences, and submit papers for tutorials.
Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake Community College's OWL is unique in that it offers three different ways to talk to tutors about writing:  Through an email-based "ET" (electronic tutor) system, through a more public WebBoard option, or through a synchronous MOO utility.  Papers are submitted through an Web-based interface, and students can choose whether they wish to communicate with tutors through email, WebBoard, or chat.  The SLCC offers many online resources for writers, not the least of which is the Panopticouch.
Shepherd College
The Shepherd College OWL offers numerous resources for writers, and it supports email-based tutoring.  Students use a reflective question-based form for submitting essays and receive commentary from online tutors.
Sonoma State University
The Sanoma State University writing center "offers a 'home base' for writing, writers, and writing concerns."  As well as various online resources, the site offers online tutoring through email, employing a Web-based essay submission form.
State University of New York at Albany
The University at Albany OWL uses the university's campus-wide learning environment, WebCT, for writing tutorials.  The OWL site explains that "WebCT provides instructors & students with an organized, controlled and secure environment for interactive higher education via the Internet. WebCT has many useful features which standardize the transfer of files/writing between student and tutor/instructor. Additionally, many students and instructors are familiar with its basic uses because they have already used it in their own courses."  Many OWLs are beginning to use campus-wide software for tutorials, and the SUNY at Albany OWL serves as a model for such programs.
Temple University
The Temple University writing center is an extremely attractive site offering numerous resources for writers.  The Web-based essay submission utility fosters reflection on the writing prior to the tutorial, and tutors contact students via email for conversation.
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University's OWL provides asynchronous tutoring and a useful list of writer resources through a Web interface.  The OWL requires users to register and log in to access its resources, but writers from outside of Texas Tech are able to join the OWL.  Writers read tutors' comments on their papers by revisiting the OWL and accessing commentary on the Web.
University of Toledo
The University of Toledo OWL uses an attractive Web interface for registering for use of the OWL and submitting papers for commentary.  Tutors use email to return commentary to students.  The UT OWL also "contains a variety of resources for Students, Tutors, Faculty, Administrators, ESL students, and writers and instructors in and around the UT community.   The list links you to resources on the Web, helpful essays, grammar handouts, and advice."
Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech OWL provides three main features for writers:  The GRAM feature is an email-based "grammar hotline," taking grammatical questions from the general public.  The KWO (KnoW-it-Owl) system is a self-guided Web-based grammar tutorial offering several modules for grammatical skills.  And the ETE (electronic tutoring environment) is a MOO-based synchronous conferencing utility (using the EnCore Xpress interface).  To sign up for an ETE conference, students use a Web-based submission form to suggest three potential meeting times to a tutor; the tutor then responds with the time they will meet, and the team gathers in the ETE for a discussion at that time.
Weber State University
The Weber State University site offers online handouts, various writing resources, and email tutoring for WSU students.  The Web-based submission form for essays asks students to include at least three specific questions about the draft for the tutor.  This ensures that students think critically about their writing and have issues in mind before asking for feedback.  Tutors reply to the draft and the students' questions via email.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison OWL offers many online resources, free writing mini-courses, and other writing-related links.  The OWL uses email conferencing for online tutorials, where tutors "will read your work, and then begin an email exchange with you about your paper, asking questions and making suggestions, while paying particular attention to your goals and concerns."

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