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unCommon News

A crowd-powered newsletter for a writing-centered community

November, 2013

Dear Friends, 

This month we have four exciting new webtexts to share with you, reports of steady traffic on our website, and a piece from Ben McCorkle—assistant professor at The Ohio State University—about the global reach and collaborative atmosphere of MOOCs. Sandy Branham, a doctoral student at the University of Central Florida, has also generously shared her Business and Professional Writing syllabus.  We are also pleased to invite you to a free colloquim on Big Data and Writing Studies, which we are co-sponsoring with USF (Tampa) on 1/24/15, in Tampa, Florida. 

As I review this newsletter, I'm struck by its breadth and interdisciplinarity. Writing Commons began its focus on composition and was aimed primarily at first-year students. Since then, we've published a good variety of creative writing, technical communciation, and professional writing webtexts. We have also worked in collaboration with several universities who are using our content with massive open online courses. 

We invite you to share your contributions or become a part of Writing CommonsPlease feel free to contact me if you have any questions or ideas regarding ideas for original webtexts. 

Quentin Vieregge, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Managing Editor 


On MOOCs and First-Year Composition  

With all of the talk surrounding MOOCs of late—particularly that strain concerning the (inevitable?) monetization of the platform, the hint/threat of offering credit-bearing iterations, and the potential impact on both quality of curriculum and caliber of instructors—it's easy to forget why MOOCs were devised in the first place. Massive open online courses are, in essence, an attempt to democratize higher education, particularly for those for whom access to that education is constrained for one reason or other: financial, political, ethnic background, gender, and so on.  

When you actually design and implement a MOOC, as a cohort at The Ohio State University recently did (it's called "Writing II: Rhetorical Composing," and it's slated to run again in Autumn 2014. Check it out: https://www.coursera.org/course/writing2), the hypothetical reach of such courses quickly becomes very real. Indeed, of a total of nearly 33,000 enrolled students, only one third of those were actually from North America; based on our demographic data, the rest came from Asia (32%), Europe (22%), South America (8%), Africa (5%), and even a few from Australia, for good measure (1%). Sadly, Antarctica was not represented, but our spread was essentially global.

For many of our learners, English was not their first language—or even their second, third, or fourth (for one learner in particular, English marked her seventh language). This revelation meant that, very soon after we began going live with our content, we quickly learned to adjust our pitch to reach this truly global audience. Encouraging our learners to approach each others' work as charitable, generous readers, discussing the variety of global Englishes, reinforcing the idea that peer review requires vigorous training and ultimately pays off in each learner's own writing: these were all lessons that we, learners and teachers alike, came to understand together.

Ben McCorkle
Associate Professor
The Ohio State University  


The Traffic Report

During October, traffic 160,896 users—i.e., 5190 visitors/day—visited 352,656 pages.  Overall, the server logged 4,900,463 hits.  

It's amazing to us that in the last two months we had over 360,000 visitors.  We feel fortunate to be providing a free yet valued service to the open-education community.

 October WC_Vistors 


New Syllabus: Business and Professional Writing Course Syllabus

I am pleased to share with you a new addition to Writing Commons: course syllabus designed for Business and Professional Writing Courses. Many users may not know that Writing Commons contains a number of resources in areas other than composition, and this syllabus is designed to highlight the business and professional writing resources found on the site.

The syllabus can be used in a variety of ways; for example, you might choose to adopt the syllabus for use in your own classroom, while providing the students with additional project-specific requirements to suit the needs of your classroom, or you might consider implementing one or two of the projects contained in the syllabus into your already existing syllabus. However you choose to use the site, please consider sharing your experiences with us so we can continue to improve our content.

We are always accepting submissions for original webtexts to add to our Business and Professional Writing resources. Please send submissions to Daniel Richards at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sandy Branham
University of Central Florida


Recent Publications

This month, we have four original webtexts to celebrate:

IMG 1013_-_Sean_BarnetteOur first webtext will be helpful for any composition class, where students are learning to position a thesis within an "ongoing scholarly conversation." In "Sticking Your Nose In: Positioning Yourself in Academic Writing," Sean Barnette writes about how to use hedges and attributive verbs to describe subtly the sources an author cites and how to situate one's own thesis within that research. For each of his claims, Sean provides examples to clarify for students exactly how this process works in academic discourse. Sean Barnette is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Lander University in Greenwood, SC, where he teaches first-year writing, business communication, linguistics, rhetoric, and ESL. His main scholarly interests include first-year writing pedagogy and theories of hospitality, material rhetoric, and religion. 

We also have three creative writing webtexts to share:

LiebWe’re honored to present two pieces from playwright and theater critic Mark E. Leib: “An Overview of Screenwriting” and “An Overview of Playwriting.” Leib's plays and adaptations have been produced Off-Broadway and in Cambridge, Edinburgh, and St. Petersburg, Florida. He has worked for Universal Studios/Turman-Foster Productions in Hollywood and has written for cable television in Orlando, Florida.  He is theatre critic for the alternative newspaper Creative Loafing in the Tampa Bay area and has won seven awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists, including three first-place Sunshine State Awards. Leib was the first playwriting lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Theatre Study at Harvard University in 1989-90 and is currently Visiting Instructor in the English Department of University of South Florida. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, where he won the CBS Foundation Prize in Playwriting.

CiresiIn addition, Rita Ciresi presents the fictionalization of illness in her piece “Snort, Snuffle, Write.” Ciresi is the author of four novels and two award-winning story collections.  Novels Bring Back My Body to Me and Blue Italian deal with cancer, and Pink Slip examined AIDS in the mid-1980s. She is professor of English and director of the creative writing program at the University of South Florida. Visit her website at https://www.ritaciresi.com.

We welcome creative writing submissions that speak to our global undergraduate writers. Please see our Call for Creative Writing Articles and contact Senior Creative Writing Editor. 

Dianne Donnelly, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Senior Creative Writing Editor


In the News: Big Data and Writing Studies Colloquium, Tampa 2014 

Big Data and Writing Programs thumbnail

Sponsors: University of South Florida (Tampa) EGSA; Writing Commons

Location: USF Marshall Student Center (click here for directions)

Date: January 24, 2014

Price: free (seating limited to 70 people)

In an effort to broaden the conversation about Big Data, the University of South Florida (Tampa) will host this free, one-day colloquium to explore the implications of Big Data for Writing Studies. We welcome scholars from all corners of Writing Studies who are interested in the research or pedagogical possibilities and applications represented by Big Data and Learning Analytics.

As writing is increasingly translated directly from keystrokes into oceans of bytes, Big Data is opening new spaces, methods, and proof-points for Writing Studies researchers, faculty, and administration. Because of the way Big Data can digitally embody an entire writing ecology in real-time and in the real-world contexts of that ecology, it promises to give researchers, faculty, and administrators better tools and methods of understanding the connections between curricula, instruction, and learning.

Morning sessions will feature Big Data pioneer Susan Lang, Director of Writing at TTU, who will discuss “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research” College Composition and Communication. In addition, faculty and doctoral studies from USF will share their scholarship on Big Data.

Afternoon sessions will provide participants opportunities to learn and experiment with Big Data analysis tools and to group-brainstorm about the future of writing tools, Big Data, and Writing Studies.

For more information, visit https://toolsforwriters.com/



USF M.A./Ph.D. Program in Rhetoric and Composition

The University of South Florida invites applications from promising undergraduate or MA students who are interested in graduate study in Rhetoric and Composition. 

USF's Rhetoric and Composition program <https://english.usf.edu/graduate/concentrations/rc/degrees/>
promotes direct contact between graduate students and faculty, as evidenced by co-authored books, articles, conference presentations, grants, and co-teaching.  


 Call for Papers

Next month, we look forward to submissions from novelist and short-story writer Karen Brown and memoirist, essayist, poet, and editor Ira Sukrungruang.

We welcome creative writing submissions that speak to our global undergraduate writers. Please see our Call for Creative Writing Articles and contact Senior Creative Writing Editor Dianne Donnelly(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.for specifics. 

Teachers, please share with us your expertise.  You can find the most up-to-date submission information and Call for Papers (CFPs) at our Contribute page. We seek new and interesting webtexts to expand the breadth and depth of what we can offer our global community of writers. Our past CFPs have focused on information literacyprofessional and technical writing, and creative writing.


Social Media

 Visit us at Facebook page. View newsfeeds regarding Writing Commons and updates about Open Education.

Don't forget to connect with Writing Commons on Twitter using @writingcommons and #writingcommons. Writing Commons' tweets consist of answers to students' most common writing questions, such as "What's a paragraph supposed to have?" and "What's Rogerian argument?" Each tweet is hyperlinked to our Writing Commons blog where Writing Commons staff members provide succinct, accessible answers and helpful examples.

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