Decentralizing Writing Centers

At last February’s Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) conference in Oxford, Mississippi, I attended several worthwhile panels on representing the value of writing centers. Presenters discussed a variety of ways to quantify and document the impact writing centers have on student success.

After the conference, I mined data on our fall semester here at Wallace to discover that our writing center held 1,158 one-on-one tutoring sessions, which is a 65% increase in the number of appointments when compared to fall 2015. If I include WC events such as Book Club, Game Day, and Open Mic Night, we had 1,839 total contacts with students last semester. The Writing Center also worked with students on assignments for English, Nursing, Orientation, Physical Therapy, Psychology, Speech, History, Humanities, Art, Biology, Computer Science, and Air Conditioning and Refrigeration courses.

Even with all of this information and a slew of numbers, graphs, charts, and interpretive dances, there felt as if something were missing. While hard data is certainly valuable, it does have its limitations. Data, even the alluring and colorful charts of MS Excel, cannot capture student stories.

Therefore, we have to devise ways to decentralize our centers and make them – and the interactions they facilitate – mobile. In order to achieve this goal, our center has begun to record student testimonial videos. In the videos, tutors ask students questions about their experiences in the center. The recordings give students and tutors the chance to reflect on the role the center has played in their academic and professional journeys. We are also recording peer tutors interviewing one and another.

Check out our Students Speak series below! Click in the upper left corner to select other videos in the playlist.