IWCA: Old Technology, New Frontier


IWCA 2016: At the 2016 International Writing Center Association conference, Sarah and I shared the results of months of research. During the summer and fall semesters, we reflected on the new frontiers we encounter in our centers. Together, we recorded several tutoring sessions from our centers in order to reveal the ways in which new media presents new, and nuanced, challenges to writing center practitioners.

Abstract: With conversations regarding the rising costs of higher education growing louder, writing centers find themselves facing a new frontier. Oregon, Tennessee, and parts of Illinois currently offer free community college education. At the 2016 Southeastern Writing Center Association conference in Columbus, GA, Writing Center Directors and tutors from community colleges in Tennessee discussed the difficulties of handling the resulting influx of new students. We heard firsthand how their writing centers are struggling to accommodate an increased number of first-generation, non-traditional, and developmental writers, many with aspirations of transferring to universities.

As Writing Center Coordinators at Wallace Community College in Alabama, we believe we are uniquely positioned to discuss approaches to tutoring these student populations. Sarah Newman helped build our Title III grant-funded Writing Center, which opened in March 2014. The Writing Center and its corresponding computer lab were created to increase retention rates for students who may have been out of school for decades, never written an essay, and/or come from failing high schools. As coordinator of the Sparks campus in Eufaula, AL, Sarah observed the students’ abilities, developed appropriate tutoring strategies, and established an identity in an area that had never heard of writing centers. Dr. Randall Sessler joined the Writing Center team as coordinator of the Dothan campus in October 2015. Even though he worked as a peer writing tutor, private writing tutor, and teacher at multiple universities, he found himself needing to adapt in order to better meet the needs of Wallace students.

Drawing on our different backgrounds, we have created an ever-evolving culture of writing that welcomes and celebrates the very populations who are pursuing free community college. Using the comparatively old technology of video recording, we hope to provide a clearer image of the challenges this frontier presents.


Featured Image Photo Credit: Marshall Barth

ConferencesRandall Sessler