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Let the Pilot Begin!

I spent a good portion of today working out the logistics of a new pilot program we’re trying. I’m so excited to see if it works, it’s not even funny!

But first, the background. Our writing center contacts professors who will be teaching WR (“writing rich”) courses across the curriculum to see if these professors would like a writing assistant assigned specifically to their classes. So, for example, a bunch of English courses and a handful of sociology/anthropology, PoliSci, and History classes promise to provide their students with a portion of the intensive writing experience that’s required for graduation. And professors teaching these courses have the option of working closely with a single writing assistant who will shepherd enrolled students through all the writing assignments.

Well, last year the director of the our writing center and I began scheming ways to make our two operations work together more closely. I attended a writing professionals’ mini-conference with her. She invited me to start training new writing assistants. And this winter we’re taking it a step further.

She provided me with a list of courses that have a writing assistant assigned to them. Each week at our departmental meeting, I’ll check with the other librarians to see if they’ve been asked to work with any of these WR courses. If they have, they will contact the writing assistant for those courses in invite the assistants to the library session. That way the writing assistant will understand the research process and options when working with each of the enrolled students. They’ll also be encouraged to send students our way when they read drafts.

I’m going to choose one course to take this set-up one step further, just to see how it goes. I’m going to have one writing assistant take down the names of student that could use a librarian’s help and (with the students’ permission, of course) hand that list over to me. I’ll then initiate the contact with the students. I’m curious to see if overcoming that initial shyness of approaching a librarian for help makes a significant difference. On the other hand, I’m a little worried that this might be more of a workload than we can handle. Hence the pilot within a pilot… and zero publicity. It’ll just be between me and my writing assistant (and a few thousand of my closest internet buddies).

So today I got the list of courses and their corresponding assistants and spent some time creating a new section of the Moodle space we use to collaborate within my department. Hopefully with courses listed, contact information easily at hand, and spaces for noting our impressions of the process we can keep this thing moving forward smoothly and effectively. Goodness knows that if the process isn’t as easy as falling off a log by the time classes start (tomorrow, by the way), the scheme will never fly.

Wish us luck!

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