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Online Writing Center Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Writing Center General Questions

Writing Center Technical Questions

 

Answers to General Questions

Will the Writing Center help in editing and proof reading my writing assignment? Will tutors let me know what needs to be corrected?
The tutors are not proofreaders or editors, but rather teachers who will help you become stronger, more effective writers. When you contact the Writing Center, you should ask the tutor a question about your writing so that they know what to focus on.

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What information should I include in my posting to the Discussion Board  or in a Chat Session?
Whenever you post a message, make certain that you answer the following questions and include the following information in your message so that the tutor can effectively help you:

  1. Are you enrolled in English 98 or English 120?
  2. Who is your instructor?
  3. Describe your assignment for the tutor (or include a URL to your assignment sheet, if your instructor has the assignment posted online.)
  4. Briefly give other relevant details included on your assignment sheet for this assignment, such as length,  format required, and the due date.

    Ask the tutor a specific question about the assignment you are working on. Ideally the question should indicate what area you would like help with on your writing assignment. Questions like: "Is my thesis/topic sentence clear?" or "Are my topic sentences related to my thesis?" are a few examples of appropriate questions to ask.

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How do I schedule a Chat Session?
If you would like to meet a tutor in a chat room, simply follow the steps below:

  1. Post a message on the discussion board asking a tutor to meet you during a specific time in the chat room. 
  2. Make certain that the subject line of your discussion board posting indicates that you wish to schedule a chat session. A subject line titled "Chat Appointment Please" would make your request clear to a tutor. 
  3. To maximize your chances of meeting a tutor, list at least three specific dates and times in you r message indicating when you will be able to meet: a first choice, a second choice and a third choice. Chat sessions usually take about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the extent of help a student may need.

    Within a few days, a tutor will respond to your message and confirm a chat time with you. You will have to visit the discussion board again to check to see which time a tutor has confirmed. All chat sessions will be scheduled in Room 1.

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Do I have to go to the English Lab on Campus  or can I just visit the COM Online Writing Center?
You can either visit the Writing Center in the library to see a tutor for a face-to-face session, or you may visit the OWC for a virtual tutoring session.

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If I elect to visit the COM Online Writing Center, how much time will be credited towards my required English Lab/Writing Center time?
If you are taking English 98 or English 120 you will be required to complete a certain number of Writing Center hours. Generally, a student may earn credit for one hour of lab time by posting a message to the OWC, by checking for the response of the tutor a few days later, and by using the tutor's advice in a revision of a composition or in the writing process (by completing more research, or by developing an outline, etc.).  Please check with your instructor for specific guidelines for using the OWC. Some instructors require that a student print out the tutor's response and staple the response to the final draft of an assignment for full credit.  Others ask that you cut and paste your original posting and a tutor's response and send them to your instructor via e-mail.

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How do I get credit for the English Lab hour if I choose to visit the COM Online Wiring Center?
You should check with your instructor for specific class guidelines for using the OWC. Some instructors require that a student print out the tutor's response and staple the response to the final draft of an assignment for full credit. Others ask that you cut and paste your original posting and a tutor's response and send them to your instructor via e-mail.   

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How long will it take for a tutor to respond to my posting?
The OWC's response will not be instantaneous.  The tutors will usually respond within 1-4 days, but if they are extremely overwhelmed with students and postings, you may have to wait longer. Please note that all messages will be deleted after two weeks.

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Answers to Technical QuestionsHow do you copy and paste text from a chat session into a word processing program or from a word processing program into an e-mail or into  into a discussion board posting?

  1. Type your paper in your word processing program;
  2. Click on Select All (this command is usually under the Edit Menu) or highlight the text with your mouse;
  3. Copy the text to your clip board; (The copy command is also usually under the Edit Menu.)
  4. Open your e-mail program or access the discussion board for the class;
  5. Address the e-mail & type a subject or click on Compose on the discussion board & type a subject.
  6. Paste the text in the message window of the e-mail or the discussion board; (The paste command is usually under the Edit Menu.)
  7. Click on send or post.

If the steps above to not work (which occurs mainly when using AOL), try using the keyboard short cuts (these will work for Macs or PCs):

  1. select the content (Ctrl A);
  2. copy the content (Ctrl C);
  3. then close the word processor,
  4. log on to your class,
  5. open the Bulletin Board,
  6. open a new message window;
  7. click your cursor into the message box;
  8. paste the text into the message window (Ctrl V).

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How do I post a message on the discussion board?

  1. Click on the Discussion Forum link on the COM homepage
  2. Click on the appropriate link under the list of topics. For example if you are an English 120 student, click on the link titled, "English 120 Students."
  3. Click on the "Compose Message" Button
  4. Type a subject and a question for the tutor
  5. If you have a draft you may copy and paste your draft from your word processing program into the message window on the discussion board.
  6. Click on the "Post" button
  7. Click on the "Update" button to see the message that you just posted
  8. Visit the site in a few days to check to see if a tutor has responded to your posting.
  9. Print the tutor's response or copy and paste the response into an e-mail and send it to your instructor as proof of your COM tutorial session.
  10. Print the tutor's response or copy and paste the response into an e-mail and send it to your instructor as proof of your OWC tutorial session, if your instructor requests proof.
  11. If you ever need help at any point while using WebCT, simply click on the Help link at the top of the WebCT screen for step-by-step instructions on how to use WebCT.

Tips for Reading Messages:

  • Make certian that the Discussion Topic is set to "Display: All" of the messages. (If you do not see a "Display: All" button, click on "Message Options.")
  • Also make certian to select the "Threaded" button in order to view the Discussions as a threaded list (a discussion group), which is much easier to read. A threaded discussion will disply a blue triangle next to a new topic and will also indent each reply to a posting. This allows you to read messages in context by organizing discussions in topics. In contrast, an uthreaded discussion will list messages in chronological order, out of context.
    • A threaded list shows a green triangle next to each message. If you click on the green triangle, you will see the list of replies to the original message, giving a graphical representation of the messages posted. In other words, the threaded list will show the original message flush with the left margin and each reply is indented underneath the original message revealing a "thread" of messages so you can view the hierarchy of the list. If you click on the magnifying glass, you will expand the thread and you will be able to read the entire thread of responses in one window.
    • In contrast, an unthreaded list simply lists each message in order as it was originally posted. The messages are ordered by date and time and it is impossible to see which messages have received responses. However, this view works well when you are searching for a message posted on a specific day.
  • Click on the magnifying glass to display all of the messages in the thread in one window. Or, click on blue triangle to see all of the messages listed; then, click on the first message listed to read the first message in a "thread". At first, it may be easier to read messages by using the blue triangles, since the triangles give you a list of the messages in a logical order. 
  • Read the message and click on the reply button to reply to the message.
  • You will usually use the "Reply" button to post a message in response to a question that I pose; if you use the "Compose" button, your message will be separated from the others and you will start a new "thread" (or separate discussion) whereas the "Reply" button allows you to post your message in the same thread as everyone else. You should only use the "Compose" button if you wish to start your own thread--your own discussion with a new topic.
  • To copy the original  message into your response, you should click on the "Quote" button. The "Quote" Button will copy the original message into your reply. This sometimes makes it easier to respond to messages, especially during a peer review.
  • After you post a message, click on "Update the Listing" link to see the message you just typed.
  • To view only the new messages, click on the "Show Unread" link. 

General Tips:

  • When replying to a discussion message, please use the first name of the student to whom you are replying so that readers can better understand your message.
  • If you want to compose a message off-line, simply compose your messages in your word processor and then paste into a message window.
  • The best way to learn new software is to press buttons, and discover what they do, so explore the discussion area, click buttons, and see what happens! 

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How can I reply to  a tutor's message on the discussion board?

  1. Click on the "Discussion Board" link on the Course Menu;
  2. Click on the "All" link to view all of the posted messages or click on a specific Topic to view specific messages organized under a specific topic.
  3. Click on the first message in a “thread” (also known as a discussion group) to read the first message in a thread or click on the bold-faced message to open a window of all of the messages in a thread.
  4. Read the message and click on the reply button to reply to the message.
  5. You may also click on a student's name to view a message and you may reply to a student message as well.
  6. You will usually use the "Reply" button to post a message in response to a question that a tutor may pose; if you use the "Compose" button, your message will be separated from the others and you will start a new "thread" (or separate discussion) whereas the "Reply" button allows you to post your message in the same thread as everyone else. You should only use the "Compose" button if you wish to start your own thread.
  7. If you wish to copy the message that you wish to reply to into your response, you should click on the "Quote" button. The "Quote" Button will copy the original message into your reply. This sometimes makes it easier to respond to messages.
  8. After you post a message, click on "Update the Listing" to see the message you just typed.
  9. The preferred settings are to view a "Threaded" list, which makes the discussion easier to read. A threaded list indents each reply so you can view the hierarchy of the list. To view only the new messages, click on the "Show Unread" link.
  10. The best way to learn new software is to press buttons, and discover what they do, so explore the discussion area, click buttons, and see what happens!

If you want to compose a message off-line, simply compose your messages in your word processor and then paste into the message window. 

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Why does my computer tell me that I have Java Script Errors, especially when I try to use the chat feature?
Most problems stem from compatibility issues with AOL and other browsers, which have not been updated to the latest version, or your problem may be that java script is not enabled on your computer. To download a free copy of an up-to-date browser and necessary plugins, or to get instructions on how to enable java script on your computer, visit:   http://www.webct.com/webct_tune_up.html

If you subscribe to AOL, you should use Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, instead of the AOL browser. To switch browsers, start AOL as you normally would when connecting to the Internet; minimize the window, and open Internet Explorer or Netscape.

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What do I do if my browser crashes or if my screen freezes in the middle of a chat session?
Sometimes, your Internet connection may be interrupted somehow. If this happens, simply connect back to the Internet and go back to the chat room. Unfortunately, when your chat session is interrupted, the chat is erased and you will not be able to see the previous discussion. If you get error messages or have other difficulties that prevent the chat feature from functioning properly, you should follow the steps below to attempt to get back to the discussion:

  1. Exit your browser and restart it. Then get back to the class site and enter the chat room again.
  2. If step one fails, or if your computer freezes up, you should re-boot (manually restart) your computer. On a PC you can press the Ctrl key, the Alt key and the Delete key at the same time and your computer will restart (You may have to do this twice). Then, get back to the class site and enter the Chat room. 
  3. make certain that you copy and paste the chat session into an e-mail or word processor file as proof of your tutoring session.

Thanks to my students from the Fall 2000 online class for contributing to this FAQ page!
Last Updated: 8/21/2006

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