Adapting to Our New Reality

Uncategorized / Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

The last two weeks have been tumultuous on many fronts, for our students, tutors, and staff at the UW-Madison Writing Center and at other writing centers around the country. We write this brief post to let you know of the decisions that we’ve made to adapt our writing center to the array of current challenges. Our response, of course, may shift going forward, but this is our starting point for continued instruction this spring.

On March 11, 2020, Chancellor Rebecca Blank alerted the entire UW-Madison community that face-to-face instruction would be suspended, with online instruction beginning on Monday, March 23, the date that classes would typically resume after spring break.

As a result, we found ourselves dealing not only with a sudden deluge of information, questions, uncertainties, and stresses but also the decisions that would need to be made. How could we, as a writing center, continue to offer writing instruction to undergraduate and graduate students who would suddenly be in very different geographic positions, with varying degrees of access to technology, childcare, healthcare, and more?

Fortunately, virtual–both synchronous and asynchronous–methods of responding to student writing were already in place. Through our Skype instruction, our Writing Center was already offering a number of virtual face-to-face appointments per week. In addition, our existing email instruction provided–and continues to provide–a place for students to submit writing for emailed feedback from an instructor. 

Moving forward, asynchronous email instruction was the model that we decided to adopt. The in-person appointments scheduled in our main Writing Center and the drop-in hours at our satellite locations would transform into email “slots” that allowed students choice of instructor as well as specified days for feedback. This new system would permit  maximum flexibility for students (on the scheduling side) and tutors (on the staffing side). 

Below is the information posted on our updated operations page as of Monday, March 23, 2020, which we include here both as a record of this particular moment in time, which feels light-years away from where we stood just a few weeks ago, and as a way of moving forward that may be helpful to others thinking through such decisions for their writing centers.

Though we cannot be sure of our perspective on the other side of this unusual and unsettling spring semester, we are moving forward with our trusted instructors to provide continuity of instruction for our students. 

We will provide updates as they develop. In the meantime, we send all good thoughts to our writing center colleagues and readers near and far as we navigate this new reality together.

Nancy Linh Karls and Emily Hall
Co-Directors, The Writing Center and Writing Across the Curriculum


During UW-Madison’s suspension of in-person instruction in response to COVID-19, the Writing Center will provide additional opportunities for online instruction beginning on Monday, March 23, and continuing through Wednesday, May 6. Please read below to learn how our instructional services are changing, and come back to this page for frequent updates.


With our main location and campus satellites closed for in-person instruction, all Writing Center appointments and satellite drop-in sessions will be converted to email instruction.

For those who would like to receive email feedback from a specific Writing Center instructor or those who would like to schedule a specific timeframe for feedback, we have opened up many slots for email instruction, including all times previously offered for satellite instruction. You can use our online scheduler, WCOnline, to reserve an email slot with a particular instructor and receive written feedback within one business day. If you have issues with the scheduler, please email

Here’s how things will work:  on the day prior to your email slot, we will contact you and provide instructions for sharing your draft. You will be asked to email your instructor your draft (either as a Word file or a Google doc) by 10:00 a.m. on the day of your email slot. Your instructor will then email you written feedback within one business day.

For those accustomed to receiving email feedback via the Writing Center’s online submission form or those who have more flexibility with deadlines, our email instruction queue will continue as usual. Depending on student demand, instructor response times may vary between three to five business days from the time of draft submission. Submit your email to the next available instructor here.

For those accustomed to using the Writing Center’s Skype option or those who wish to connect in real time with an instructor, our Skype instruction will continue as usual. Skype instructors will continue to be available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 7:00-10:00 p.m. Sign-ups begin at 6:45 p.m.

How to sign up for an appointment

We will be moving all of our undergraduate and graduate writing groups to an online format in order to continue to support our writers throughout their projects.

We are assessing our workshops to determine which may be cancelled or moved online. Updates will be posted on this page.

With our partner locations closed during this time, the Madison Writing Assistance (MWA) program will be suspending its in-person writing support for community members at all libraries and neighborhood centers throughout the city.

If you have questions about Writing Center services during this time, feel free to email us at Please note that we are working to move more of our services online in a compressed timeframe, and we will respond to your questions as soon as we are able. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

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