University of Wisconsin–Madison

Online Writing Toolkit

Intentional online writing instruction can create community in your classroom, stretch students’ understanding of a discipline or genre, provide opportunities for meaningful interaction between you and your students, and promote student engagement with course material.

This Toolkit provides you with: Strategies for incorporating low-stakes (informal) and high-stakes (formal) online writing activities into your course in ways that are accessible to your students, examples of well-designed low-stakes and high-stakes online writing activities, and assessment strategies for online writing that reflect the principles of inclusive pedagogy.

Although writing may feel like an inherently high-stakes activity—it’s personal and it’s most always evaluated in a classroom setting—it doesn’t have to be. Using low-stakes writing in your online classroom can be a great way to develop students’ comfort and confidence with writing. As composition scholar Peter Elbow writes, “In a sense, we get to throw away the low-stakes writing itself but keep the neural changes it produced in students’ heads.” By low-stakes writing, we mean: informal and (usually) non-evaluative writing that allows students to practice articulating and developing their ideas, whether for reflective purposes or in preparation for a larger, high-stakes assignment.

Principles for Assigning and Responding to Low-Stakes Writing

Types of Low-Stakes Writing

  • Anatomy of a Well-Designed Writing Assignment
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