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

High-stakes writing—by which we mean larger term papers or more formal types of writing—may invite trepidation from both you and your students. With the resources below, you can chart your high-stakes writing activities intentionally and with consideration of what you want your students to ultimately produce. High-stakes writing should be informed by Universal Design Learning considerations, and you might consider offering students flexibility in what they submit to you. Read our Principles for Developing High-Stakes Writing for resources and suggestions as you develop your writing assignments.

Principles for Developing High-Stakes Writing

Examples of High-Stakes Writing Assignments from UW–Madison Faculty & Staff

Especially in a remote course, carefully attending to your students’ papers and responding in a constructive, engaged manner offers a unique opportunity to connect with students and to support their learning. Below, we share some principles for assessment and three ways to engage meaningfully with students through assessing their writing.

Principles of Assessing Student Writing

Examples of Innovative Online Assessment