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A USDLA 2016 International Award Winner’s Story
Despite the advent of social media platforms available through different technologies, it has been increasingly apparent that proficiency in writing skills is even more important in determining success at every level of education and in the workplace.
In recognition of this reality, USDLA’s 2016 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning Teaching was presented to the development and management team of the Online Writing Lab (also known as “The OWL”) from Excelsior College of New York (http://www.excelsior.edu). The OWL is led by Francesco (Frank) Crocco, Ph.D., Director of the Online Writing Lab.
Dr. Crocco points out that The OWL is an important contribution to distance learning and higher education because it is the first detailed writing support brought to life with multimedia support in an open-source resource.
The OWL was developed in 2010 with support from Excelsior College and three separate grants—a Department of Education FIPSE grant (2010-2012), a Kresge Foundation grant (2012-2014), and a New York State HESC grant (2014-2015). Since its inception, the OWL team has developed eight multimedia content areas and a video game playable on PC/Mac and iOS tablets. It has conducted two major studies that prove the efficacy of the OWL—a national study comprised of colleges from across five states and a New York State study in partnership with S.U.N.Y. (State University of New York) and C.U.N.Y. (City University of New York) colleges.
The OWL is now embedded in each of the 90 sections of English 101 and English 201 at Excelsior College. In addition, as an open learning resource, The OWL has been adopted by faculty at more than 70 colleges. Further documentation of The OWL’s success is the November 2016 report from Google Analytics that shows more than 18,500 online sessions with visitors from 174 countries with 103 different languages.
Another successful element of this project is cost savings to students. Excelsior College has used the OWL to replace the textbook for all sections of their English 101 and English 201. The cost savings just for students taking English 101 over a course of a year is $153,000 (1800 students registered annually X $85 textbook = $153,000). The Excelsior College OWL is free to anyone. The potential to reduce the costs of education for students, parents and other stakeholders while providing high quality instruction bears promise for education and training in the 21st Century.
Since receiving USDLA’s 2016 International Award, Dr. Crocco and his colleagues at Excelsior College have not rested on their laurels. As recipients of a U.S. Department of Education First in the World Grant, they are currently developing a new open-access online reading comprehension lab that will supplement The OWL. This new resource is scheduled to launch during early 2017. Stay tuned!
Click here for a detailed look of The OWL’s multi-layered approach in helping students optimize their writing skills via a dynamic resource. A special note: If you are a faculty member at any level of the education community, corporate trainer or concerned parent, be sure to visit the “OWL Educator Guide,” where you can find valuable online presentations, interactive videos, exercises and other resources for incorporation into your online learning environment.
Stay tuned to the USDLA Blog as we highlight our award recipients/members to see the latest innovations and trends in Distance Learning.
USDLA 2017 National Conference
April 30 – May 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN
The USDLA 2017 National Conference is the premier event for professionals in the distance learning industry. This year’s conference celebrates USDLA’s 30th year and promises to deliver an action-packed agenda that will bring together distance learning practitioners from across the country and around the world.
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The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is a non-profit association formed in 1987 with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. The association reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46% of the $913 billion dollar U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning for education and training and serves the needs of the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking and opportunity. Distance learning and training constituencies served include pre-k-12 education, higher and continuing education, home schooling as well as business, corporate, military, government and telehealth markets.