Logging On for Civic Engagement: ENG-W 315 Writing for the Web

In 2013, with the help of the Center for Service Learning and inspired by his background in critical literacy studies, Professor Andy Buchenot updated the existing ENG-W 315 Writing for the Web RISE course. The purpose of the course is to explore how writing operates differently given technological tools, specifically Internet-based technologies. Furthermore, it asks students to look at how their writing can function as civic engagement. The course allows students to do kinds of writing they would not have the opportunity to do in other courses.

During the first part of the course, students work with HTML and CSS, the technical "languages" that make the Internet work. Buchenot argues that knowing a little about how these technical languages work enables students to write for the web in more sophisticated ways. During the second part of the course, students use what they have learned to develop the online presence of a community organization. This might involve updating the staff biographies on an organization’s website, creating a blog for the organization, or running the organization’s Twitter account. The organizations and students work together in a partnership, meeting and collaborating. In previous semesters, students or teams of students have worked with an art therapy organization, veterans groups, a volunteer fire department, and a bicycle advocacy club. There is a wide range of possibilities!

ENG-W 315 is structured to provide students with three valuable and practical learning outcomes: (1) knowledge of codes and conventions; (2) development of strategies for reading on the web, analyzing, and making sense of online texts; and (3) experience in service learning and the ability to reflect on those real-world experiences. Professor Buchenot says, this course “asks students to do the real work of civic engagement online.” ENG-W 315 has been offered every semester and is currently taught online.