Kopp and Stevens

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Case Study 1: The University of Arizona Writing Program Orientation Videos

In the University of Arizona Writing Program (UAWP), we have made the program's work more visible to varied university-based audiences by using digital video to articulate our view of first-year composition. While university administration is an extremely important audience for writing program administrators, it is but one of several. Others include students, instructors, faculty from other departments across the university, and even family, employers, and the public at large. Digital video provides an effective and efficient means to make writing program work visible on our terms to several of these audiences.

As our starting point for this re-articulation process, we have created digital videos targeted at our largest audience: students themselves. The project we discuss here originated out of the pragmatic need to provide good advising to 5600 incoming students each year during a constrained time-slot in the university's summer orientation schedule. The validity of the UAWP's placement depends on students making informed self-assessments and then, where warranted, engaging advisors in dialogue about whether a recommended placement actually fits their writing experiences and abilities. Pragmatically, this in turn requires the UAWP to quickly and efficiently provide useful information about writing program courses. Beginning in the summer of 2005, at the suggestion of Writing Program Director Thomas P. Miller, a team of graduate students supervised by Coordinator of Assessment and Placement Sharon Stevens developed a trio of advising videos, with Drew Kopp serving as director and producer. These videos promote the value of the UAWP, often through the voices of students who identify positively with the program, as seen in the above clip. These videos' most explicit purpose, however, is to facilitate our placement processes by inviting incoming first-year composition students either to identify with or to resist the subject position that belongs within one of three first-semester course offerings: a basic writing course, the standard English 101, or honors composition. Each of these writing courses has its own video, with some overlapping aspects (known as a "donut") and with some unique aspects (known as a "donut hole" or "core").

These videos--and subsequent yearly revisions of the videos--quickly came to serve additional program purposes. Now, in addition to assisting incoming students with placement, the videos now circulate to other audiences, introducing the writing program to incoming graduate instructors, to upper-level administrators, to major advisors, and to other representatives of disciplines from across the university and beyond.

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