The Online Tutor as
Cross-Curricular Double Agent

OWL History

The DSU OWL went online in March, 1994 supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation and the efforts of Jim Swanson and Patricia Ericsson. The grant supported the creation of the OWL and provided mini-grants for faculty in all disciplines who wanted to incorporate the principles of "writing to learn" in their courses.

Two needs influenced the creation of the OWL: the need for a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program and the need for a Writing Center. Previous efforts to begin a WAC program had been stymied by lack of time and support. The faculty development focus of the Bush Foundation provided the needed release time and faculty incentives to begin a WAC program. The writing center support needed to sustain a WAC program did not exist before the OWL was created.

During the first six semesters of its existence, the OWL was funded by the Bush Foundation. Because of its success, the DSU administration has agreed to support the OWL and provide for its continued existence. The success of the DSU OWL is owed in part to the environment that engendered it.

In the first four semesters of its existence, OWL has experienced dramatically increased usage by a wide variety of students. In its initial semester (Spring '94), only 60 students (approximately 5% of the student body) used the OWL. The following academic year, the number of users equaled 23% of the student body. OWL use has steadily increased each year it has been in existence. Student satisfaction with the OWL has been overwhelmingly positive. In a recent survey, almost 90% of the students rated the OWL help as "Good" or "Very Good." More details on OWL usage and user satisfaction are available in the 1994-1995 OWL report. An overview of 1996 OWL activities is also available.

Recent campus-wide assessment data has shown a statistically significant improvement in overall writing abilities in junior-level students since the inception of the OWL.