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Learning Rhetoric Online (continued)
As students learn the opinions of their classmates in an online discussion, they also learn rhetorical skills for written communication. By the time they reach the college level, most beginning writers have an understanding of the ways spoken communication and oral persuasion works. But when asked to transfer their spoken communication to a piece of written communication, they forget to focus on the way that writing is read by their audience and even forget there is an audience at all. Online discussion allows these written misunderstandings to play out and teach students valuable skills in recognizing the tones, language, and opinions that may need to be presented differently to certain audiences.
An example of this occurred in a class discussion in one of my freshmen composition courses. After boldly expressing a controversial opinion, one student received several responses of opposition from other students. Throughout the rest of the discussion thread, as other students participated in the discussion, they began to use disclaimers and appeals to their audience more noticeably. Their understanding that someone was out there reading their opinions gave a whole new meaning to audience and purpose.
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