November 20, 2008

LibGuides and Evolving Learning Spaces

I gave a presentation last week called "TEAR DOWN THE WALLS: LibGuides and Evolving Learning Spaces" at the Northeast Connect Conference.

It was about using LibGuides in an academic setting and utilizing the Web 2.0 options.

I talked about how PCCC first started using LibGuides and the features and then gave a closer look at those features.

Learning spaces continue to evolve as web tools further erase the physical walls of classrooms, libraries and other educational settings.

Though LibGuides, a web 2.0 content management and information sharing system, was designed specifically for libraries, at Passaic County Community College (and other schools) it is being used as a collaborative tool for courses.

This hosted service offers opportunities to create and share reusable content, tagging, widgets, embedded video, RSS, and easy integration with other tools like Delicious and Facebook.

During this summer's Writing Initiative Summer Institute, we gave a hands-on session on creating a LibGuide for our faculty involved in redesigning their courses as "Writing Intensive."

You can view my PowerPoint presentation below and more information about our LibGuide use on our "meta" LibGuide.

October 21, 2008

Spring 2009 Semester Writing Intensive Courses Open for Registration

Four WI courses are being offered during the upcoming spring 2009 semester.
  • EN 205 Introduction to Literature (Mitnick - Paterson)
  • PS 101 Introduction to Psychology (Murphy-Wanaque)
  • HI 101 Western Civilization I (Jenkins-Online)
  • HI 102 Western Civilization II (Drakulich-Paterson)

September 5, 2008

About Writing Intensive Courses at PCCC

What are writing-intensive courses as implemented at PCCC?  A writing-intensive course incorporates discipline-specific writing extensively into the course, and the writing contributes significantly to each student's grade. These courses are in many subject areas.

The instructor in a WI course uses writing assignments to promote the learning of the course content, as well as to increase the students' critical thinking and information literacy skills. Instructors use both formal and informal writing assignments.

Courses designated as writing-intensive will:

1. Incorporate frequent informal, short-writing assignments to help students generate ideas and better engage with their learning;
2. Require students to do formal writing assignments, totaling up to no less than 2,500 words (approximately 8-10 typed pages) during the semester;
3. Incorporate research requirements that exercise information literacy competencies in at least one of the writing assignments;
4. Use the same assessment rubric for writing as is used for the CWE scoring;
5. Have a pre-requisite of EN 101;
6. Not be taken concurrently (that is, only one IW course may be taken by a student in any given semester);
7. Have enrollment limited to 25 students; and
8. Be approved by the Office for Academic Affairs.

Upon completion of a writing-intensive course, students should be able to:
  •  Use the process of writing, including pre-writing and revision strategies;
  •  Support their ideas in writing with specific details and evidence;
  •  Structure their ideas in an organized format;
  •  Edit their writing according to the rules of standard academic English;
  •  Evaluate their sources for credibility and academic appropriateness;
  •  Employ techniques for integrating information, such as paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting;
  •  Exhibit the ability to think critically;
  •  Demonstrate, through their writing, familiarity with the College's standard, evaluative writing rubric; and
  • Cite sources using an appropriate documentation style.

August 28, 2008

The Virtual Writing Center

Wanaque Academic Center
Passaic County Community College's Main Campus is located in downtown Paterson, New Jersey. We also have satellite campuses at the Wanaque Academic Center in Wanaque, the Public Safety Academy in Wayne, and the newest site, our Passaic Academic Center in Passaic.

The under-construction PCCC Writing Center will be physically located on the Paterson campus. Fortunately, all of the WI courses redesigned as part of the Title V program will have online technologies that are important to these groups of students.

The use of eTutoring, Blackboard, LibGuides and ePortfolios are some of additional components of WI courses that Title V can support monetarily by providing software, support and compensation for faculty who choose to participate in the Initiative.

Since WI courses will be offered eventually at all four locations and also online, we are considering more ways to make writing assistance available on the Net through a "virtual" teaching and learning center website.

We are also preparing a schedule to offer face-to-face support at Wanaque to WI courses.

WI courses are scheduled to begin being offered on the Passaic campus in fall 2010.

Of course, all students in these courses from any location will be able to use the Writing Center in Paterson at any time.

August 1, 2008

What's In A Name?

Is a writing-intensive course a WI or an IW course?

Is the CWE different from the old GWE?

The official registration designation, of necessity, is IW, but since the rest of the world refers to these courses as WI - for "writing intensive" - we will continue to use that designation in our resources.

In addition, the PCCC writing exam that is a graduation requirement for all students is getting a new name.

The Graduate Writing Exam (GWE) is now officially the College Writing Exam (CWE). 

What's in the exam name change? Our own surveys and statistics show that students perceive of the exam as something they need to do before graduation, and so tend to leave it until their final semesters at the college. A push will be made this year to encourage students to take the exam earlier, and the name change is part of that effort.

Students are eligible to take the College Writing Exam when they have successfully completed Composition II and at least half of their department’s credit requirements for graduation (30 - 35 credits).

It is strongly recommended that students take the CWE as soon as possible after completing these requirements. Students who leave the CWE until the end of their time at PCCC may find themselves unable to graduate due to failure on this exam.

For updated information on the exam, see our CWE LibGuide site at

July 21, 2008

Writing Resources Now Available Online

There has been a flurry of summer activity by the Initiative staff posting materials online.

We now have 22 LibGuides available including ones for you to incorporate into your own courses and LibGuides, such as eTutoring, information on WI courses, the CWE, Library Resources, Online Learning and even LibGuides itself has a PCCC support Guide.

The three fall 2008 WI courses each have a LibGuide developed in collaboration by the instructor, a librarian and the Initiative team.

The LibGuide for Writing at PCCC also has a Summer Institute tab with downloadable documents such as the rubrics discussed in the June sessions.

July 1, 2008

New Staff Added to the Initiative

As of July 1, Elizabeth Nesius and Claire Ribeiro are now officially part of the Title V Writing Initiative team.

Elizabeth comes to us from the PCCC English department and is the Coordinator of the Writing Center.

Claire is moving from her position in the ESL Lab at the college to being the Administrator of the Writing Center.

June 22, 2008

Writing Center Construction Begins

Area of the LRC closed off for construction this summer

Construction on the new PCCC Writing Center has begun. The center will be located within the Learning Resource Center (Library).

There will two spaces. The large space will be the main center where students will meet with tutors and large group sessions will be held. The Center will have tables and chairs that allow easy reconfiguration for multiple uses. The Writing Center Administrator's office will be within this space, while the Coordinator will have an office outside the center.

A smaller adjoining room will be for small groups, workshops and 1:1 sessions.

Both rooms will have desktop computers, document cameras, audio and projectors for presentations.

The Center is projected to open in September 2008.

June 15, 2008

Our First Writing Initiative Faculty Institute

Professor Mitnick responds to a question.
Our first annual Writing Initiative Faculty Institute was held June 9-12, 2008. The four-day institute was hosted by The Writing Initiative with the targeted audience of faculty and support staff who will be directly involved in developing the Writing Intensive courses that are at the center of the Initiative.

Though only three courses are scheduled to launch as Writing Intensive this fall, we invited 23 faculty members who have been involved with writing on campus and have shown an interest in developing a WI course in the future.

Through a combination of hands-on and informational sessions by the Initiative,  PCCC staff and guest speakers, we hoped to inform and prepare faculty for the curricular redesign and implementation of Writing Intensive GenEd courses.

Professor Nesius discussing eTutoring protocols.

We surveyed attendees about the sessions and here are the results that received a 25%+ response, in order:


1. LibGuides
2. Using Rubrics
3. Creating assignments
4. Using media
5. eTutoring
6. WebCT
7. Creating rubrics
8. WI requirements
9. Holistic scoring
10. ePortfolios


1. LibGuides
2. Media sources
3. ePortfolios
4. Creating assignments
5. Writing in the disciplines

The clear winner in popularity was the use of LibGuides. They are one of the technology tools we plan to use with Title V courses, but they are just one tool in that effort and like other tools, they certainly have usefulness for the larger PCCC community. They are a good example of aspects of the grant that we are able to financially support that should help the academic community at large.

June 1, 2008

Who Is Required To Take WI Courses?

Beginning with the incoming class of fall 2007, students who enroll at PCCC and intend to obtain an A.A. degree are required to take--and pass with a "C" or better--two writing-intensive courses prior to graduation.

Beginning with the incoming class of fall 2009, students who enroll at PCCC and intend to obtain an A.S. degree will be required to take--and pass with a "C" or better--two writing-intensive courses prior to graduation.

Beginning with the incoming class of fall 2009, students who enroll at PCCC and intend to obtain an A.A.S. degree will be required to take--and pass with a "C" or better--one writing-intensive course prior to graduation.

Transfer students to PCCC may have waived one of the two WI courses required for graduation.