OWL Fact Sheet
This document provides a brief summary of the Purdue University Online Writing Lab's history and recent statistics of OWL use.
Launching the World's First Online Writing Lab in 1994
In an attempt to bring the Purdue Writing Lab to students no matter where they were, Dr. Muriel Harris (former director and founder of the Purdue Writing Lab) and David Taylor (former graduate student in Educational Computing) started the world's first Online Writing Lab (OWL) in 1994. Dave redesigned the e-mail server and developed the gopher and Web sites. Their goal was to provide a resource for students who sought writing help but couldn't make it into the physical Writing Lab during operating hours. Since that time, our OWL has become a complement to classroom instruction, a supplement to face-to-face tutorials, and a stand-alone reference for thousands of writers worldwide.
A number of Purdue students have facilitated and effected the arduous process of getting instructional materials online. Particularly valuable were the contributions of Michael Manley, who initially developed OWL as an e-mail server; and Michelle Sidler, Norman Vierstahler, Clinton Wong and Trish Jenkins, each of whom were instrumental in the development of the OWL during its formative stages. Special thanks goes to David Elderbrock, Humanities Coordinator for the Instructional Technology Program at UC Berkeley who helped us with a survey to identify the needs of our users.
Past OWL Coordinators and Webmasters include Stuart Blythe, Teddi Fishman, Jon Bush, Liz Thelen, Matt Mooney, Dave Neyhart, Geoff Stacks, Brian Yothers, Erin Karper, Christopher Berry, Karl Stolley, Dana Lynn Driscoll, Allen Brizee, and Jeffrey Bacha. Currently, the OWL staff consists of Caitlan Spronk, OWL Webmaster, Elizabeth Angeli, OWL Coordinator, and various consultants and staff.
The OWL has grown into a popular web site that received over 128 million hits from over 125 countries in 2008-2009. The number of hits grew to 161 in 2009-2010 and continued to grow to over 184 million hits in 2010-2011. OWL Mail Tutors answered over 3,000 writing-related queries via e-mail. In March 2010, the OWL launched the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel to uphold the OWL's mission of offering global writing support.
Revisions and the OWL Family of Sites
In 2004, OWL staff began the enormous task of redesigning and revising the entire OWL site. Karl Stolley, OWL Webmaster for 2004-2007, developed a database-driven content management system, along with a new site design, to house the more than 200 handouts and PowerPoint presentations available on the "old OWL." Content developers began updating the handouts and PowerPoints and generating new discipline-specific writing materials. The result was a new OWL Family of Sites.
The revisions to the OWL and the migration of materials to the new site is ongoing. During the spring 2006 semester, OWL and Writing Lab staff, with the assistance of Purdue's English 515 class, conducted IRB-approved on-site usability testing. Participant-users completed a variety of tasks designed to test the navigation and effectiveness of the new site design. Further usability testing conducted in Summer 2006 and Remote Testing by the Purdue OWL Usability Team have furthered our understanding of our users and their needs. This information will guide additional revisions which will take place during the 2007-2009 academic years. For more details about OWL revisions, please visit this page.
Questions or feedback about the Purdue OWL should be directed to the OWL Coordinator.