This document provides a brief summary of the award-winning Purdue University Writing Lab's history, recent statistics of the Lab use, and evaluations of the learning that takes place in the Lab.
A Journey from a One-room Operation
The Purdue University Writing Lab was founded in 1976 by Dr. Muriel Harris as a resource for Purdue writers. Operation started off in one room with three tutors, who welcomed writers of any skill level to a one-to-one tutorial. This tradition still lives on in a three-room complex with 26 tutors and 13 support staffs. During a half-hour tutorial, students can discuss any aspect of their writing with a trained and caring tutor who will provide instructive feedback. Tutors work with students at all levels -- from freshmen to graduate students -- on papers in all disciplines as well as on job search documents such as resumes and cover letter.
Launching the World's First Online Writing Lab
In an attempt to bring the Writing Lab to students no matter where they were, Dr. Harris and David Taylor started the world's first Online Writing Lab (OWL) as an email server/GOPHER FTP service in 1993. In 1994, Stuart Blythe brought the OWL to the World Wide Web. The OWL has grown into a popular web site that received over 31 million hits from over 125 countries in 2005-2006. Between 2006 and 2007, the OWL received 84 million visits, and the OWL registered 114 million visits between 2007 and 2008. The OWL continues to grow; the OWL served over 414 million pages from 2010-2013. In March 2012, the OWL further extended its reach to meet diverse user needs by launching the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.
Attentive Services for Growing and Diversifying Needs
The Writing Lab has over 200 instructional handouts on writing skills and issues available both in print and on the OWL. Students and faculty can also use its reference library of books, journals, and reference materials. Additional services have been added over the years as well. In-lab and in-class workshops on writing skills, specific resources for English as a Second Language (ESL) students, the Grammar Hotline (since discontinued), and computer writing facility have been developed to meet the growing and diversifying needs of writers. The Writing Lab receives many visitors from other universities as far away as South Africa and Japan, who view it as a benchmark for both writing lab and online writing lab excellence.
Becoming an Award-winning Writing Program
With the retirement of Dr. Harris in May 2003, the Writing Lab is now directed by Dr. Linda Bergmann, with Tammy Conard-Salvo serving as assistant director. Under their direction, we are striving to answer the need of the time, while keeping the tradition of our commitment to providing one-to-one feedback on student writing. In 2004, it was recognized that we are on the right track. The Purdue University Writing Lab was one of eleven winners of the Conference on College Composition and Communication's (CCCC's) Writing Program Certificate of Excellence for Fall 2004. Conducting a major revision of its Web Site pages both in design and content in 2005, the Purdue Writing Lab continued to fulfill its engagement in serving writers' needs today.
Writing Lab Use Statistics for 2011-2012
During the 2011-2012 academic year, there were 5,027 uses of the Writing Lab by 2,326 Purdue University students and instructors, who came to the lab for one-on-one tutorials, ESL conversation groups, self-study resources, computer use, in-lab workshops, writing groups, and handouts. The OWL Mail Tutors responded to 2,059 writing-related questions via email.
Writing Lab tutors worked with 5,269 undergraduate and 1,104 graduate students. Students visited the Writing Lab from all schools at Purdue University, with the most students coming from the schools of Agriculture, Consumer and Family Sciences, Education, and Engineering.
Writing Lab use continues to grow, with each semester bringing more students to the Lab. Even during the traditionally slower summer, students visit for tutorials and conversation groups.
Positive Student Feedback for 2011-2012
Evaluations collected from students are consistently very high. According to the anonymous feedback forms that students fill out at the end of every tutorial, workshop, and ESL conversation group. Of the students who attend tutorials and ESL conversation groups, 97% of students rated the quality of instruction as "helpful" and 97% said they were "likely" that their learning would apply to future situations. Student comments on the feedback forms mention the tutors' qualifications and competence, discuss how the Writing Lab has helped them to gain knowledge and confidence as writers, and show appreciation to the student-centered approach.