5 Ways Online Students Can Improve Their Writing Skills

Which of the following skills is the most important for you to master as an online student?

a. Technology

b. Time management

c. Writing

While each is extremely important to succeed in an online program, my answer is c. Writing.

Writing is, arguably, the single most important skill, because your writing is the primary expression of your learning. You write to express yourself, to demonstrate learning outcomes, and to interact with peers in the online classroom.


Support for Students

At the Ashford Writing Center, professional writing consultants provide direct feedback to students in need of support. We write personalized feedback on all papers submitted, and we handle two hours of live chat each day. In addition, we answer email questions from any Ashford student. We don’t just comment on dangling participles and comma use. We focus on helping students develop and express ideas through critical thinking.

We also manage the Writing Center’s website, which is updated often. There, you can find hundreds of handouts on writing, as well as a growing media collection of tutorials. You can access these resources 24-7 and most are accessible as downloadable PDF documents.



The Real Value of Writing

With all these great resources, I’m still not content. Even with the 10,000-plus tutoring sessions we have completed in 2014, for me this is not enough.

I want students pursuing online education to internalize the essential value of writing skills for success beyond college. I want them to become what education researchers call “high help-seekers.” In other words, I want to see a stronger motivation to improve. Raising motivation isn’t easy, though many examples of how to accomplish this are out there. Some are practical, such as developing skills needed for professional development. Other forms of motivation are more humorous.

Given the business of your life as an online student, and the fact that you may not have taken an English class in many years, I recognize that it is not easy to be a self-directed learner. You can only do so much at your own pace, and at some point (or at many points) the feedback from an instructor or peer is necessary.


Five Ways to Improve Your Writing

College writing is different than casual writing. To learn how to write for college really is like learning a whole new language. It takes a lot of practice – sometimes about 4 or 5 years – to really get the hang of academic writing. All those Discussion Board posts and paper drafts are designed to give you practice towards proficiency. In the meantime, here are five ways you can improve your writing:

1. College writing probably won’t fit in the display screen of a cell phone. Your ideas need explanation, illustration, and other forms of more complex development.

2. Online courses move at a crazy-fast pace. Get into a routine of writing regularly in order to conquer any procrastination habits early on, especially if you dislike writing.

3. Get an assessment of your writing by asking instructors for specific feedback; identify strengths as well as areas for improvement.

4. Identify what resources are available to improve your skills at Ashford and beyond. For example, the Ashford Writing Center website is vast. It takes some time to explore all the features. Some useful and popular tools include:

5. Start a sample paper portfolio. Ask professors for good samples of college and professional writing. The Ashford Writing Center also provides some samples here.

And finally, don’t underestimate the energy and effort required to get the most out of your online education. What writing advice would you share?

Written by Emily Nye
Emily is Director of the Ashford Writing Center at Ashford University.

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This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.