The consensus in the field is that grammar instruction is most effective in context of actual student writing. The OWL team wanted to replicate an authentic experience as much as possible by providing grammar instruction in the context of actual passages of writing. Multimedia made this possible.
The programmer coded a “drag and drop” function into the site. This allowed the team to create passages with errors in need of editing. Instead of students answering multiple-choice questions about correctness, students actually edit a passage by dragging and dropping needed punctuation into passages with errors.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of multimedia activities featured in the Excelsior College OWL. This site engages students with videos, exercises, and interactive Prezis that provide both preview and review in learning areas.
The site even features a writing process mini video game, which gives students a chance to learn through role-playing, in this case as the editor of a newspaper. The game is designed to help students build their writing process vocabulary, which is essential in writing skill transfer, and to practice with issues of correctness, source integration, and appropriate voice through assessments.
As Mayer (2001) and other researchers have asserted, multimedia instruction with video and audio in combination with text is not only more enjoyable for students but also more effective. Learners with multimedia support learn better than learners who are working exclusively with simple text. The OWL not only brings this theory to life, but also provides a pathway for academic learners to follow.
Crystal Sands, PhD, is an Excelsior College faculty member and Online Writing Lab (OWL) Project Director.