Academic Writing Skills Programme compulsory for all new students

Published: 10 September 2018

Academic Writing Skills Programme will be compulsory for all new students from this year.

The Academic Writing Skills Programme will become compulsory for all new undergraduate and postgraduate taught students from this month.

Unique to the University of Glasgow, the AWSP is designed to let students receive feedback and guidance on their writing, importantly without it affecting any of their grades. Completion – or non-completion – will be marked in their university transcript, the document that employers ask to see when looking at graduates’ job applications.

AWSP video

The roll-out to around 8,000 students this year by the Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service marks a £180,000 investment in and commitment to students’ learning.

Dr Matthew Williamson, Director of LEADS, believes that Glasgow is leading the field in higher education in terms of the reach of this online writing diagnostic programme for all incoming UK and PGT students.

He said: “Writing at school and college is different from writing at a Russell Group prestigious university. There are all sorts of things that are going to be different from school and this is one of them. Schools offer far more feedback than universities – this programme is about helping students understand how to deal with university-level feedback and improve their writing.”

Dr Andrew Struan, AWSP Co-ordinator, said: “The AWSP is a fantastic opportunity for you to think about your writing right at the start of your time with us here at Glasgow. We’re the only university to offer anything like this, and our student feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

“Specifically, the AWSP consists of a range of writing and grammar advice materials covering topics ranging from elements of style and punctuation, through information on plagiarism and academic integrity, to wider details on structure and argumentation, a range of multiple-choice questions on grammar and a short essay, chosen by the student from a bank of questions.”

The programme was pioneered by the then Faculty of Arts 10 years ago before being switched over to LEADS in 2012 who have managed it centrally since then for incoming College of Arts students and certain groups of students in the colleges of Social Sciences, MVLS and Science and Engineering.

It is now being extended to all new students because the programme is seen to be highly beneficial in a number of ways:

  • It improves student retention and success through providing timely feedback on written work, alongside a range of materials and writing development information, that allows students the opportunity to engage with the requirements of university writing at an early stage;
  • It improves graduate attributes though encouraging effective, clear communication and promotion of student ability to “defend their ideas in dialogue with peers and challenge disciplinary assumptions” (UofG Graduate Attributes Matrix);
  • Enhances institutional reputation through innovative use of blended and online resourcing and teaching to deliver specific and tailored writing development for all students.

Students submit answers to the multiple-choice questions and their essay via Moodle. The essay is then assessed by a team of 36 Graduate Teaching Assistants in LEADS; students are given feedback that specifically targets any issues or areas of development in their writing. In this way, the feedback given to students is targeted and specific to their writing needs, and the feedback provides the opportunity for further development of writing.

Students are then offered a variety of progression options. Some students will be advised to attend the open classes run by LEADS on an optional basis; certain students will be advised to complete an online writing course, hosted via Moodle, that provides further information on grammar and effective writing; others will be invited to attend in-person classes to work on improving the grammar and coherence of their writing.

A number of iterations of the AWSP will run throughout the academic year. Students are divided into groups based on College/subject area; each College/subject area’s student cohort completes the AWSP at a pre-determined slot throughout the academic year. The AWSP runs once in Semester 1, again in Semester 2, and once in May.

Students will be given one hour and 10 minutes to complete the online diagnostic element of the AWSP. The classes run at a variety of times after the completion of the essay submissions, and students are able to pick a class time that best suits their timetable.

Staff and students will be informed well in advance of the submission deadlines for their College/subject area.

For further information, contact Dr Andrew Struan, AWSP Co-ordinator, LEADS

First published: 10 September 2018