Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, known as OWL, received more than 184 million hits from users representing 125 countries last year. The site, available at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/, continues to expand.
"Teachers, students and their parents are regular OWL users, but the list of people and professionals who use this resource is diverse," says Linda Bergmann, Writing Lab director and professor of English. "They include job seekers who need resumé advice, business professionals, medical librarians, scientists and members of the armed services to name just a few."
OWL offers more than 400 Web-based modules and features that address email etiquette, business writing, grammar and punctuation. The most popular topics are the style guides for APA and MLA styles, which are commonly used for formatting high school and college papers. The site also includes resources on avoiding plagiarism and writing process materials. Teachers and instructors can access PowerPoint presentations about many of these writing and grammar topics to use in classrooms. The recently added Engagement section includes materials specifically developed for adult learners, including preparation for the GED.
"OWL is expanding through YouTube with its own channel and developing a new partnership with Open Study, a social networking study space," says Tammy Conard-Salvo, associate director of the Purdue Writing Lab and OWL. "Our audience is using more multimedia, so we will continue to develop new 'vidcasts' on the OWL YouTube Channel throughout the year."
These short-clips, which focus on topics such as punctuation and business writing, are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/OWLPurdue. Users with specific questions can receive more immediate help by using the new Open Study feature available at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/contact/owlmailtutors
Writing lab tutors will participate in Open Study to answer questions online, and other Open Study group users can discuss the questions and provide answers. Users can still email questions to a Writing Lab tutor for a reply using the existing OWL mail service. Last year, OWL staff fielded more than 3,800 emails and 556 phone questions about grammar and writing.
OWL also received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year to create a new interactive writing tool for high school students. Bergmann is leading that team, which will focus on the creation of social media, videogaming and other online interactive activities to help improve high school students' writing.