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SWS Online - is it really so similar?

While there were several interesting readings and discussions during last week's class, I found myself most compelled by Linda's visit to talk about the work-in-progress component of the writing center, SWS online. Members of the class brought up interesting points about how this service is inherently different than a face-to-face consultation: the emotionless, anonymous text, the struggle to make an online conversation "flow," even faulty technology itself. I found myself (as usual) playing the devil's advocate, trying to figure out how the cyber version of a consultation really wasn't so different after all. There was still one piece of writing involved, the chance to look it over and talk about it, the same rules about editing, and the notion that we are to help writers with long lasting ways to improve the skill instead of being a quick fix. I thought that some of these components of a good consultation were even improved by distance: the physical distance between consultee and consultant that might put both at ease in their personal surroundings, and the distance of time between when the paper was read by the consultant and the conversation about the work. All that said, I forgot to account for the distance between typed words and those that are spoken.

I still stand by my idea that a consultant might strongly benefit from reading the students work prior to a consultation, to have some distance from the words on the page in order to see a bigger picture and target the best tools to give the individual client. However, the more I reflected on my own personal AIM conversations and emails, I began to agree that the tone of the online conversation truly must lack the potential warmth of a face-to-face meeting. Phrases, ideas, and suggestions are difficult to fit into a concise, neat-looking sentence, and I wouldn't be surprised if a friendly push to expand a thesis might come across as an insult without an accompanying expression or tone of voice - because these are the same unintentional things that have happened to me with close friends over the internet.

Ultimately, along with my feelings about Appleby and Nicholson, walk-in and appointment based consulations ( which will show up in my glorious research paper...), I think that the choice to log-in is the same as the choice to schedule an appointment or hope that someone is available at a walk in. The similarity is that these three choices appeal to three different kinds of clients, and one meets their set of criteria more closely than the other two. I think I would thoroughly enjoy the anonymity and the clear, recorded feedback that SWS online offers - but that has a lot to do with my independent personality. Others might feel completely unsatisfied without a smile and an idea of what their consultant looked like while pouring over the pages of their work. As the world gets more and more complicated, I think that each of these components of the writing center exist to make us more accesible to students who have an array of needs, and an array of delivery methods that they are operating on.

Comments

I think it was Kirsten (although, as always, it's extremely possible that I'm mistaken) who said that she kind of liked the way that, in a face-to-face session, the things she said weren't permanent. The fact that we can sit down and kind of throw out ideas that comes to mind is cool, and that means its a good thing not to have a permanent record of what we say: lots of stuff ends up not making sense, so we can just forget about it.

That's why I think the fact that we get to read the papers first online is so important. Since a record of everything we say gets saved and sent to the student, it's harder to just throw shit at the wall and see what sticks. Having a chance to read it ahead of time and focus our thinking a bit means we'll have more substantial things to say right away. Of course, then we can wander into overly perscriptive areas.

Basically, I'm one of those people who doesn't think one system or the other is necessarily better, but there is some internal logic that makes both workable in their own way.

I think both you and Sharkey are right in saying that each of the options at the center are available because we want to help all kinds of students. We may not be able to pinpoint why we prefer one system over another, but the fact is we have preferences.

One thing I've been thinking about in regards to sws.online is the way it allows students to remain faceless and silent. Because I sometimes tend toward interactions that are less interpersonal, sws.online seems like a great option to me, but I can see how it might help me retreat a bit. We place so much emphasis on talking during consultations that sometimes it seems the only way to get things done. But what about those students who are painfully shy or have trouble orally articulating ideas? Do face-to-face consultations advocate extroversion and the ability to speak well as well as write well? Is this scary for some students? Is it important to advocate such things in academia, and then, is sws.online as beneficial because it doesn't have this element? Maybe not. I'm not sure. Long comment.

i do think that face-to-face consultations tend to work best for extroverted people (or those who are good at thinking out loud, and quickly articulating their thoughts). as someone who isn't good at these things, i don't think face-to-face consultations always work for me. and it's something that was (and is) scary as a consultant-- figuring out how to quickly and specifically share your thoughts with students.

Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass' favor.

This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like 'Mixview' that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you're listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of "neighbors" will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune "Social" is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.