A Brief Introduction to WriteAway
WriteAway opened its virtual doors in 2012. WriteAway lets participating institutions pool their tutoring resources so that their students can get online access to quick, convenient help with writing assignments. Qualified tutors from each of the participating sites staff the service and may provide feedback to students from any of the participating institutions. Capable and qualified tutors are what make WriteAway a success! All WriteAway tutors are expected to meet WriteAway Tutor Competencies.
The WriteAway service is developed in cooperation with:
- Participating institutions
- The BC Electronic Library Network (BC ELN)
- Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC), University of British Columbia.
WriteAway Service Guidelines are available on the What is WriteAway? page.
Institutions that participate in WriteAway contribute a minimum number of tutoring hours each term and a modest service support fee. Learn more about the benefits and responsibilities of participating in WriteAway.
Each institution has an institutional coordinator. Your institutional coordinator is your supervisor. If you need assistance with your WriteAway work or if you have scheduling issues, please speak to your institutional coordinator. (See also Shift Changes in this procedures manual). It is good practice to keep your institutional coordinator in the loop at all times regarding your WriteAway experience.
WriteAway Administrative Centre
The WriteAway Administrative Centre – aka “the Admin Centre” – is hosted by BC ELN and is housed at the Simon Fraser University Burnaby campus. The Admin Centre provides coordination of the WriteAway service. Broadly speaking, the Administrative Centre:
- Facilitates communication (e.g. between partner institutions, WriteAway groups)
- Helps with creating and managing the collaborative schedule
- Provides platform and service training
- Supports institutional coordinators and tutors
- Supports governance committees
BCcampus provides funding for WriteAway as part of its goal to promote Shared Services and Collaborative Programs in the province. BCcampus also hosts the platform used for WriteAway, and provides technical support for the WriteAway service through the BCcampus helpdesk.
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium
The Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) developed the eTutoring platform, which was chosen for WriteAway. WriteAway is the first Canadian collaborative to join the eTutoring “family”, which already encompasses three US consortia: Northeast eTutoring Consortium, Northwest eTutoring Consortium, and the Ohio eTutoring Collaborative.
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, UBC
Asynchronous Tutoring: How it Works
The WriteAway service is offered through a platform called eTutoring, which is supported and hosted in BC by BCcampus.
First, a student at a participating institution must create an account to use the platform, then:
Student Submissions - Types of Writing Accepted by WriteAway
WriteAway is intended to assist undergraduate-level students with course-related assignments. Graduate level students are to be referred back to their home institutions (see Scripts).
WriteAway Tutors DO NOT assist with:
- Graduate-level writing or graduate school applications
- Take Home Exams
- Group-Written Assignments (unless the student is submitting his/her indivdually-written section)
- Cover letters or resumes (unless written for a course assignment)
If a student is asking for help that is outside the scope of WriteAway, point him or her to the Learning Support Services pages within the Resource section. These pages are designed to point students to other areas of student assistance like Career Services or research assistance through the library, without the tutor needing to know the student’s specific institution. There is a script available for "Referring Students to Additional Learning Support Services" (See Scripts).
There are many scripts to use if a student submits a type of writing that is not accepted by WriteAway. If you are unsure if a submission is acceptable for WriteAway feedback, please contact your institutional coordinator or the WriteAway Administrative Centre
Tutor Usage Reports
Tutors can view a summary of the work they have completed during a given date range. To view your usage summary, once you’ve logged in, click on “View Tutor Usage Reports” on the eTutoring home page.
Student Submits to WriteAway and to Institutional Online Tutoring Service Simultaneously
This section is applicable to tutors that work both for their own institution’s online tutoring support service and WriteAway. If you are working both services, you may on occasion notice that a student has simultaneously submitted the same paper for feedback to both WriteAway and your institutional online tutoring service.
It is important that the two services be treated as completely separate. This includes maintaining student privacy by not mentioning to the student that their paper was already viewed in the other service. Each paper should be treated as “new”.
What should you do if this happens?
If a WriteAway tutor working at an institutional online tutoring service sees a paper they recognize as having responded to in WriteAway, ideally they would leave the submission for a different tutor to respond to. If the WriteAway tutor has to respond to a submission they recognized from WriteAway, they should not mention that they have responded to the same paper in WriteAway; they should treat every paper as a new submission.
If a tutor working on WriteAway sees a paper responded to already via their own institutional service, it’s acceptable for that tutor to skip the paper in the WriteAway queue and let a different tutor pick it up.
Beginning Your Shift
Log in to your eTutoring platform tutor account
First, check the New Student eQuestions queue. Please read the “eQuestion Procedures” section below for information about when to answer eQuestions during your shift.
Next, check the Student eWriting Lab for papers. Select submissions in queue from oldest to newest (oldest submissions should be at the top of the list). Select only one paper at a time. You will not be able to return a paper to the queue once you have selected it.
The eTutoring platform tracks when tutors log in and out for each shift. On occasion, tutors have reported being “kicked out” of the platform during the shift, and having some difficulty logging back in. If this happens to you, finish working on the paper you have picked up and then log in at a later time to upload your response. Make sure you are logged into the platform when uploading your response, or the student will not receive it.
There is no exact time limit before the system times out; it likely depends on the computer being used and the Internet connection.
From the WriteAway Administrative Centre’s perspective, it’s not essential that you remain logged in for your shift, just that you’re able to access the platform/queue when you are working (even if you have to re-log in to do so). If you have consistent access issues, please let BCcampus know.
- Go to: http://www.ctdlc.org/Support/browsercheck.cfm and run the bandwidth speed test (there’s a button at the bottom).
Shift Changes/Missed Shifts
Tutors work day-set shifts. This means that you commit to the day you will work (e.g. Friday October 2nd) and the number of hours (e.g. 3 hours) but you can work those hours at any time on the scheduled day. So you could work your three hours thusly: 9-12 or 1-4 or 1-2 AND 5-7… you get the idea…
At all times bear in mind that the schedule has been created so that staffing is consistent, resulting in reliable turnaround times. For this reason, it is preferable that tutors keep to their committed shifts as closely as possible.
If you know you will need to miss one of your shifts…
a) Try to find an internal replacement: Let your institutional coordinator know and see if another tutor at your institution can either work your shift for you or swap a shift with you. If an internal replacement is found, notify the WriteAway Administrative Centre.
If that doesn’t work…
b) Try to swap your shift with another WriteAway tutor: Send an email message to the WriteAway tutor listserv (send email to: email@example.com) asking if another tutor swap shifts with you. There must be an even trade of shifts so that institutions work a consistent number of hours over the term.
When you send your message to the listserv, include the following details:
- What day the shift you have to miss is scheduled for and how many hours
- When you would be available to make up the shift (e.g. if you can’t work weekends let tutors know this)
If you are able to arrange a shift swap, please notify the WriteAway Administrative Centre (cc your institutional coordinator) so that the eTutoring schedule can be updated.
If that doesn’t work…
c) Contact the WriteAway Administrative Centre (cc your institutional coordinator) to plan an alternate date and time to make up your missed shift.
WriteAway depends on tutors working their committed shifts.
Your institution has committed a certain number of hours and days to provide coverage for WriteAway. If you cannot make a shift, it is important that you either find a replacement beforehand or make up the shift as soon as possible.
Please keep your supervisor (your institutional coordinator) and the Admin Centre in the loop about all changes. We appreciate it!
Missing a Shift Due to Emergency
If you have to miss a shift for an emergency reason, please notify your institutional coordinator and copy the WriteAway Administrative Centre. If no internal coverage can be found, the WriteAway Administrative Centre will work with you at a later time to plan an alternate date and time to make up your missed shift.
Following Up After a Missed Shift
If you miss a shift without informing the WriteAway Administrative Centre, the WriteAway Administrative Centre will email you, copying your institutional coordinator, to notify you of the missed shift. The missed time will be rescheduled in consultation with your institutional coordinator.
No Papers/eQuestions in the Queue
If there are no papers/eQuestions in the queue, you are encouraged to explore the eTutoring platform and continue to develop your customized template. There are resources available to read in the Resources section. It would also be helpful to become familiar with the resources available via the Institutional Learning Support Services Pages. Your institutional coordinator might also have tasks for you to complete when there are no papers in the queue.
When to Answer an eQuestion During a Shift
eQuestions are specific grammar or writing questions that should take between 5-15 minutes for tutors to answer. You should check the New Student eQuestions queue at the beginning of your shift and periodically throughout.
While it is important to respond to eQuestions as soon as possible (turnaround time is advertised as 24-48 hours), tutors should use their own judgement as to when they will respond to an eQuestion during their shifts. For example, If you notice that a paper has been waiting in the queue for 24 hours and an eQuestion has only be waiting for 2 hours, respond to the paper first. You might also want to wait to answer an eQuestion until the end of your shift. This would work in situations where you have finished responding to a paper and have about ten minutes before your shift ends - it makes sense to respond to an eQuestion at that time, rather than pick up a new paper that you won’t likely be able to finish.
Unable to Answer an eQuestion
When you select an eQuestion, it “belongs” to you and you will not be able to return it to the queue for another tutor to answer. Please do not leave eQuestions in your queue without answering them before the end of your shift.
If you have accidentally picked up an eQuestion that you cannot answer for some reason, please email the WriteAway Administrative Centre, explaining why you are not able to respond (cc your institutional coordinator on the message).
eWriting Lab Submissions
Picking up a Submission from the Queue
Select the oldest submission in the Student eWriting Lab queue by clicking on the title. Read the submission form. If previous drafts have been submitted to eTutoring, you will see the other tutors’ responses under the submission form. Clicking on the student’s name will also show their previous submissions.
Download the student’s document to your computer (see also “Managing Documents” for information about naming conventions and deleting student papers).
Remember that when you pick up a paper from the queue, it “belongs” to you until you’ve responded to it.
Please do not leave papers in your own queue without answering them before the end of your shift.
If you find you can’t reply to a paper, send a message to the Admin Centre (cc your IC) explaining why and asking for it to be moved back to the queue.
The WriteAway Administrative Centre will either:
a) Return the paper to the queue for another tutor to pick up, or
b) Refer the student to their institution’s writing centre and notify the student’s institutional coordinator (if the paper would be better served by assistance from someone at that institution).
Responding to Submissions
When responding to the paper, follow the procedures as outlined in the WriteAway Tutor Response Template. There are also more documents in this Resources section of this website that can assist with your response (e.g. Responding to Long Submissions).
If you need assistance, you can chat with another tutor on Campfire, contact your institutional coordinator, or contact the Master Tutor. Please remember: do not mention any identifying information (e.g. student name) when discussing student work in Campfire.
When you have completed your response, upload your copy of the paper with your response included and a short greeting (See Scripts). The eTutoring platform will send an email notification to the student indicating that their paper is ready to be picked up.
A duplicate submission occurs when a student submits the same paper twice. Sometimes a student will submit the same paper within minutes, at other times the student might submit the same paper after a few days if they haven’t received feedback – this occurs on occasion when the turnaround time is long.
It is always helpful to be on the lookout for duplicate submissions, especially when the queue is long. If you see two papers in the queue with the same title and by the same student, they are likely duplicate papers. Please select both papers and open both documents to verify they are indeed the same. Picking up both papers ensures that two separate tutors do not respond to the same paper.
If they are duplicates: provide your feedback in the earliest submission of the two papers and upload your version of the paper with feedback; in the comments section of your response let the student know that two duplicate papers were received and that the version attached contains the feedback (see Scripts: Duplicate Papers). Next respond to the second submission but without uploading anything, and again indicate in the comments section that this paper is a duplicate submission and your comments have been provided in the first paper (See Scripts: Duplicate Papers). Responding to both papers in this way clears them from the queue and displays them as being completed in tutor archives.
If the two papers you have picked up are NOT duplicate papers, and you are able to respond to both, do so. If you do not have time to respond to both, please notify the WriteAway Administrative Centre via email immediately; the coordinator will return the second paper to the queue.
Responding to a Second or Third Submission
When you pick up a paper from the queue, you’ll generally know if it is a second or third draft by the submission form. This form will show you the record of draft submissions, including the previous tutor’s comments and response document(s). However, it is possible for a student to submit a second or third draft as a new submission. You can check any student’s record of previous submissions by clicking on his/her name in the submission form.
Start by scanning the previous tutor’s response to ensure that the student has acted on his/her advice. If the student has not utilized the advice, respond with the script “New Draft Submitted Without Making Changes Suggested by Previous Tutor.”
As with first drafts, prioritize Higher Order Concerns (HOCs) over Lower Order Concerns (LOCs), as appropriate to the writing submission. It might be that most HOCs were addressed in previous drafts; in this case present your feedback on LOCs. In addition, follow the Tutor Response Template by directly addressing what help the student has requested. Repeat back the request (e.g., “You have asked for help with grammar”) and let the student know a) that you will be addressing the issue below, or b) that you will not be addressing the issue in this review because other issues are more pressing, or c) that you will not be addresing the issue because it isn't a specific concern that you've noticed.
You may notice that a student has made little progress even after incorporating the previous tutor’s feedback. In this or other cases where you think the student would benefit from more hands-on assistance - in addition to providing your own feedback - advise the students to seek out their in-house writing centre for additional support. If a student submits a second and then a third submission with additional changes and you pick up both versions, provide a response to the most recent submission.
Submissions longer than 8 pages are considered long submissions. Students are notified when they click on a link that they should expect to submit up to three drafts of a long submission, since tutors will only respond to one element at a time – see screenshot:
There is also a guide to help tutors with Long Submissions called "Responding to Long Submissions"
Responding Past an Assignment Due Date
WriteAway tutors should give feedback even if it appears that the student’s assignment due date has passed. It could be that the assignment due date has been extended. In addition, feedback is intended to help students grow as writers; the advice tutors give can be applied to future assignments. There is a script available to use if you think the assignment is past its due date.
More than Three Submissions
If you find that the student has already submitted three drafts of a paper, please respond to the student and let them know that they've already received the maximum amount of help for that paper (See Scripts).
Occasionally a student paper cannot be opened when symbols (e.g. *%#) are used in the title of the paper. Ask the student to rename his/her document and resubmit the paper by uploading it to WriteAway again (See Scripts). *See also “Student Unable to Open a Tutor’s Response” in the Technical section of this Procedures Manual.
It is helpful to use a consistent naming convention when saving student papers. The WriteAway Administrative Centre suggests saving the paper with the original title and your initials added the end (e.g. EffectsOfSmokingJR.doc). Avoid using symbols (e.g. *%#) in the title.
Student Privacy and Safety
As per the WriteAway Service Guidelines: Tutors will not share personal information about any student, including their use or non-use of the WriteAway service, without express permission from the student.
Tutors have an obligation to protect personal information to which they have access through the WriteAway platform, as per applicable policy at their university, college or institute and the BC eTutoring Privacy and Confidentiality Agreement.
Please note that according to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if “there are compelling circumstances affecting anyone's health or safety”, disclosing personal information is acceptable.
If you feel a student or others are at risk, follow your institution’s policy regarding students/others at risk, and notify your institutional coordinator immediately.
Note that the WriteAway Administrative Centre does not have the capacity to advise in these situations; you should follow your institution’s policy regarding students/others at risk.
If, in an urgent situation, the police or other emergency personnel require further information about a student than you have at hand, please give them the following numbers: Megan Robertson 778.782.9404 (work), cell (604.910.3696) and Anita Cocchia, cell (778.839.3496).
Follow up by reporting the incident to the WriteAway Administrative Centre staff.
Deleting Student Papers
As an employee or volunteer of an institution participating in a British Columbia (BC) eTutoring service, you have an obligation to protect personal information to which you have access through the BC eTutoring platform, including but not limited to personal and identifying student information contained in paper submissions (e.g. student name, student number etc.).
While staffing WriteAway, it is customary for tutors to save a copy of the student’s submitted paper to the computer they are working on. For guidance around appropriate handling and deletion of these papers, please refer to the applicable policy at your university, college, institute or department and with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Tutors who feel that students need extra assistance should refer them to the Learning Support Services Pages, which are available to students in the Resources section of the eTutoring platform (See Scripts).
If a student provides negative feedback about their WriteAway experience (e.g. through an eQuestion form or as a response submitted through the eWriting Lab to a tutor’s work), please forward the complaint immediately to the WriteAway Administrative Centre.
Inappropriate Student Behaviour
Please refer all incidents of inappropriate behaviour or concerns about a user’s behaviour to the WriteAway Administrative Centre immediately, and cc your institutional coordinator on your message.
Scripts are 'canned' messages which tutors can choose to send to students to respond to common situations. The scripts are there to save you time, so if you find one that applies to your situation you can copy and paste it. That being said, some tutors prefer to adapt the scripts to match their own personal tone. You are welcome to use whichever approach works for you.
A list of scripts is available for WriteAway tutors.
There is also a very large collection of tutoring examples and writing links that have been shared via the WriteAway wiki, called "Examples for WriteAway" (parts 1-3). You are invited to read and/or edit these if you do not have other tasks to perform during your WriteAway shift.
BCcampus provides technical assistance for the eTutoring platform. You can reach BCcampus technical help within the platform by clicking on “Support” in the top right hand corner of the screen. If you are having difficulties with accessing the eTutoring platform, you can visit BCcampus' Technical Help Page. You can also contact BCcampus directly through their Ask a Question page (choose “WriteAway” in the drop down menu for the Category). In your message, indicate that you are a WriteAway tutor and which institution you work for.
Students can access the general technical support site by clicking on the "help" link in the top right corner of the page, next to the "logout" button and under his/her own name.
Please send an email message to your institutional coordinator and the WriteAway Administrative Centre if your Internet is down and you are unable to log in for your shift.
eTutoring uses anti-virus software to check documents as they are uploaded to the system. Tutors are recommended to also have modern, up-to-date virus protection software on their computers.