Starting a Writing Center is always a wonderful idea, but, especially in a
pedagogically conservative environment, I'd guard against starting a
Computerized Grammar Testing Service or an Editing Service. ONce the ball
gets rolling down the hill in those directions, it is difficult to reverse.

Consequently, you might want to send the Department members a copy of
Stephen North's classic "The Idea of a Writing Center" readily available in
Landmark Essays on Writing Centers (1995) or from the 1984 College English.

As well, taking a tip from the new emphasis in medical
practice--evidence-based medicine--what solid evidence do we have that doing
this unusual thing to students--making them sit in front of a machine and
learn terms and manoevres to analyze language--will make them better
writers? Or maybe we should ask whether it will make them better writers
than if they had spent their time doing something else such as talking with
a trained tutor about rhetorical concerns in their writing.

Jim Bell
Coordinator, Learning Skills Centre
University of Northern BC
3333 University Way
Prince George, BC  V2N 4Z9
Phone: 250-960-6365
Fax: 250-960-6330

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Rochelle Butler
> Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2000 6:59 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Writing Software
> Good Morning!
> We are looking into providing a writing center as an extension of Learning
> Center services at our college.  Any advice or things I should watch out
> for?
> I met with the English Department faculty yesterday and they are very
> excited about the possibility of a writing center.  They asked if it were
> possible to have some grammar practice software in place in the writing
> center.  They envision sending students to the writing center for extra
> grammar practice and drill.  The software would be able to give students
> some exercises and then explain to the student why the answer they picked
> was wrong or right.  The software would then grade the work and I would be
> able to send the results to the professors.  (As you can see, our
> college is
> very conservative in its writing curriculum.  I see the writing
> center as a
> place where students can get help actually writing their papers also
> (smile!))
> Anyway, are any of you aware of a good grammar software program
> to meet our
> needs?  I did check the listserve archives and did not find anything yet.
> Thanks in advance for your help!
> Rochelle