WMU-Cooley’s Research & Writing Department is about to unveil an updated online writing lab using Canvas technology. The online lab is an interactive site that makes writing instruction, examples, and self-assessment quizzes available to every student throughout their law-school careers.
“This is a resource for every student, for all three years,” said department chair Mark Cooney. “It’s not just for students taking writing courses.” The online lab has materials designed to help students with grammar, punctuation, organization, cohesion, legal analysis, and exam essays.
Professor Cooney is quick to dispel any notion that the online lab is remedial: “Writing encompasses so, so much. The rules of grammar and punctuation, for example, are every bit as sophisticated as the rules students study in their doctrinal courses. It all takes study and practice, so there’s no reason for students to feel sheepish about using the site. They’re training to be professional writers, after all.”
Perhaps the lab’s most notable feature is its self-assessment quizzes. “We wanted something interactive, but we wanted to give students more information than just whether they were right or wrong,” said department vice-chair Brad Charles. So Professor Charles prepared an explanation for every multiple-choice answer, whether right or wrong. “This way,” he said, “students will learn as they go.” The lab gives students access to hundreds of self-assessment quiz questions.
Professor Charles suspects that students may underestimate how interesting and enjoyable the online lab is. “I’m biased, of course, but the quizzes are fun,” he said. “And the other materials show students that we’re helping them master techniques they’ll find in the writings of everyone from Chief Justice Roberts to George Orwell.”
Professor Cooney has issued a public challenge to the entire student body, one he calls the Coffee Challenge: “If every student would sit down with their morning coffee once a week and spend 15 minutes in our online writing lab, they’d see results—and soon.”