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Toward a tri-level model and comprehensive theory for online writing laboratory (OWL) research design

, Northern Illinois University, United States

Northern Illinois University . Awarded


Critics have often accused distance learning of lacking coherent theory. Although distance education has drawn from fields such as instructional technology and psychology, few distinctive theories have emerged from such research. One major area that has garnered attention is interactivity in online course design. How can online learning be designed to foster as much interactive learning as possible for the instructor and student? Examining the learning situation more abstractly could aid designers in creating more interactive online environments. One area that represents the need for theory development is Online Writing Lab (OWL) pedagogy.

Establishing the theoretical basis of the OWL is crucial in order to make improvements on the microlevel. As of 2006, OWL research relied less on consistent, multidisciplinary theory and more on composition theory and pedagogy only. In addition, then-current research did not address interactivity among students and tutors. Finally, only basic procedural models existed for OWL design, not learning theories from which to construct research.

This study proposes a comprehensive theory and tri-level model for OWLs, drawing primarily from learning-to-learn and e-learning theories. In order to fully deconstruct OWLs and allow for various perspectives, poststructuralism and Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift theory serve as the conceptual frameworks for the study. Because reconceptualizing OWLs at the theoretical level requires a paradigm shift, Robert Heinich's theoretical dissertation on systems theory and instructional technology, Technology and the Management of Instruction, serves as the model for the study.

After exploring how the various fields relate to OWLs, this study demonstrates how these theories relate to present OWL scholarship. Current OWL research and design is analyzed according to the tenets of learning-to-learn and e-learning. The proposed theory and model are tested with focus/Delphi groups consisting of OWL administrators for validation and revision. Finally, the researcher discusses how this proposed theory and model can aid in constructing OWLs as interactive learning spaces. General guidelines for designing a fully interactive OWL are established.


O'Toole, K. Toward a tri-level model and comprehensive theory for online writing laboratory (OWL) research design. Ph.D. thesis, Northern Illinois University. Retrieved April 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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