"A little muddled and in need of greater clarity": encouraging formative use of the Academic Writing Toolkit

Irene O'Dowd

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The Academic Writing Toolkit is an online resource developed for Hibernia College's blended-learning programmes in initial teacher education, to provide distance-learning students with accessible and timely guidance on improving their academic writing. Available to students and faculty via the Moodle LMS and designed for asynchronous delivery, the Toolkit provides guidance on technical writing skills such as referencing, grammar, formatting and style, as well as on specialised areas as reflective writing, assessment writing and dissertation writing. The design was informed by a chunked or bite-size ethos to encourage continuous, formative and self-motivated use throughout the academic programmes. However, an examination of user engagement patterns in the first year suggested that, contrary to expectations, there was little evidence of students returning to the Toolkit for help on key topics at crucial points in their programmes. This paper will outline how elements of the Toolkit were updated in response to findings from previous research (presented at OOFHEC2018). Findings from a study of engagement with the updated version of the Toolkit (n=334) will be presented, including comparisons of findings from learning analytics data collected from activity logs for pre- and post-redesign iterations. The results of this analysis, combined with survey feedback on students' use experience (n=41), will inform an evaluation of the impact of specific design and dissemination enhancements on Toolkit engagement. In particular, the impact of increased awareness of the Toolkit's potential among College faculty will be discussed. These findings will give practical insights into the roles of instructional design and faculty awareness in creating digital learning tools that meet the unique engagement and support needs of distance learners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlended and online education within European university networks - Overview of papers on Higher Education for the Future as presented during the Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference in Madrid, October 2019
EditorsGeorge Ubachs, Fenna Joosten-Adriaanse
Place of PublicationMaastricht, The Netherlands
PublisherEuropean Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU)
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789079730414
ISBN (Print)9789079730414
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019
EventOOFHEC2019: The Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference - UNED, Madrid, Spain
Duration: 16 Oct 201918 Oct 2019


ConferenceOOFHEC2019: The Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference
Abbreviated titleOOFHEC2019
Internet address


  • academic writing
  • online
  • toolkit
  • initial teacher education
  • blended learning
  • distance learning
  • support
  • learning analytics
  • engagement
  • faculty


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