The Core Composition Sequence at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Online Writing Instruction




The materials in this section were created to help support faculty as they make a sudden shift to teaching English 12 or 24 online during the pandemic. Nested under this page, is a separate password-protected page (Resources for KCC teachers) for personal teaching materials faculty have offered to share with colleagues.

If you’ve never used Blackboard before, you might find it beneficial to visit KCeL, and/or to review some of their materials on accessing Blackboard for the first time. In addition, BMCC has put together this useful Google site on setting up a course in Blackboard for faculty who are new to the system.

Resources from other CUNY campuses that may be of use at this time

BMCC put together a useful page of resources on maintaining course continuity during a possible disruption. And also this page on strategies faculty can use to conduct their courses online.

The Grad Center has put up this page on maintaining continuity.

A new page from KCC’s own KCeL on Blackboard and course design.

Please check back for new additions to this section. We will update them regularly.


Resources to support key pedagogical moves in online Composition courses

During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Course Review Committee (CRC) of the Composition Program worked to develop recommendations regarding the possible expansion of online Eng 12 and 24 courses. In June 2019, the CRC voted in support of these recommendations, which include the suggestion that faculty teaching online courses:

Create learning environments that mirror the de-centered classroom typical of face-to-face composition courses. This might include key strategies such as: peer review, small group interactions, student-centered lessons, collaborative annotation of texts, collaborative writing, and collaborative assessment. (8)

In support of this recommendation that online sections strive to replicate, through different means, the interactive and collaborative structures that are the hallmark of a social constructivist approach to teaching composition, we offer useful links and other resources below organized by pedagogical moves teachers will want to make in their online courses.

Assigning and collecting student writing (both formal and informal)

Blackboard facilitates a number of different ways to collect work from students. For informal work, faculty often find the “Discussion board” or the “Blog” tool most useful. Both tools allow grading, if you wish to grade this category of student work.
For papers or more formal assignments, you can create assignments in Blackboard that will allow your students to upload files of their completed work (in docx, pdf, rtf, and other common formats; they can even submit directly from their Google Drive). You can create a regular Blackboard assignment, or you can create a Turnitin assignment. Here’s a pdf with instructions on how to create a Turnitin assignment on Bb.

Providing feedback on student writing

Depending on the tool you used to assign a paper to students, you will use a slightly different process to provide feedback on their drafts of the paper. Turnitin assignments provide the easiest way for instructors to provide written and audio feedback on students’ papers, and Turnitin also makes organizing drafts and revisions relatively easy.
If you’ve structured your assignment as a regular Blackboard assignment (not Turnitin), please consult these instructions for how to provide feedback on this type of student work.

Conducting peer review of student writing

If you’ve created a paper/draft assignment using Turnitin, then you can create a “PeerMark” assignment within Turnitin, which will assign students the task of reviewing a number (set by you) of other students’ papers in your course. There are a number of settings within the PeerMark assignment setup that allow you to control various features of the peer review, such as: particular questions you’d like all reviewers to answer, special instructions to follow during the review, or even a minimum word count for reviewers’ comments. If you wish, you can even assign points or credit to reviewers for having completed their assigned reviews.
[More coming soon on conducting peer reviews on regular Blackboard assignments]

Discussing/annotating a reading

Many faculty find it helpful to use the Blackboard “Discussion board” tool to facilitate online discussions of an assigned reading. Faculty can create forums with particular questions or prompts on the reading that they’d like students to respond to, and/or students can be asked to reply to other students’ discussion board postings. Both are possible within this tool.
Often, faculty wish to have students annotate texts–individually or collaboratively–as part of their coursework. While there is currently no tool within Blackboard that facilitates annotation, annotation can be assigned using a variety of tools outside the Blackboard LMS. Many faculty set up Google docs for collaborative student annotation and then embed those links within their Blackboard site. Others have students download PDF files from Blackboard, mark those PDFs up within Adobe Acrobat, and then submit their saved, marked-up versions to an assignment the faculty member has created on Blackboard. Other still use platforms such as Perusall or PowerNotes to allow their students to annotate content across the internet. All of these are quite fun to explore!

Conferencing/meeting with one or more students

Currently, “Collaborate Ultra” is the tool available on Blackboard to allow instructors (called “moderators” in Blackboard lingo) to video conference with their students. An alternative to Collaborate is Webex, which also seems to provide a fairly smooth interface for videoconferencing. CUNY has just made Webex connection available from within Blackboard course sites (look under “tools” for “connectcuny webex”). To use, faculty should go either to this direct link into Webex, or to the “connectcuny webex” link within Blackboard “tools,” and they can then use their credentials (username and password — the same ones you use if you’re logging into the CUNY portal (CUNY first, Blackboard, etc) to gain access.

Communicating smoothly & effectively with students

Blackboard offers a number of ways that faculty can communicate with students. In particular, Blackboard allows faculty to send email messages direclty to individual students, groups of select students, or the entire class. Faculty can also post “announcements” to a course, which are then saved on the “announcements” page of the Blackboard site and can also automatically be sent to students via email.

Using gradebook to tally grades/points

If you wish, the Blackboard “gradebook” can help you keep track of points/grades you’ve assigned on student work. There are numerous settings in gradebook that allow teachers to weigh grades or set percentages for different types of work.

Staying Human

Finally, it’s important to remember to strive to maintain personal connection and immediacy even though our courses are being taught online. Here are a few ways to do that.
Create for yourself, and have all students create, personal avatars to use on Blackboard.
Create audio or video feedback in response to students’ writing. There are several ways to do this. One could use Turnitin feedback studio and create audio files to accompany written feedback. One could also create screencapture videos using screencast-o-matic or Yuja to provide this type of feedback. Please check the “Resources for KCC Faculty” page for homemade how-to’s on this.
Create limited but regular virtual office hours on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Webex, or Zoom where students can pop in and chat with you.

Links Sent by KCC IT to Ensure Students can Access Blackboard Sites

Online Course Access Instructions for Students

Useful Resources from the Composition Community

A great open-access book and site on best practices in online writing instruction.

The CCCC position statement on online writing instruction.

The Global Society of Online Literacy Educators has just put up a number of resources to support faculty around the world who find themselves suddenly moving courses online.

    • The Just In Time Hub is a gateway to various resources, including those below as well as excellent written materials to help you think through course conversion/migration; we’ll be updating with other materials on the fly:
    • Just Ask GSOLE provides a direct link to discussion forums moderated by GSOLE online writing/literacy instruction experts who can answer your specific questions:
    • Walk-In Webinars is a direct link to live Zoom sessions hosted by GSOLE members; the schedule of facilitators is listed there along with specific topics:

Humanizing Online Teaching from St. Mary’s College of CA

Basics of How to Use Google Drive

The Bedford Bibliography of Research in OWI, updated 2019

A useful page from Purdue University on teaching remotely.

Guides/Advice from Writing Programs and Writing Specialists


Social media discussion

Lesson plans and practices

Self-Care and Managing Anxiety

General Advice about Moving Classes Online


Technology and Tools


Sample communication