M-Write: A model of campus technology and academic collaboration

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In fall 2018, Information and Technology Services became the sole technical supporter of M-Write, a program designed to apply “writing-to-learn” pedagogies in university courses. The move represented the culmination of a multi-year journey that provides a model of how campus technology and academic units can collaborate successfully to support teaching and learning.

M-Write helps students develop a deep conceptual understanding of their coursework by having students write about key concepts, interact with one another through peer review, and learn through a revision process. In 2015, chemistry professor Ginger Shultz and Ann Gere, professor/director of the Sweetland Center for Writing, secured a five-year grant from the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative to support the development of a tool to support the practical use of writing at scale through the use of technology.

The M-Write program is an especially beneficial program for instructors with large courses, says Shultz, because it helps circumvent practical constraints through a combination of conceptual writing prompts, automated peer review with rubrics, natural language processing, and personalized feedback to create a digital infrastructure for writing at scale.

Initially, M-Write was a collaboration between the Sweetland Center and Dave Harlan, a developer from the Office of Academic Innovation. As the program grew in popularity and began to be used in more courses, Harlan reached out to ITS to help support M-Write. Over the summer of 2018, Harlan worked on M-Write with Lance Sloan, a senior application developer from ITS Teaching & Learning Team. The two collaborated for three months until a technology transfer resulted in M-Write being solely supported by ITS.

“Sweetland makes the pedagogical decisions for M-Write, while we handle the technical side of the program,” explained Cathy Crouch, a senior business analyst with ITS. Crouch added that Sweetland will often bring feedback from faculty about M-Write to ITS. Using this feedback, Sweetland and ITS will develop new features and solutions that are satisfactory from both a technical and instructional perspective.

In the winter 2019 semester, M-Write was used in nine courses, reaching more than 3,900 students and generating 25 peer review assignments. The Peer Review Tool handled more than 11,000 individual uses by students and about 33,000 individual reviews of student work. As the program grows, ITS will work with Sweetland to continue to develop M-Write’s functionality and features.

Read about how M-Write recently won the 2019 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

Amanda Brown, ITS Teaching and Learning
Author: Amanda Brown, ITS Teaching and Learning

I am a senior at the University of Michigan, majoring in communications studies and minoring in English. I currently intern with the Teaching & Learning Team at the University's Information and Technology Services department.