Online writing laboratories (OWLs) cannot replace the individualized attention of traditional writing labs, but they can supplement teachers’ efforts and open new avenues of communication between teacher and student.

Because so much of work on computers is writing-based, computers can be an ideal medium for providing students with some of the basics of effective writing: grammar rules, writing tips, and research guidelines. Students who work in OWLs become more comfortable using computers in ways that will be required of them in college.

From a teacher’s point of view, computer programs that can correct misspellings and poor grammar can give the teacher more time to discuss issues of content and style. Suggestions and compliments can easily be typed directly into the text of a student’s essay and returned electronically so that the student can implement changes. However, the writing tutor should make sure to also include some one-on-one time with the student, as written comments can be interpreted quite differently than comments and responses made in person.

Innovative teachers are using OWLs to create interdisciplinary courses, too, in which essays are created after online research. Posting those projects online—especially if they were created using software that allows for attractive graphics—gives students an additional boost.