The initial pilot phase of OWL, launched in April, 2002, was primarily concerned with formative evaluation relative to site functionality and various user-interface issues. Based on the results of Pilot I, the project principals undertook a complete overhaul of the website, with specific attention on navigation, resource categorization, and cross-platform compatibility. We re-scripted the entire site, revising content layout and page design, along with the tutor/student interaction interface. The resulting OWL site is extremely user-friendly, almost completely free from technical glitches, and operates seamlessly across a multitude of user platforms. The second pilot phase of Rogue OWL was launched in January, 2004, starting with six participating community colleges across five states: Arkansas, California, Kansas, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Although participation has been purposefully limited, the OWL has tracked 1380 unique student users from January through March, 2004. Various evaluation measures, including random online surveys, automated stats package, and rubric-based writing assessment, have been utilized to assess effectiveness in several key areas: ease of use (includes navigation and gains in technological proficiency); scope (includes relevance and utility of discipline-specific resources); and perceived benefits (includes assessment of both content and tutor feedback on submitted work). Initial results of a rubric-based, double-blind assessment of writing gains are promising, and a more sophisticated (and statistically significant) study will commence in July, 2004. Other evaluation tools, including online surveys and questionnaires, reveal the following: Setting up your OWL account was: Very Simple = 72% Simple = 18% Typical = 9% Somewhat Difficult = 1% Very Difficult = 0% If you submitted a writing assignment to the OWL Tutors, did you revise your work based on their input? Yes = 57%; No = 3%; Did Not Use Tutors = 40%
How did you hear about OWL? Teacher = 73%; Friend = 2%; Writing Center = 8%; Counselor = 5%; Other = 12% Are you working towards a: One-Year Certificate = 5% Two-Year Degree = 38% Transfer Degree = 57% In addition, the following student and faculty comments are a sampling of those solicited from all OWL users, who were asked to respond to the question: What was the most useful aspect of OWL? Why? Student quotes: "It was easy to use-also, seems relevant to my work even outside of writing courses." "The OWL is not only easy and convenient to use, I found the resources very helpful in polishing my writing, and I will continue to use them in the future." "The most useful thing is that [tutors] do not fix the errors for you, but give you advice about changing them, so you can figure out on your own and learn from your mistakes." "All in all, I have found the OWL to be a useful and easy-to-operate resource. Registration was a simple process that took around two minutes, and was as well-documented and user-friendly as the rest of the system is." "Having the advice and feedback of tutors readily available is one of the main benefits for student users of the system. The system enables a student to send a piece of writing work to a tutor, who then looks at the piece and provides advice and recommendations for improvement." Faculty quotes: "The OWL is the best resource for students to see actual examples of documentation that will be required from them when working in the field. Moreover, through the OWL, students are able to get feedback/suggestions to improve the technical writing aspect of their work. At the same time, electronics instructors can focus on the technical accuracy." "I am a librarian and instructor. I have found all aspects of the OWL useful to promote to various program areas. I actually assign my written communication and oral communication students an assignment using the OWL. It is one of the better writing tools I have accessed. It is well laid out, easy to use and offers practical as well as reliable help for many program areas." "On-line teaching is here, and we NEED the OWL. Thanks for the many hours of guided tours, handouts, tutoring and coaching, both for me and my students." "Thank you for including our specialized writing needs on your site! I'm impressed with the helpfulness of the information - a real plus for my students. There are a number of links to other on-line writing sites, many specifically tailored to the needs of the writing professional. You've created an excellent resource for both me and my students! Bravo!!" "Quite simply, the OWL is the best thing I've seen in education in the past 20 years!"