WSU changes requirements of University Writing Portfolio

Changes include elimination of timed writing, instructor’s signature on essays



Brooklyn Walter, director of WSU’s Writing Center, said students will now need to submit two papers online.

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Writing Program made changes to the University Writing Portfolio, which include having students reflect on their papers and eliminating the timed writing portion.

Students will now need to submit two papers online through Qualtrics, a program that protects a student’s information, said Brooklyn Walter, director of WSU’s Writing Center. The papers are no longer required to have a faculty member’s signature.

After submitting the two papers, students will answer reflective questions on Qualtrics about those essays. The questions will provide students more time, which is reflective of good writing instruction, said Lisa Johnson-Shull, WSU Writing Program interim director. 

A student’s learning experience is emphasized through their reflection on the papers they write. Walter said she hopes making students reflect on their papers will help them think about what they have learned so far. 

The timed portion of the writing portfolio was eliminated because there was not much value in the timed impromptu writing assessments, Johnson-Shull said. This also means faculty members no longer have to determine if a time-written paper is acceptable or exceptional. 

The timed writing portion in the previous writing portfolio required students to read a paragraph and make an argument, she said.

“Timed writing is not the best kind of writing people do,” she said, “it’s the worst.” 

Before the change, the university would place two registration holds on a student’s myWSU account, Walter said. The first hold would be placed in the semester that a student reaches 60 credits. 

To remove the hold, a student would need to complete either the timed writing portion or submit three papers with a faculty member’s signature, she said. 

The second registration hold would be placed during the following semester when the student reaches about 70-78 credits, Walter said. The student would then need to complete the second portion of the writing portfolio to remove the hold. 

Now, only one registration hold will be placed on students when they reach 75 credits, but that only occurs if they have not yet completed the writing portfolio, she said. The best time to complete the portfolio is when a student reaches or is about to reach 75 credits, she said. 

If a registration hold is placed on a student’s account, it will be removed when they complete and submit their writing portfolio, she said. 

The current writing portfolio is a more streamlined process, Johnson-Shull said. 

“I think because of COVID, a lot of people just wanted some answers and we didn’t really have any because we were scrambling,” she said. “I think now we’re over that hump because now the Qualtrics is up.” 

COVID-19 was the catalyst to changing the writing portfolio because in-person activities were not allowed, Walter said. 

When the pandemic began, the WSU Writing Program waited and tried to figure out what they needed to do for the writing portfolio, Johnson-Shull said. While the program figured out a new system, they continued to collect physical portfolios that students would mail in. 

It was difficult for the program and its advisors to virtually try to keep students calm, she said. All they could do was tell the students to wait because there was a system being set up.

“I think we’ve just been so inundated with trying to maintain a good instructional portfolio through the COVID crisis,” she said.

The writing portfolio is a graduation requirement and the writing program did not think of eliminating it entirely because that would require going through Faculty Senate, which would have been a difficult process, Walter said.

The program was not going to move to an online proctored assessment because it would have raised the cost for students, Johnson-Shull said.

“We basically had to put something together that would meet the purpose, still fulfill the purpose and the mission and the goals of the portfolio, without any of the in-person stuff,” Walter said. 

The program faced a similar problem in the spring with the Writing Placement Assessment, which is done in partnership with the English department, she said. During the summer, the program decided to use Qualtrics for the assessment because of the large number of students who had to participate in it during Alive sessions.

Originally, the program wanted to partner with Enterprise Systems, which is the organization that runs myWSU, but that did not work, she said. 

In September, it became clear to the program that Qualtrics was a temporary solution, Walter said. The current plan is to use Canvas next fall for the writing portfolio, but she said she does not know if that change will be permanent.

WSU is in the middle of transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas, Johnson-Shull said.

The goals of the current and previous writing portfolio remain the same, she said. The goal is to determine, during the middle of a student’s college career, whether they are progressing in their writing skills or if they need additional support.