Teaching Writing for the Web to students

Over the Festival of Creative Learning, I ran a workshop to teach Writing for the Web to students and had them demonstrate their newfound skills through a collaborative writing exercise.

Festival background

The Festival of Creative Learning is a weeklong series of events to explore different ways of learning at the University outside the traditional academic schedule.

Festival of Creative Learning website

Why Writing for the Web

Some of you may be aware that we changed the name of our web writing course a few years ago to Effective Digital Content. We made this change as the course covers digital over just web, and more types of content than just writing.

However, as Writing for the Web is a more commonly used term in the industry (and is probably more readily understood by someone unfamiliar with the digital content world), I pitched the session as Writing for the Web.

My hope with the session was to teach students a skill they wouldn’t be learning at university, but that could help them if they were looking to pursue a writing or communications-based career.

Session format

The session was split in two halves – training in how to write for the web, followed by a collaborative writing exercise.

The collaborative writing exercise used the pair writing technique, which got students to work together to write a web page about their student experience.

Creative effective content quickly with pair writing (blog post)

I was especially keen to teach pair writing to students as it introduces them to a more collaborative way of working that will be important in their careers.

When you write essays for university, your name (or identification number in the case of anonymous marking) is attached to your work and it must be in your own words.

In the working world, though, you may be writing on behalf of a company where authorship isn’t stressed, and writing together can facilitate a shared sense of understanding and ownership of content in an organisation.

Pair writing results

I was absolutely impressed with the webpages the students wrote.

After a short amount of training, the pages demonstrated web writing best practice, including:

  • beginning with effective summary sentences
  • using lists with keywords pushed to the left-hand side
  • breaking up content into subheadings and short paragraphs
  • ending pages with calls to action

It was also great to hear the discussions going on between pairs as they worked together, including how helpful they felt having a second pair of eyes look at their work was.

How it can help students going forward

On my feedback form, I asked the students how they would use these lessons going forward as I wanted to know more about what made them come to the session.

Answers included:

  • working with digital content in their career
  • making their personal blogs easier to read for their audiences
  • making online job applications and cover letters more concise

There is no doubt learning about how to write for the web will help in all of these cases, so I’m happy I had the opportunity to deliver this training to students in person.

Want to try it for yourself?

Our Effective Digital Content course is open to all University of Edinburgh staff and students through the Learn VLE.

Effective Digital Content course

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