Taking CoReqs Online

By Tina Shanahan

As colleges and universities across the United States close in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, instructors are scrambling to convert their previously face-to-face classes to an online format. This sudden transition has left everyone feeling uncertain about how to proceed, especially those of us teaching developmental education in a co-requisite format.

There is an abundance of advice circulating on Twitter, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Most of the suggestions in these discussions and articles are based on veteran online instructors’ expertise, but there is no precedence for taking co-reqs online.

When people say, “online classes aren’t for everyone,” they’re talking about students like the ones in our co-req classes – students who, for varied and complex reasons, may have low confidence in their academic abilities, struggle with executive functioning skills, suffer from test anxiety, etc. But, I’m convinced that our students CAN be successful through this transition to an online environment and you are capable of helping your students end the semester strong during this stressful time.

Teaching a co-req requires an individualized approach in any format. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to moving co-reqs online, but here are some tips you might consider:

  • If you teach both the college-level class and the support class, focus on transitioning the college-level class first. Getting your head around the changes to the college-level class will help you identify parts of the transition that will likely be most challenging for your co-req students. Then, you can adapt your co-req to offer support in those areas.
  • If you teach a co-req with another instructor, do your best to collaborate. However, communication might not be easy with all of us scrambling to put classes online, take care of kids, stay healthy, etc. If you can’t closely coordinate your support with the other instructor’s online model, use your best judgement to continue working on the skills your students need to practice most.
  • Keep things low tech as much as possible. Publishers’ offers to provide free access to online courseware are generous, but now is not the time for you and your students to learn a new Learning Management System or conferencing tool with all the bells and whistles. Use the technology that you and your students know best, like email and the basic features of your school’s LMS.
  • Be flexible with your typical requirements in the co-requisite.  You might not get to all the activities and assessments you had planned.  Your school may have their own grading policies, but the grade in the co-req should mostly reflect how prepared students are for more advanced academic work rather than their performance on individual co-req assignments. Put a lot of stock in what you have seen your students prove themselves capable of already.
  • Support students’ technology use, time management, and motivation.  Remember, the purpose of co-requisite courses is to help students develop the underlying skills they need to be successful in their academic work.  Basic writing skills are important, of course, but during this transition, they might need different types of support. Make or find quick videos to demonstrate any technology you’re using. Provide timelines or checklists to help students keep track of the remaining work. Find something to celebrate in each piece of work that students are able to complete under these stressful circumstances.
  • Conduct individual check-ins with co-req students.  Depending on the size of your co-req, you may be able to reach out to each student during the time that you would have been in class.  Instead of waiting for students to come to you with questions, check in with them weekly to ask what they’re finding most helpful and most confusing about the week’s materials. Consider giving students the option of communicating with you via email, phone, text, or webcam to make check-ins most convenient for them. 
  • Find ways to personalize communication and connect with students. Leverage the relationships you have already built with your students.  If you joked around with certain students, try to keep things light by using memes or emojis in your communications with them.  If you know certain students struggle with anxiety, check in with them about their stress levels.  Ask your parent-students about their kids and how they’re managing the workload while schools are closed. Remind your students that you know and care about them – not just as students but as people trying to get through this tense time.

Some of these suggestions will be effective for you, and some won’t make sense in your context.  As co-req instructors, we’re familiar with flexibility and personalization.  All we can do is trust what feels right to us as we support our students through the end of the semester.

If you have any other suggestions for co-requisite instructors transitioning to an online format, please share in the comments!


Dr. Tina Shanahan is a reading and writing instructor at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Her work focuses specifically on teaching and learning in co-requisite models of developmental education and the integration of reading and writing. She lurks on academic Twitter as @TinaTeachesEngl.



Text Mining in the IRW Classroom

By Amy Doty

text mining

“What happens when readers are also writers?

And how does reading inform writing?”

Text mining is a metaphor used by Stuart Greene, in Mining Texts in Reading to Write, to describe how writers read with purpose and intention to gather and develop knowledge they can use to accomplish their writing goals. It is composed of three mining strategies: constructing context, inferring or imposing structure, and seeing choices in language. Writers use these strategies to “excavate” what is needed from texts in order for them to develop their own set of tools to employ when composing across a variety of situations and disciplines.

Greene emphasizes the distinction between mining texts and traditional ‘reading like a writer’ or close reading strategies by pointing out that this process encourages students to move beyond observation and imitation to critically analyzing the choices and decisions made by authors across different social situations, thus empowering them to make their own authorial decisions. Greene assumes that our ultimate goal as educators is to help students take control over their own learning and suggests that we can do this by “helping students develop a knowledge of what mining texts means, when to employ these strategies, and how to manage these strategies in order to direct their own reading-writing process.”

3 Strategies for Mining the Text

Reconstructing Context

Students develop a set of tools to help them locate the context or situation that shapes the production of a text.

  • Analyze discourse features to show how writers in a discipline invoke context by establishing the importance of an issue
  • Use comparative analysis of multiple texts to promote the ongoing process of reading, analyzing, and authoring that recognizes the social nature of discourse across a variety of disciplines
  • Encourage students to make judgements about the most appropriate way to make their own contribution in writing, using different strategies in different contextual situations
  • Writers should provide a rationale for their context choices (ex: why I chose to introduce background information when writing my argument)

Inferring or Imposing Structure

Students identify the rhetorical structure that influences the way readers interpret a text.

  • Analyze structure by linking it to the ways of knowing in a particular discipline (ex: the report form structured after the scientific method for science writing)
  • Structure has a fluid nature whereby both readers and writers construct meaning, so students should analyze how a writer structures their ideas and the relationship between ordering principles and rhetorical purpose
  • Readers actively construct meaning and create structure in light of their goals as readers and the prior knowledge they bring to a text which provides a framework for comprehending discourse
  • Students should describe the organizational pattern of essays to demonstrate an awareness of why they approached issues the way that they did and evaluate their patterns of development based on their purposes for writing

Seeing Choices in Language

Students determine the kind of language that is appropriate to a given rhetorical situation.

  • Focus on choices about language and why certain words or phrases might be appropriate or not in both source texts and student’s texts
  • Students can reconstruct the choices and decisions made about language and content in light of the author’s goals and their own
  • Emphasize the importance of developing an awareness of knowing both what students want to say and why certain details and ideas may or may not be appropriate for their goals

text miner

Practical Application in the Classroom

  • Annotation helps students attend to the specific features of the texts they read, selecting, organizing, and connecting ideas for the purpose of writing
  • Reading Logs that include information about how authors in different fields invoke context, structure meaning, and situate themselves linguistically
  • Discussions within their reading/writing community give students the additional purpose during reading of knowing that they will be entering a conversation to demonstrate their knowledge of issues and to add a novel perspective
  • Think Aloud activities go beyond critically observing other authors’ texts to taking on an authorial stance by challenging the text, consulting their own experience, and reflecting on students’ own goals as a writer (moving from a spectator to a participant role)
  • Creating Purpose and Goals for text mining can be encouraged by informing students of the kind of writing they will be asked to do before they read texts, so they can draw upon their reading of other texts and evaluate contextual, structural, and linguistic choices while reading
  • Writing Plans give students an opportunity to shift their focus from the rhetorical plans of other authors to developing their own plans for writing by evaluating information from the source text or prior experiences and reflecting on their different options as they compose a reading in their role as authors
  • Reflective Writing after students re-read their own texts to consider the choices they made and the goals they set as writers and their effectiveness

Amy Doty is a Developmental English instructor at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her current research interests include best practices in online developmental pedagogy and the benefits of embedding executive function/non-cognitive and success coaching into classroom teaching to impact student retention and success. She enjoys building themed courses for first-year students that provide opportunities for them to engage in inquiry and project-based learning with a focus on exploring social issues and civil discourse to promote change through writing.

You can contact Amy at adoty@southeast.edu

amy profile