product orientation in the age of networked composition

Like it or not, despite decades of "process-talk," most comp instructors and programs, and certainly most colleges and universities continue to focus on final products. Assessment is based on final product.

But this really doesn’t make sense anymore.

Does anyone think the following qualifies as cheating? Having a workshop in a writing class where students respond and make editorial comments. I certainly hope not. How about if the same thing happens in a dorm room? What if a student’s older sibling or friend is a professional writer and s/he provides the same kind of editorial feedback?

They aren’t writing the essay. They aren’t adding material. They’re just doing what editors do: correcting errors, clarifying sentences, suggesting ways to reword things, suggesting paragraphs might be moved. In other words they are doing what we do as instructors when responding to drafts and what we hope might happen in a peer workshop.

OK, so now what if a student pays someone online for the exact same service? Cortland is pretty cheap tuition-wise. In-state, you’re paying about $450 for 3-credit course, plus books. In FYC, you write 12-15 pages of formal essays. You can get good quality editing of this material for under $100, maybe even $50 or so. Hell, you can probably get decent surface level editing for a buck a page.

Obviously students aren’t doing this, but maybe they should. Maybe we should contract with someone and put it in the syllabus. Maybe we should provide this service ourselves and take it out of the hands of the contingent fyc instructor.

Of course that might raise an interesting question for some of these instructors: if we’re not editing student papers, then what are we doing? I’d say you could ask the opposite question: if you are editing student papers, then what are you doing? Obviously you are trying to meet this institutional standard based on a product orientation.

But what we can see here is really the underlying problem of authorship in a network. At what point do you say that someone moves from editing to writing a students’ paper? How is anyone to be certain of where that boundary lies? Is feedback like prescription drugs, only legal when given by a doctor? Should we say "don’t discuss your writing with anyone"?

How comical would that be?


2 replies on “product orientation in the age of networked composition”

Certainly, thats right but we can’t really control the students who wants to ask for help even though they will pay for it. What they think is that “If they pay, they’ll pass their subjects”, so asking and paying someone to write them an essay isn’t a big deal for them as long as they pass.


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