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RWE writing instructor Maggie Roberts with a student in the English Language Development Centre.

An innovative program at the English Language Development Centre (EDLC) at UTSC is demonstrating how email can be a powerful tool for education.

The ELDC's Reading and Writing Through Email (RWE) program pairs students who want to improve their academic writing with writing instructors at ELDC. The goal of the program is to help students fast-track their academic reading and writing skills development by keeping up with their course readings while practicing at writing English every day.

"UTSC's student population is very diverse, with many multilingual first-generation Canadian and international students," says Dr. Elaine Khoo, coordinator of the ELDC and a senior lecturer with the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UTSC. " They may face initial language- and culture-related obstacles that interfere with their academic performance. The RWE program helps them improve their academic English and build skills in a supportive, low-risk, not-for-credit scenario."

RWE participants are encouraged to read from their course materials for forty minutes a day and then write their responses to the readings for twenty minutes. Then they email these daily writing samples to their tutor, an ELDC Writing Instructor who guides them in exploring their topics more critically and expressing their ideas with greater confidence.

Mike Lam is a recent UTSC graduate and a past participant in RWE. He says the program had an immense impact on his academic ability.

"I am now much more articulate in my writing and my speech," says Lam. "I learned how to critically analyze a piece of academic writing, how to properly structure an argument, and now I can express my ideas and thoughts with style, continuity and emotion. What's more, I was able to focus more on my course readings, and I found myself increasingly interested in the field of psychology and in academia in general."

If they follow the prescription, RWE students will log nineteen more hours of reading and nearly ten more hours of writing in an average month than they would without the program. That adds up to a deeper engagement with what they’re learning.

© University of Toronto Scarborough