New Writing and Design Lab Prepares Students for Literacy in the Digital Age

wdl-copyBy Tom McLaughlin

While certain traditional measures of academic literacy – such as reading, writing, and speaking – are as important as ever, says William FitzGerald, students must also develop the crucial, technological skills necessary to communicate effectively in a digital age.

“It is becoming increasingly necessary to recognize the role of technology at every stage of the composition process and the importance of design in the effective communication of ideas,” says the director of the writing program and an associate professor of English at Rutgers University–Camden.

Understanding these challenges, the Department of English at Rutgers–Camden has launched the new Writing and Design Lab, a full-service model for delivering academic-literacy instruction to English students.

The lab, located in rooms 449 and 450 of Armitage Hall, in Rutgers–Camden’s Department of English, is equipped to offer English students assistance on assignments and projects ranging from traditional research papers to comprehensive, multimedia presentations.

Beginning this semester, any student enrolled in an English course can make an appointment for a 45-minute session with a consultant – a trained Rutgers–Camden undergraduate – who can assist them in every phase of the writing and design process. Students can also receive support utilizing a range of multimedia tools, such as audio recording, web design, and desktop publishing.

“We can work with students looking to channel their research into effective papers, presentations, posters, or websites,” says FitzGerald. “We are also developing standards and structures for crafting digital portfolios so that students can showcase their work as aspiring professionals.”

In addition to assisting students, the Writing and Design Lab advises and supports instructors seeking to integrate document-design principles and digital-composing practices into their courses. The lab is also available for faculty to arrange small-group workshops for their students on a range of writing and design topics.

Among projects currently in the works, notes FitzGerald, first-year students in the writing program are receiving support producing an audio essay, titled “This I Now Believe.” In this project, students are converting print essays into three-minute audio recordings in which they recount experiences that changed their mindset about something of significance.

In the spring, the Writing and Design Lab will pilot a new online journal, “The Scarlet Review,” featuring exceptional writing produced by first-year students in the writing program. The lab will provide technical support for the online journal, and students seeking to take their work completed during the fall semester to a publishable level are invited to stop by the lab. Also in the spring, the lab’s managing director, Travis DuBose, will lead a workshop, titled “Designing Publication for the Web,” teaching students how to provide editorial support.

In order to benefit as many students as possible, students are asked not to make more than one appointment per day and no more than two per week. Students attending sessions are asked to bring a flash drive or other means necessary to save their work.

For more information or to make an appointment, visit the Writing and Design Lab website at

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