Interventions in Online Writing Instruction

I completed a chapter about interventions for a book on Online Writing Instruction (OWI). I was inspired to write about interventions because I feel they can make an impact in the lives of students and the success of OWI and other online programs. In teaching, I have found that interventions are best accepted by students when they are consistent, so it’s important to have a protocol or strategy for using them. That way, they are fair and non-judgmental. As well, it’s a good way to know you’ve done the best you can for a student. This is the abstract of the chapter. I’m not certain yet if it will be published in the book, but I have high hopes.


An intervention is a counseling action an instructor may use to support a student who struggles to work productively in an online writing instruction (OWI) course. Interventions may increase retention and graduation rates at institutions as well as increase student and teacher satisfaction (Allen, Bourhis, Burrell, and Mabry, 2002; Archambault and Crippen, 2009; McCombs, Ufnar, and Shepherd, 2007; O’Dwyer, Carey, and Kleiman, 2007; Stein, Wanstreet, Calvin, Overtoom, and Wheaton, 2005; Sun, Tsai, Finger, Chen, and Yeh, 2008). In Moore’s (1993) Theory of Transaction Distance, interventions are called “advice and counsel,” and they are a crucial component of the program structure element in the theory. Many researchers recommend early identification and intervention for struggling students (Archambault et al., 2010; Simpson, 2004). Simpson (2004) found that early interventions following Keller’s (1987) ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction) were effective in helping students complete a course. As well, Simpson found that such interventions could be cost effective when they allow a university to retain government funds, but there are many open variables when calculating cost. As researchers and online instructors, my colleagues and I recommend early intervention activities performed by email at many opportunistic intervention points during the course of the instruction. As well, we advocate developing an intervention strategy prior to course beginning to assist in planning and preparation.


Allen, M., Bourhis, J., Burrell, N., & Mabry, E. (2002). Comparing student satisfaction with distance education in traditional classrooms in higher education: A meta-analysis. The American Journal of Distance Education , 16 (2), 83-97.

Archambault, L., & Crippen, K. (2009). K-12 distance educators at work: Who’s teaching online across the united states. Journal of Research on Technology in Education , 41 (4), 363-391.

Keller, J. (2004). Development of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development , 10 (3), 2-10.

McCombs, G. B., Ufnar, J. A., & Shepherd, V. L. (2007). The Virtual Scientist: connecting university scientists to the K-12 classroom through videoconferencing. Advances in Physiology Education , 31, 62-66.

Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of Distance Education (2nd ed., pp. 22-38). Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

O’Dwyer, L. M., Carey, R., & Kleiman, G. (2007). A Study of the Effectiveness of the Louisiana Algebra I Online Course. Journal of Research on Technology in Education , 39 (3), 289-306.

Stein, D. S., Wanstreet, C. E., Calvin, J., Overtoom, C., & Wheaton, J. E. (2005). Bridging the transactional distance gap in online learning environments. The American Journal of Distance Education , 19 (2), 105-118.

Sun, P.-C., Tsai, R. J., Finger, G., Chen, Y.-Y., & Yeh, D. (2008). What drives a successful e-Learning? An empirical investigation of the critical factors influencing learner satisfaction. Computers & Education , 50, 1183-1202.

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