Tristica's Postcard: click for larger image

Online Introductions and Epistolary Connections:

Getting Started with Communication and Course Content

Computers and Writing 2003
May 23, 2003

Donna Reiss
Tidewater Community College-Virginia

An introductory essay, email, or discussion board post is a familiar way to begin establishing community in online classes. With an epistolary writing-to-learn approach, introductory online messages (1) initiate personal connections with classmates and professors and (2) engage students with course concepts.

Epistolary Approach

Students frame most of their online correspondence as letters to their classmates as a whole or to specific named individuals in the class.

    • Composing letters personalizes the interactions among distant students.
    • Composing letters builds on students' experience with a familiar genre, the letter, as well as their consideration of audience.
    • Because letters can be as informal as a scribbled note or an iconographic instant message or as formal as a request for a leave of absence or an application for professional promotion, letters can help students understand the process of making rhetorical decisions as composers and communicators.

Writing to Learn Approach

Students focus on course concepts and receive credit for their preliminary writing and reflections.

    • The introductory letter reveals prior knowledge and experience to both student and teacher.
    • The introductory letter engages students with issues related to course and disciplinary goals.
    • The introductory letter provides a writing sample for faculty.


Assignments and Examples

for educational purposes only
Donna Reiss 2003-05-24