And so we come to part four of our brief series on alternative Online Writing Labs. I hope you've had a hoot [strained laughter] reading our examinations of various OWLs. Today, I will examine Colorado State University's "Writing@CSU," a site I'm convinced is going above and beyond the call of OWL duty in what it offers to students.
Aesthetically speaking, the front page is a welcome sight. The menus have forest green backgrounds that compliment the Rocky Mountain vistas that comprise the banner at the top of the page. The font is a friendly sans-serif that lures in the writer without making him or her think this will be some dry instructional website.
Instructionally speaking, CSU's OWL offers up guidance on "Preparing to Write," "Starting to Write," and other aspects of the writing process. These articles are divided into further subcategories relating to "reading and writing as social acts" as well as attention to audience. For those who want to step it up from website guides to full-fledged textbooks, Writing@CSU offers "open-access textbooks" which are freely available to both students and teachers, regardless if you attend CSU or not.
What caught my eye most about Writing@CSU is their "Writing Tools" section in which they offer a built-in word processor as well as an Outliner tool "to organize your ideas for a draft" or Bibliography tool to "keep track of your sources." While most students have access to Microsoft Word at home or in a library, this might provide a nice alternative to traveling with a flash drive. Unfortunately, all of these requires an account to access. Despite this restriction, you're not required to be a student to use them.
Writing@CSU does a lot more than I've yet to see in an OWL, but it's not completely perfect. Navigating its articles can be more of a hassle as its Writing Guides are split into subtopics and further subtopics. That being said, I still think other OWLs could take a page from CSU's book and offer organizational tools that will help students put together solid papers.