In the summer semester 2017 the course "Academic writing workshop" for cultural scientists was expanded with e-learning elements. Hereby the effective implementation of Blackboard with the functions blog and discussion group were to be used. As a result of the "Academic writing workshop" a FU wiki has been created that can be used by all members of the university and that the respective course participants of the subsequent courses keep filling with additional content as new authors come on board.
Table of contents


Course title

"Academic writing workshop"

Course typeABV (job preparation) course - seminar
Department/InstituteHistory & Cultural Studies
Degree programall BAs
LecturerBeate Richter
No. of participantsmax. 20
Phaseduring the academic lecture period
Durationone whole semester


Blackboard & the FU wiki "Academic writing workshop" were implemented:

Writing groups/workgroups with a blog on Bb with the function peer review

Part 1: In 2 sessions the participants jointly work on the topic "editing an academic text". As a group they edit a self-chosen text twice and post the results in the blog of the group. Thereby all participants of the seminar can now discuss it:

1) Editing a text with regard to "concept & introduction/exposé" 

2) Editing a text with regard to "structure & table of contents"

Part 2: In 3 sessions the participants jointly work on the topic "production of academic texts". As a group they edit a self-chosen text thrice (each with a minimum 1500 words) and post the results in the blog of the group. Thereby all participants of the seminar can now discuss it:  

3) First draft: after input "techniques of development / research"

4) Second draft: after input "creating a raw draft"

5) Third draft: after input "editing texts"

Learning diary: Tandem groups on Bb to discuss and reflect individually

For 6 sessions 2 participants make up a team / a tandem to reflect: Questions and ideas are recorded on Blackboard in writing and subsequently discussed on a written basis with the tandem partner. The task is:
1. For the both of you: Please write a reflection each after every session which contains a minimum of 500 words. The deadline for uploading the text (in your tandem group folder under discussion forum) is the respective following Friday after the course has taken place. 2. Please read the reflection of your tandem partner and comment on this using a minimum of 500 words. The deadline for uploading the text (in your tandem group folder under discussion forum) is the respective following Wednesday one week after the course has taken place.   

Wiki: "Academic writing workshop"

Every participant creates until the last seminar session two sensible wiki posts: a collection of links, a text contribution, etc.


Schedule: With an introductory warm-up session as well as a final wrap-up session the following seminar topics will be dealt with:

1st course - 08:30 - 11:45: Warm-up / workshop start

2nd course - 08:30 - 11:45: Focus on concept & introduction/exposé

3rd course - 08:30 - 11:45: Focus on structure & table of contents

4th course - 08:30 - 11:45: Focus on techniques of the development of content / research

5th course - 08:30 - 11:45: Focus on creating a raw draft

6th course - 08:30 - 11:45: Focus on editing texts

7th course - 08:30 - 11:45: Wrap-up - Focus on the wiki

Function and dividing up the face-to-face and e-learning offers provided:

The following phases for both "face-to-face" and "e-learning" were implemented:

A) Face-to-face times in the seminar: for relevant subject-related content, discussions in groups / in the plenary session

B) E-learning & face-to-face times in the seminar: during these sessions the participants should fill in the instruments blog and wiki with content and exchange ideas on this

C) E-learning outside of the seminar session: during the self-learning phases the workgroup members and the tandem partners connect with each other and work on texts or similar material. This they have to do in order to ensure that they are "actively participating" in the course (see below) 

The Blackboard course

The following elements (with functions) are set up within the Blackboard course: 

Announcements encompass goals, time sequences and tasks so that those students who are absent half of the time or all of the time can see what the stipulated conditions are for their active participation.

Course material contains all images and tasks assigned which were still variable at the start of the course. Individual content in the form of worksheets and scripts has been added for sessions 2 to 6.

The blogs of the work groups contain the function of documenting and presenting group and individual work results from the workgroups with the possibility for all course participants of being able to read and comment on the results posted. 

Workgroups is the area in which the participants can find each other, either in the first session within the realm of a workgroup (with a maximum of 5 members) and in the second session as tandem groups (with a maximum of 2 members). The workgroups with blogs are open and can be viewed by everyone. The tandem groups allow for a more intimate discussion between 2 participants, having the function of reflecting on the input of the face-to-face courses.  

The discussion forum allows for an additional format for criticism, asking questions etc.

The FU wiki (academic) writing workshop provides for securing the results of the content and takes on the didactic function of being able to recapitulate/go in-depth when it comes to what one has learned.

Standard links: E-mail lists and the Primo literature search were added.

Experiences made by the lecturer

All in all 16 students registered for the course. 8 students took part on a regular basis, 6 students had fulfilled the stipulations for active participation by 22.08.17. Thereby, at this point only 37.5 % have absolved the ABV course successfully. This is an unsatisfactory result. In the winter semester, 14 students of all in all 25 students had successfully completed the course. This corresponded to 56 %.  

As I have taught the same content in the previous semesters, one can clearly see the influence of the blended learning concept here: 

  • Due to the strict splitting-up of tasks for an "active participation", a lot more output was able to be produced by the students regarding written and edited texts. This can be seen as being a very positive effect when it comes to writing courses. Sadly, there were also less serious content being produced (soccer news coverage style).     
  • The amount of time spent working with Blackboard increased significantly for both participants and lecturer. However, the extra effort put in can't really be substantiated with didactic advantages that one now has. Working in a group on a certain blog entry was, at most times, usually the work of one individual which was 'used' by the other group members. Here I am still missing a concept for managing group work that really does come up with a joint product in the end. The tandems weren't intimate enough either - partly only the topic-related contents of the teaching unit were described; this was not really worked on in-depth or questioned etc. Here as well a clear concept for managing and motivating the participants has to be designed and implemented.   
  • What was a very positive aspect was the effect of the FU wiki. The above-described effects of a didactic processing of the content learned by the learner for other learners in subsequent courses should definitely be continued and enforced. One learns best if one teaches that what one has learned - this is known by every educator who actually reflects on this. With the 'slowly filling-up' wiki I also see a nice possibility of having the product evaluated by further generations of course participants. 
  • I would also like to mention the effects of the whiteboard. The course that contains the examples posted by the participants have an inestimable value for me. The image as a bridge between the analog offline world and a digital online scenario hasn't been fully optimized for my liking as yet.    

The enthusiasm of the lecturer when it comes to the chosen blended learning concept is limited to a certain degree. But I will work on and maintain the scenario and will see how I can optimize it. Here the focus is on designing the still quite 'wooden' concept in a more motivational manner for the participants. The first attempt is never the best.   

Further information

see the wiki: "Academic writing workshop"

Support offered by CeDiS

  • Consulting services for the implementation of digital solutions in teaching: The Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) has extensive experience of many years when it comes to the implementation of digital media and systems within the fields of teaching, learning and research. We offer a wide variety of consulting services on the implementation of these tools and systems within the entire academic scope and especially at Freie Universität Berlin. 
  • Training courses and workshops: For lecturers at Freie Universität Berlin (professors, employees, tutors) as well as lecturers of other universities CeDiS offers training courses and workshops on the topic of teaching and learning with digital media. These course enable participants to implement online elements within their own sphere of teaching.
  • The Executive Board of the Freie Universität supports e-learning initiatives: With the e-learning funding program financial resources are provided to lecturers that enrich and improve their courses quality-wise by implementing technological and media-related support. All of the academic staff teaching, the lecturers or even the institutions of the Freie Universität - without the Charité-Universitätsmedizin - can be supported within this program.