What is USF Writes? 

USF Writes is a digital, instructional tool that:

  • Reports data on individual, course, and program performance for real-time teaching and responsive curricular adjustments
  • Provides key information about at-risk students for undergraduate studies to assist with retention and student success
  • Houses key instructional materials for First-Year Composition (FYC) and Professional and Technical Communication (PTC) courses

Functions enabled through USF Writes provide data-driven support for writing instruction by providing quality formative feedback these key stakeholders:

  • For students, the data aggregated in USF Writes focuses their writing process on the achievement of learning objectives.
  • For instructors, the data aggregated in USF Writes tracks student progress to respond on a just-in-time basis to student needs.
  • For administrators, the data aggregated in USF Writes captures historical and real-time trends, and enables long-term curricular, pedagogical, and administrative planning.

See more benefits and to learn about research being done.

What role does technology play in USF Writing Programs?

Technology enhances the delivery of instruction and houses instructional materials in both FYC and PTC. Technological platforms like USF Writes allow USF’s writing programs to be more responsive to student needs. Additionally, technological modalities such as USF Writes facilitate coherence and consistency within writing programs, while also enabling real-time tracking of trends for teaching, planning, and assessment purposes. You can read more about the theoretical underpinnings of our approach to technology and its integration to facilitate student learning and enhance pedagogical approaches.

How does USF Writes help with student learning?

USF Writes creates a learning community that allows students to connect with other students for peer review, and engage with formative feedback collectively as a class. USF Writes provides focused formative feedback that directly addresses assignment outcomes. This feedback also empowers students to engage in guided self-review that enables a productive revision process. From initial draft to final deliverable, USF Writes facilitates student success by correlating student writing with the achievement of assignment goals.

Why can’t we use other technologies out there?

Our FYC and PTC writing programs teach almost 10,000 students a year. This type of scale means that administrators and faculty need an efficient way to access relevant data that shows whether pedagogical approaches to assignments are working in the classroom.

There is no digital platform presently available that allows USF writing program administrators to tailor the technology to our unique pedagogical values and diverse student population

USF Writes provides both real-time and historical information on the impacts of instructor practices, while simultaneously providing a platform on which students can interact with their own and each other’s writing. We use USF Writes in conjunction with other technologies—most notably Canvas—but, at present, only USF Writes offers access to the type of information that enables real-time adjustments to pedagogical practices for instructors and writing practices for students.

What exactly are students paying for?

Students are paying for an educational platform and course materials. Through USF Writes, students are able to engage more productively with their own writing and the writing of their peers, leading to successful achievement of learning outcomes. Moreover, USF Writes provides key information about at-risk students for undergraduate studies to assist with retention and student success, as well as providing insights into just-in-time views of student learning so that instructors can clarify areas where students may be struggling. Additionally, USF Writes houses instructional materials for FYC and PTC courses.

Is USF Writes totally automated? 

No. The application is a tool that is used to assist faculty in teaching and students in learning. At every stage of the process, all data is seen and interpreted by an instructor or administrator who is working to improve student learning experiences or to improve pedagogical approaches. Any and all information from USF Writes functions as only one aspect of the writing program’s interpretative framework. The program director and program faculty always play a key role in the analysis of USF Writes data and its application in the classroom. 

Who owns and manages USF Writes? 

The Department of English and the University of South Florida own USF Writes. The application is managed by an administrative committee in the Department of English. The administrative committee is collaborative, using an open management approach that includes representatives from all stakeholder groups.

What happens to the data that is collected from USF Writes?  

Data is used in two specific ways: continual assessment processes, and programmatic and pedagogical improvement. However, regardless of use, students are never identified. Specifically, student work and instructor comments will never be associated by name with either individual students or individual instructors. Further, students and instructors have the option to opt in or out of the research project. Only data from students and instructors who select “opt-in” will be used for research, and that data will be used only anonymously or in aggregate, ensuring that no individual student or instructor can ever be identified.

Learn more about data collection and the research being conducted.


Why do I have to pay for this and how is the cost established?

USF Writes is a digital, instructional tool educational that houses instructional materials and assists you in improving your writing. Much like a lab manual or multiple texts in other courses, USF Writes is an educational supplement.

The cost was decided by a committee within the Department of English. Decisions about cost took three things into consideration: (1) ensuring materials were affordable to students; (2) understanding the system was designed and will be maintained by a specialized team of computer scientists and pedagogical specialists; (3) knowing the tool is fluid and that it will need to be maintained and further developed, which are real costs of time and labor.

Where do I submit assignments?

Refer to the documentation for specific questions about how to use the tool.

But, in general, you start by signing in at usf.writes.edu. Then you look for your assignment and select the icon that allows you to upload to that assignment.

Do I have to upload my work to USF Writes and Canvas separately?

Your instructor will make clear what work needs to be uploaded to USF Writes and what will be uploaded to Canvas. But, yes, you will be uploading to both platforms because they are designed with different purposes. USF Writes is a digital, instructional tool for teaching and assessing writing. Canvas is a course management system for all types of instruction.

Why are we not using Canvas for peer review? Why do I need to use Canvas and USF Writes?

While Canvas does have some functionality for peer review, it does not have the robust features incorporated into USF Writes that enable more productive exchanges with your peers.

Additionally, one of the most helpful features of USF Writes is that it allows your instructor to see the work of your class as a whole at a glance. Instructors use this view to address areas that you and your classmates may be having trouble with in real time. This perspective on the work of an entire class is not possible in Canvas, and it yields immediate benefits for you and the class as a whole.

What does USF Writes do? Is its purpose to make me a better writer? 

Yes, USF writes is designed to assist you in becoming a better writer. It does this through facilitating peer interaction and focusing on targeted outcomes so that you can better identify how to improve your writing and meet the goals of the assignment.

Is my writing kept private? What information of mine will be kept anonymous and what will be shared?

Your writing will be shared with other students in your class as part of the peer review and writing process that develops your writing skills.

Should you agree to opt in and allow researchers to use your writing for research purposes, your writing will be anonymized and shared among researchers. No writing shared with researchers will be connected to your identity in any way. Learn more about the research using USF Writes.

Who do I contact if I have a problem doing something my instructor has asked?

Submit a support ticket via direct link: https://usfwrites.usf.edu/contact/support or look for the “Contact Support” link throughout the system. 

Refer to the documentation if you need to better understand how to do a task.

If your question is about the course, an assignment, or other content, contact your instructor directly.


How does USF Writes help me teach my course?

USF Writes was designed as a pedagogical tool. In designing USF Writes, the primary driving principle focused on how the tool works within a curriculum to help students achieve the learning objectives.

USF Writes does four important things to help you teach your course:

  • Enables directed self and peer review that has been shown to lead to improvements in student writing
  • Establishes a clear connection between assignments’ student learning objectives and student writing products to highlight areas on which students should focus to improve their writing
  • Provides just-in-time teaching insights across and between sections that enable you to immediately address areas in which students may be struggling
  • Fosters a learning community approach to teaching writing

Is USF Writes designed to help me teach, help me assess my students, help collect data for administrative purposes, or to help gather data for research purposes?  

It’s designed for all these purposes. To address each part of this question:

Teaching purpose: See answer immediately above.

Assessment: USF Writes has a primary purpose of a formative feedback tool. It is designed to be used at the formative stage to provide students with directed feedback that they can use in the revision process.

Administrative purposes: One of the benefits of USF Writes is that it provides data at the programmatic level. The writing programs at USF teach a large number of students. Programs at this scale need tools to provide program-level data, and USF Writes does that. This program level data has two purposes: to guide administrators in updating curricula and to identify areas in which additional professional development may be needed; to provide data for use in institutional assessment requirements.

Research: When instructors and/or students opt in, they are agreeing to let their data be stored for research purposes. Only those instructors and students who opt in will have their data used. All data used in research will be used anonymously so there will be no way to tie an individual draft back to a particular student. The research questions that are currently being developed (and have been developed in the past) were designed to improve pedagogical practices and to gain insights into features of student writing. The questions driving the initial data from USF Writes also is centered on ways to teach writing better and to improve the transfer of writing skills. Learn more about the research using USF Writes.

Will my grades in USF Writes automatically sync to Canvas? 

USF Writes is not a grading tool. Unlike previous tools used at USF, grading of student work is not completed in USF Writes. Grades will be entered into Canvas only.

Why should I opt in for research purposes?

When you opt in for research purposes, you are giving consent for your comments and rubrics to be included anonymously into the larger data set. You are not making decisions for the use of student data. Students opt in/out independently.

Instructor data comprises an important data set that can be used comparatively to understand teaching practices, or it can be used complementary to student data to gain insights into how well students are learning.

Importantly, your consent is only for your data. If you do consent, the data will be anonymous and used primarily in the aggregate form. In no way can your data be connected back to you individually.

Learn more about the research using USF Writes.

What has to be done in Canvas (e.g. final grades) and what has to be done in the tool (e.g. adopting the textbook)?

USF Writes is part of a learning technology network that includes not only Canvas but other tools and technologies as well. The purpose and use of each tool will be made clear within the FYC and PTC programs.

Currently, the FYC and PTC programs use USF Writes differently and both programs are consistently seeking feedback on ways to improve the pedagogical application of all the tools we use.

Since each program is updated and improved on an ongoing basis, the role of USF Writes will vary and is likely to change over time.

Where do the rubrics in USF Writes come from? 

Rubrics were developed by the FYC and PTC program directors and colleagues. All rubrics are specific to individual student tasks in USF Writes. These task-specific rubrics were designed to align with the student learning outcomes of corresponding assignments in the FYC and PTC curriculum. In this way, the task-specific rubrics connect work done in USF Writes to program curricula, and enable students to focus on assignment outcomes as they improve their writing.

How do I [insert any number of specific tasks that are done in the tool]?

First, review the documentation to see if your immediate question or concern is answered.

If not, then contact the support person in your program:

Who do I contact if I have trouble with the tool? 

First, submit a support ticket.

If you feel the problem or issue warrants more than a support ticket, contact the support person in your program:

If you feel it is something that needs to be escalated or for more general questions about using the tool, you can contact the program director, Lisa Melonçon.