If you're a professional interested in honing your writing skills or a company interested in enhancing the skills of staffers, you've probably looked at lots of options, including university offerings. On the surface, a university class may seem like deal, but if you get right down to it, it's not, and for many reasons.
The hassle is one headache (acceptance, enrollment, and getting there, unless it's an online course, but even then, you probably have to wait until after work and the kids have been put to bed to work). The pricey tuition, added fees, and textbooks are another.
What may be most disturbing, however, is that even in writing courses students a) don't do much writing and b) don't receive the feedback that can help them become better writers. Murray Sterber, in his article "We Must Overhaul College Writing," discusses a survey he did of students in writing classes to determine what, and how much, feedback they were getting on their papers; the answer is disturbing:
“...the vast majority of students indicate that the instructor (in upper division courses, usually of professorial rank) wrote but a sentence on the last page, often something like, 'An insightful view of this subject,' grading it 'A'.”
And since writing, like other things we do, improves with practice, not getting opportunities to write and receive feedback is, in short, a time-waster.
If a lack of feedback isn't bad enough (after all, if you're enrolled in a writing course, you're there to get professional help to become better), is that that university class isn't going to be tailored to meet your needs. It's just a class with a set agenda that's offered to whomever enters the university, whether it be an 18-year-old or a 50-year-old, regardless of experience or needs. That's how universities do things, because they have no other choice: they have to appeal to the masses. In addition, you're not going to receive any individual attention; sure, you'll get your work graded (maybe twice or three times a semester, if you're lucky), and you can always go and visit the professor in your free time (as long as it's during the professor's office hours).
In short, university writing classes aren't a good return on ROI for several reasons: 1) they end up costing more in terms of time and money; 2) you won't get the feedback you need on your writing to ensure long-term results; 3) you won't get much, if any, individual attention; and 4) the course won't be tailored to fit your needs and address your writing issues.
An onsite course that's customized to your needs will help you improve your writing skills because writing can be taught--it just has to be taught properly, which includes a tailored class with individual feedback, among other things. All in all, a customized onsite course has a much better ROI than a comparable class taught at a university.
How much writing did you have to do in college? Do you think it was the right amount, too little, or too much? Post a comment!
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