Where Disability Justice Resides: Building Ethical Asynchronous Tutor Feedback Practices within the Center

Anne M. Fleming, Indiana University of Pennsylvania


This article argues the importance of viewing asynchronous screen-capture tutor feedback as a kairotic space that subverts normative views of time, writing process, and accepted tutoring practices such as a preference for non-directivity over directive feedback. The author argues that viewing asynchronous online feedback as “kairotic” enables writing center tutors to develop practices and pedagogies rooted in disability theory. The development of tutoring mindsets that embrace difference helps to support students with disabilities via asynchronous videos that mesh multimodal affordances with Universal Design principles.

Keywords: Disability, neurodiversity, autism, Writing Centers, asynchronous online feedback, Universal Design, kairotic space

Where Disability Justice Resides: Building Ethical Asynchronous Tutor Feedback Practices within the Center

While there is not exact data on how many students with disabilities choose to utilize online writing feedback, students with disabilities are accessing online learning resources as they navigate through higher education. The most recent quantitative data helps to place the intersections of online learning and disability studies into conversation. During the 2011-2012 academic year, 11% of all enrolled undergraduates reported having a disability (Allen & Seaman, 2016). In the 2015-2016 academic year, 19% of undergraduates reported having a disability (Digest of Education Statistics, 2017). Additionally, “one-in-seven (14%) of all higher education students report taking some of their courses at a distance” (Allen & Seaman, 2016, p. 11). Based upon metrics compiled by the Department of Education, the average year to year growth of undergraduate students with a disability in the higher education populace is 2%. Thus, using a simple linear extrapolation, by the year 2025, 37% of students in higher education may report a disability, and many will potentially utilize online platforms for writing feedback. Writing centers need ethical online principles to serve the increasing number of students who identify as having a disability. Writing centers have a social justice responsibility to examine their spaces, practices, and theories in order to serve a diverse array of students with disabilities, including neurodivergent students.

Despite large bodies of scholarship on disability and scholarship on asynchronous teacher feedback in online composition classrooms, there is a paucity of research focused on how writing center tutors enact asynchronous video tutoring pedagogy This type of tutoring is used to communicate writing feedback to neurodivergent student populations. Neurodiversity is the biological reality of the diversity of human minds and the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning we see within the human species (Walker, 2014). While neurodiversity encompasses students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other disabilities, in order to limit the scope, this article focuses on how tutors can better support autistic students who are often highly marginalized socially and politically within higher education contexts. By spending some time focusing on autistic writers, tutors can develop practices that consider constructing asynchronous video writing feedback through a neurodiversity lens to better serve all types of writers and learners. This article responds to calls by Rebecca Day Babcock & Sharifa Daniels (2017) for more research into working with neurodivergent writers in writing center contexts and a recent call from Katheryn Denton (2017) to contribute scholarship on research into the affordances of asynchronous mediums in writing center feedback. Because asynchronous video feedback has several multimodal attributes and pairs well with Universal Design (UD), tutors producing videos can capitalize off of the kairotic moment and promote student autonomy and agency. While asynchronous video feedback will not realistically solve every issue, it does offer affordances that work past problematic retrofits associated with disability accommodation models.

The Problematic Medical Model of Disability

Jay Timothy Dolmage (2017) defined ableism as positively valuing able-bodiedness and able-mindedness over other bodies and minds. Ableism reifies itself as compulsory in social and academic spheres. However, the social model of disability holds the understanding that disability is in fact a social process. Individuals with bodies and minds different from the norm are disabled by the society and environments they live in (Davis, 2016). Ableist views have produced the medical model of disability, where disability is seen to be treated by means of diagnosis and medical intervention. However, disability is in fact a social construction, and as such, the medical model encourages a problematic ableist positioning that allows those with normative power to impose their discursive will over others (Davis, 2016). This discursive power has played out in writing center scholarship where many articles centered on disability have been written by able bodied and neurotypical scholars (Yergeau, 2010).

Writing Centers as Disability Justice Sites

By embracing the social model of disability, writing tutors can facilitate feedback from a perspective of difference and can utilize technology equitably to support different writers (Batt, 2018; Boquet & Learner, 2008; Dolmage, 2017). The disability social justice movement was built predominantly through activists utilizing online technology, so it is important that online writing centers understand activists’ connections to online platforms and utilize asynchronous spaces ethically. Taking into consideration that disabled individuals are increasingly using online spaces, many online spaces afford people with disabilities a place to speak out to the able-bodied world (Brueggemann, 2013). Asynchronous online spaces also provide the ability to bridge physical distance, and they can offer a familiar space for learners to inhabit. The roots of the disability social justice movement offer a lens in which tutors offering asynchronous feedback have integral historical information. This feedback illustrates the importance of the relationship between disability justice and online spaces. Disability studies reminds educators of how academia has ignored different bodies and minds and how much we still have to learn (Yergeau et al., 2013). It follows that a social justice model of disability informs writing centers to better contextualize the ways practitioners can design online spaces to serve neurodivergent users, and thus by extension all users. While some users may prefer online spaces to on ground sites, due to the potential volume of sensory inputs, online writing center spaces may not actually be accessible or welcoming environments. Asynchronous video feedback is one such technological environment that offers unique possibilities in resisting ableist practices due to its multimodal attributes. Tutors working in asynchronous video feedback can create audio, visual, and textual feedback that utilizes a variety of modes helpful to a diverse array of neurodivergent writers. Such online environments can function to resist ableist notions of academic writing, normative time, and more rigid, normative views of collaboration during the writing process.

Historical Conversations on Asynchronous Writing Center Spaces

Historically, conversations surrounding Asynchronous Online Writing Tutoring (OWT) have reflected ableist assumptions regarding the notion of presence. Critics of asynchronous tutoring argue that it is akin to a drop off service; it lacks dialogue and interaction; and is often discussed in stark opposition to what many perceive as the more dynamic, collaborative nature of synchronous online tutoring. For example, Breuch (2005) argued that asynchronous online writing centers go against the collaborative aspect of the Burkean Parlor. Past scholarship on online tutoring has also favored researching synchronous platforms (Neiderhauser & Wolfe, 2009) over asynchronous mediums such as screencast technologies like Jing and Camtasia. Such preferences for synchronous online feedback may have roots in rationalist notions of the “goodness” of physical presence (Price, 2011) where it is assumed dialogue and collaboration have more value when corporeal bodies are in space together. By extension, the synchronous feedback medium has both bodies represented in real time via tele-presence, so this extension of tele-presence might account for some of the discipline’s preferences towards researching and engaging in synchronous formats. From a normative and ableist view, asynchronous feedback has interrupted presence; thus, critics may see it as having lower value and less dialogue than its face-to-face and synchronous online counterparts. However, viewing online asynchronous tutoring through a disability lens enables writing centers to interrogate problematic assumptions about the body, mind, presence, and beliefs the discipline holds regarding asynchronous feedback.

In contrast to asynchronous critics, proponents of asynchronous tutoring argue for tutoring feedback available in all formats in which courses are taught. Thus, asynchronous feedback mirrors the medium in which most online courses are delivered. Asynchronous Online Writing Labs (OWLs) have many forms including wiki pages, email exchanges, and the use of google docs (Hewett & DePew, 2015).Unlike video feedback, not all these forms of asynchronous feedback utilize a combination of modalities that include visual images, text, color, and audio helpful to students with disabilities.

Advocates of asynchronous tutoring argue that it is, in fact, dynamic sites of tutoring and collaboration (Denton, 2017; Hewett & DePew, 2015), illustrating they have the capacity to enact writing center pedagogy which prizes peer collaboration, student ownership, and autonomy with a focus on developing writers and their writing process. Current scholarship suggests students prefer asynchronous screen-capture feedback to other mediums for its multimodal properties, ease of use, and collaborative feel (Grigoryian, 2017).These findings contradict narratives that asynchronous tutoring is less dynamic and less collaborative. Indeed, the findings show that asynchronous screen-capture feedback offers media rich affordances that spur critical thinking (Boone & Carlson, 2011), and screen-capture tutoring feedback in particular offers high levels of accessibility and flexibility that promotes student engagement (Jones et al., 2012). In short, many students utilizing asynchronous feedback via screen-capture are not experiencing a presence problem. If writing centers extend their notion of presence beyond visually seeing another body during collaboration, the possibilities of developing ethical feedback practices through asynchronous screen-capture can help to build informed pedagogy. In return, this better serves all students, and asynchronous tutoring becomes another flexible option for student writers to choose from in the menu of writing center services.

Asynchronous Screencast Feedback as Kairotic Space

I first want to theorize how asynchronous screen-capture feedback functions as an integral kairotic space, offering students with disabilities, and particularly students who identify as neurodiverse, access and autonomy. In theorizing discursive spaces within academia, Margaret Price (2011) argues that kairotic spaces are informal and often unnoticed, yet kairotic spaces are places where both power and knowledge are produced and exchanged. For Price (2011), such kairotic spaces must meet most, if not all of her theorized criteria[1]  where the pairing of “spontaneity and high levels of professional/ academic impact occur” (p.61). Asynchronous online screen-capture feedback falls under all of Price’s criteria. First, a real-time unfolding of events occurs for both the tutor creating the video and the student watching the video processing their writing feedback in the moment. Many students using asynchronous videos prefer it over other asynchronous modalities because it offers the feel of meeting with teachers about writing in person (Grigoryan, 2017). Asynchronous online feedback also has an element of impromptu communication where the thoughts or language of the tutor are spontaneous during recording. For example, in a 30-minute video prep session, the tutor can produce a five-minute recorded video containing moments of spontaneity as they work through their vocalized, typed, and recorded feedback of the student’s paper. Students processing video feedback can also experience spontaneity as they take in new ideas about their process and their text in the moment of listening. Additionally, there is a strong social element to asynchronous online feedback that speaks to power structures and knowledge making. Undergraduate students listening to asynchronous screen-capture feedback have confirmed students view video feedback to have a strong social element due to voice capture that enhances the feel of a real-time interaction (Jones, et al., 2012). Finally, asynchronous tutoring has the potential to be high stakes. After all, many student writers may have one or two opportunities to obtain feedback from a peer before a paper is due, and students place high levels of academic impact on aspects of the feedback relationship they have with tutors and the feedback they receive to strengthen both their identity as writers and their written products.

In seeing asynchronous screencast tutoring feedback as kairotic space, writing center tutors can create audio, visual, and textual instantiations of learning for students. A lens of asynchronous feedback as kairotic space should inform how writing center tutors build mindsets which deeply consider how students with disabilities might experience and navigate tutor feedback. The opportune moment and immediacy of kairos then marks asynchronous communication choices as situation dependent and unfolding. Tutors can create and later call upon rhetorical tools to fit the student writer’s stated goals, rather than adhering to fixed templates and static routines. For example, a tutor can create a video feedback practice situated in kairos by reading a student’s text utilizing an ethical repertoire of rhetorical listening treated as kairotic (Anglesey & McBride, 2019). Extending rhetorical listening into listening through reading between the lines of student writing produces an adaptive and nuanced way of “listening” in the moment to inform more flexible and responsive feedback. In this way, tutors develop ethical practices of reading and seeing student texts as hybrid, the writer as agentive and rhetorically creative, and student writers as people constructing multiple identities.

Challenging Normative Views of Time, Process, and Orthodoxy

Continuing my theorization of asynchronous spaces, I believe asynchronous screen-capture writing feedback can also circumvent time constraints and time perceptions for both students and tutors. Circumventing ableist time constraints for help to expand beyond normative time strictures that can impede students’ thoughts, writing process, and students’ ability to process feedback through several necessary modalities. In his seminal text on online writing instruction, Scott Warnock (2009) argues that “having an asynchronous textual presence is foundational in OWI” (p.2). Warnock’s (2009) stance is echoed in Hewett & De Pew’s (2015) argument that asynchronous tutoring allows for time flexibility, and limiting tutoring to only synchronous settings could act as a disservice to marginalized students. Writing centers utilizing asynchronous screen-capture platforms offer a presence that helps students feel engaged and in control of how they utilize their time in processing tutor feedback (Jones et al., 2012). For example, tutors can tell students to pause the video in order to interpret and process feedback. Tutors can also advise students to watch and re-watch videos at their own pace. It is important to note that such verbal cues embedded in a feedback video work to not only challenge normative time, but to also enact and reinforce established writing center pedagogy that honors wait time and processing time integral to learning. When tutors embed explicit ways for students to process information on their own timeline, synchronous feedback functions to extend beyond the accommodation model in which most college disability service offices are mandated to offer a finite amount of additional time to students. Tutors can move away from “fungal” or finite time and engage in “epochal” or meaningful time where the event of the video feedback holds significance (Geller, 2020). For example, tutors can respond to one or two focused concepts in the video. Then, tutors can explicitly state in the video feedback that the students should focus on revision of the two significant items and re-submit again once they have completed those revisions.

Additionally, the heightened allowance of temporal flexibility functions to better support students with disabilities and matches time needs of students to think through topics over being forced to write on demand (Tomlinson & Newman, 2017). In the classroom and on-ground writing center sessions, students can experience fungal time and can feel pressured to think on the spot, answer questions quickly, or come up with a spoken response in the moment. Tutors who embrace epochal time or “crip time” (Wood, 2017) can construct video feedback for different minds and bodies, and students can process concepts at various intervals and at various rates, thus adjusting the rate of conversation for each individual to promote agentive control over their own thinking and writing process.

Beyond circumventing normative time, tutors can use asynchronous screen-capture to ameliorate some normative process writing limitations that neurodiverse students might feel inhibit composing academic texts. A view of “ASD as insight” works to extend and value the possibilities of disability in informing practice (Walters, 2015). In re-framing how tutors can view neurodiversity as valuable, I will extend the possibility of the ways that a neurodiversity lens can inform asynchronous screen-capture tutor pedagogy to address writing process differences. First, a neurodiversity lens enables tutors to see autism as a legitimate rhetoric that has its own role in communication and social interaction. As Paul Heilker and Melanie Yergeau (2011) state, autism is “a way of being in the world through language, through invention, structure, and style” (p. 487). Thus, neurodiverse writers experience their own writing processes (idiosyncratic and iterative stages of invention, drafting, and revision) that do not always conform or mesh with neurotypical process approaches to writing used in many composition classrooms (Walters, 2015) and Writing Centers. Often classroom process approaches teach the writing process in linear ways where students are pushed to engage in invention and brainstorming, drafting, and revision in sequential order. However, neurodiverse writers may compose differently in iterative flows that resist and subvert linear thinking. Autistic writers may use varied orders of thinking and composing and engage in writing through pictures, idiosyncratic outlines, and derivations of listing which they see as integral to their writing process (Tomlinson & Neuman, 2017). A disability and social justice lens can take what neurodiverse writers share about their own composing processes as integral to informing and re-thinking what we may privilege in asynchronous tutor pedagogy as a way to serve all students equitably. Tutor feedback via screen-capture can respond to process difference by recognizing differences in process exist, differences in process are the norm, and difference is expressed in student writing in varied ways. Tutors can then resist neurotypical process approaches to reading and responding to student writing by adopting a non-linear approach and mirror that non-linearity in their captured video feedback. For example, rather than respond to student writing from an ableist and presumed focus on linearity, tutors can group details about a certain concept for revision together. When tutors chunk similar issues, students can understand patterns and relationships between grouped items in their written text. Tutors can also mirror what they see in students’ writing and utilize it in their feedback. For example, when tutors work with student writing containing a large quantity of details, tutors can consider building feedback that utilizes bottom up commentary where details in the student writing are discussed before the overarching writing concept such as evidence is discussed. Or, tutors can create simple pictures in google docs to represent how the student has written structurally and then ask if that structure is working for the audience and the topic. By mirroring their feedback based upon the student writing, tutors can reflect back to students an expression of how the student thinks and relays information differently.

Tutors using asynchronous screen-capture feedback can also resist the unchecked assumptions and tutoring orthodoxy that has historically limited online asynchronous tutoring (Denton, 2017). Denton’s argument here has merit because tutoring orthodoxy has highly privileged non-directivity, yet the reality persists that many students, including working class, disabled, and neurodivergent students engage more productively in their writing process when tutors use well placed and scaffolded moments of directivity (Cherney 2017; Day Babcock, 2015). Asynchronous screencast feedback platforms provide a user-friendly canvas for tutors to slide up and down the directive/ non-directive continuum. For example, tutors can be directive about asking the writer to pause the video and take some time to brainstorm. And tutors can slide back towards the non-directive continuum and pose an open-ended question that may help the writer consider their next revision steps.

Meshing Universal Design and Asynchronous Writing Feedback

Asynchronous screencast writing feedback has the ability to coordinate with Universal Design (UD) principles to enhance access while working with existing writing center pedagogy. Because kairotic spaces are often underestimated by people who navigate through them with relative ease, tutors have an obligation to build pedagogies that harnesses “ethical infrastructures” (Price, 2013). The concept of kairos is integral to tutors developing a mindset or internal infrastructure that goes beyond normative bodies and minds. It helps tutors see how the kairotic essence of “opportune moment” impacts the rhetorical, visual, textual, and oral/ aural delivery of feedback. In other words, the inherent aspects of asynchronous screen-capture mediums like Jing and Camtasia coupled with the immediacy of kairos have a symbiotic relationship in informing tutor pedagogy and developing infrastructures that serve as many diverse bodies and minds possible. While no one platform can be all things to all people, asynchronous screen-capture mediums possess multimodal affordances which pair well with UD. As an approach that advocates for the design of products and services suited to a broad range of users, UD is a way of moving or action, a process and mode of becoming (Dolmage, 115). Understanding UD as action resists thinking of it as a list or set of specifications, instead it reinforces UD as an “ongoing and ever evolving means of building community, pedagogy, building opportunities for agency” (Dolmage, 2017, p.118). So, while writing centers have historically long embraced individualized instruction, UD takes a different approach where design principles for all users make sessions accessible to the widest audience possible (Kiedaisch & Dinitz, 2007).

UD has several principles that mesh well with asynchronous screen-capture mediums. These principles include design that is equitable and flexible in use for diverse learners who have choice in methods of use; design that is simple and intuitive for users from varied experiences and knowledge bases; the design communicates perceptible information effectively to users; the design minimizes hazards through a tolerance for error; and the design can be used with low effort and an appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation regardless of body type or mobility (Meyer et al., 2014). Understanding UD as action affords creators (in this case tutors) a world view that shifts how we see and consider differences from within and express accessibility through feedback videos as learning resources. Tutors can layer the kairotic affordances of time, process, and scaffolded directivity in screen-capture videos using a variety of semiotic resources including oral discourse, color, text, and images. Tutors can develop design practices where mode (talk, text, color, image), medium (audio-video), sites of display (the video frame), and rhetorical purpose (making feedback as clear and accessible as possible) are brought into cohesion (Bezemer & Kress, 2008). These design practices can be constructed in word documents, google docs, pages, and other word processing formats. Different formats help envelop an ethical infrastructure for writing feedback as avoidant of retrofits that tack on the appearance of access after the fact without actually improving the design and usability of the service or product (Yergeau et al., 2013; Dolmage, 2017). Thinking about the diversity of users as a foundation of the video design, rather than as an add-on, tutors can plan from the start the design features that meet student writers’ diverse needs. In order to clearly illustrate some practical applications of UD meshing with screen-capture feedback videos, I will utilize screenshots of three components from a hypothetical screen-capture video including a welcome page, a conceptual image of organization next to a simulated “student” text, and a next-steps page. Each example shows how the earlier established concepts of time, writing process, and scaffolded directivity are realized through multimodality.

A welcome page to bookend the video feedback utilizes the modes of text, image, and color to integrate the principles of simple and intuitive use and equitable use. Figure 1 illustrates a sample welcome page using UD. By integrating a light blue background, large text size, muted colors, and fonts friendly to disabled students, users of all abilities have access to a clear and visually pleasing image that fills the site of display (Bezemer & Kress, 2008). The blue background and muted text colors may help to limit reading fatigue and minimize over stimulation for readers with synesthesia, and research suggests autistic readers respond negatively to yellow highlighting due to its high level of luminosity, yet they prefer muted tones of blue, red, and green (Grandgeorge & Masataka, 2016).

Figure 1. A sample welcome page that integrates multiple modes.

Color can also be integrated further through color-coding the student’s document. For example, bold, black type can highlight elements associated with writing criteria associated with the thesis or controlling idea. Tutors can offer a spoken explanation for the color-coding in order to pair the modes of speech, text, and color. A similar color-code approach can be used to note where moments of blue “analysis” need development, or where red quotes and paraphrases or other integrations of evidence are located or need to be added throughout the paper. Metadiscourse, or language that explains other language, stabilizes some of the unwritten rules and conventions of conversation for students who may have pragmatic impairments (Babcock, 2015), but in keeping with UD, all learners benefit from clear discourse markers. For example, the tutor can narrate how the color is being used and simultaneously provide a verbal key: “I am color coding blue here with these three question marks to note that I am not seeing any analysis after your evidence. Would your reader need some analysis here?”

One affordance of color coding in this way is that every tutor engaged in producing feedback videos can collaborate together to adopt a unified color scheme in the online writing center. In this way, no matter which tutor produces a video, all writers using the asynchronous service will provide stability with the color coding. This continuity helps to realize the design principles of equitable use and simple, intuitive, and perceptible information (Meyer et al., 2014), so students can depend upon continuity to reduce cognitive load potentially associated with having to learn varied color-coding schemes from one tutor to the next.

The flexibility of use principle of UD also informs how tutors can create learning resources like models, pictures, and images to stand side by side with student texts in real time, so students can see their writing juxtaposed with a conceptual visual model. Flexibility in use accommodates options for writers who might understand or envision organization differently and who might think more conceptually. A conceptual image offers two ways to think about a compare and contrast structure. The tutor can integrate color, image, text, and speech to help the student writer see choices in structuring a compare and contrast essay in an either an integrated fashion or in a block fashion. Figure 2 shows a side-by-side screenshot of a moment in the video when the tutor included flexible options through a conceptual image representing two ways to organize compare and contrast paragraphs.

Figure 2. A side by side view of Flexibility in Use.

As the tutor talks through the two images, they can also slide back and forth with directive and non-directive comments. Additionally, the tutor can embed oral and textual metadiscourse markers and suggest the student writer pause the video to capitalize off of the time affordance to contemplate, plan, or revisit a part of their own writing process. The principle of flexible use means the tutor would also offer the concept map as an attachment in the email via PDF, google document, or word document with the video link. Attaching the word document facilitates accessibility that is commensurate across modes (Bezemer & Kress, 2008; Yergeau et al., 2013), and a PDF image of the resource can be placed into a screen reader, can be magnified, and can be printed.

Finally, a visual representation of what the student can do next in their writing process is represented in a next steps page. This visual image acts as another book end to the screen-capture video. Figure 3 illustrates a potential culminating image in a screen-capture video:

Figure 3. A Next Steps Page.

This final page acts as an enactment of tutor praxis that encourages tutors to end sessions with a nod towards what the student writer can do next in their composing process. In a feedback video, producing a next steps page that pulls the color-coding design fully through the session meets the design principle of perceptible information. The instructions for the next process steps are designed to be clearly listed in a “straight-forward and predictable manner regardless of the student’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level” (Meyer et al., 2014, p. 24). While perhaps more directive, due to the nature of asynchronous modalities, the next steps page eliminates any guesswork or confusion about what moves the writer can make to push forward their written text.

These three examples of potential multimodal applications for screen-capture feedback are a few possibilities of unlimited ways the asynchronous medium can be explored and used to create learning resources for students. Tutors will need to practice, collaborate, and develop materials and procedures that work for their own practice and within the constraints of their own centers. UD is not perfect, nor is it a grand solution to be easily packaged (Dolmage, 2017), but it does allow writing centers a vehicle to rethink space, time, and infrastructure in new ways and interrogate and navigate the conflicts that will inevitably arise as practitioners develop and innovate new approaches to writing feedback. There is always the possibility that strategies we construct for one user may inhibit or limit another user, but tutors who recall Dolmage’s (2017) interpretation of UD as a way to move and a process of becoming will recognize that designing with access at the center of our identity means embracing constant evolution. Additionally, asynchronous online tutoring should not be free from criticism. It is a medium that is both effective for some students and less effective for others. Scholarship that critiques the medium will help to strengthen that platform and its affordances. Furthermore, asynchronous videos have limits on how much the user can manipulate and modify the video. The size of the video and pacing of audio is open to some limited modification, but there are still limits in flexibility for users. While captioning exists, there is still much room for improvement in the ability of captioning to be fluid, immediate, and accurate.

Planning for Asynchronous Video Feedback

Writing centers considering asynchronous video feedback should implement both user-centered design and participatory design (Brizee, Souza, & Driscoll, 2012) in order to engage in an ethical construction of their asynchronous service. User-centered design requires that writing center staff investigate user needs and expectations, enabling writing center staff to both analyze and envision the way student writers will utilize the asynchronous online tutoring. This will force the designers to validate their underlying assumptions about how student users will behave with the platform in the real world. Participatory design means involving future users in the design process through feedback and assessment. Here are some potential approaches writing centers may consider in starting to prepare for offering screen-capture feedback.

Student Users:

  • Collect a student survey about online color, font, and font size preferences and needs
  • Collect feedback on the proposed student submission platform; ask students how and where they would most comfortably share their learning needs and preferences when they upload papers for video feedback
  • Poll students on which composing platforms they most frequently utilize, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or Pages to inform how your center will deliver video feedback
  • Collaborate with students with disabilities and the disability department to test the accessibility and clarity of appointment-making platforms, instructions to upload papers, descriptions of the video service, and feedback delivery mechanisms

Writing Tutors:

  • Directors can ask tutors about their preferences and consent to engage in video feedback, as some tutors may not wish to be recorded
  • Directors and tutors should theorize together and regularly discuss the fundamental differences between delivering on-ground in-person tutoring and online asynchronous video feedback before implementing a video feedback service
  • Directors should research the current best practices of feedback video length and discuss video length expectations with online writing tutors
  • If possible, Writing Centers should consider creating a separate space for tutors to record video feedback
  • Directors should collaborate with tutors on how to balance or divide tutoring time between face-to-face feedback and asynchronous feedback sessions
  • Directors and tutors should collaborate on the process steps and logistics of creating asynchronous feedback videos including length of time needed for tutors to train in giving video feedback
  • Centers should plan for the logistics of producing video feedback including the length of time tutors need to read and process student writing and then produce and send student writers video feedback

Participatory design has social justice value because it engages and gives voice to the historically marginalized students writing centers both employ and serve. Participatory design also embodies the ethos of empowerment of “Nothing about us without us” in the disability justice movement.

If possible, writing centers should staff disability offices with tutors and engage in outreach to instructors teaching courses serving students with disabilities. At some colleges and universities, there are established communities of practice and embedded tutors for academic enrichment and diversity programs like Puente, Honors, Mana, and Veterans; therefore, Writing Program Administrators can act as allies to embed writing center tutors into programs that serve disabled populations.

Mark Salvo eloquently reminds us at the end of Multimodality in Motion the ephemeral status of ability:

Remember always that humans by definition are physically able, culturally normal, for only part of their adult existence: All bodies eventually fail and potential sources of these failures are as numerous as cells emerging from self-replicating genes, and the prions and synapses comprising our neuromuscular structures. We enable our future disabled selves by participating in inclusive and responsive design throughout our lifetimes. (Salvo qtd. in Yergeau et al., 2013, p. 2)

By engaging with disability studies and actively constructing inclusive tutoring pedagogies within a social justice framework, Writing Centers can enable their future identity as a responsive space designed by diverse learner/ practitioners for all students’ abilities and identities.


  1. Price describes kairos with the following criteria: 1. A real-time unfolding event; 2. Impromptu communication either required or encouraged; 3. In-person contact; 4. A strong social element; 5. High stakes. Price amended her criterion of “in-person contact” in the coauthored techno rhetoric webtext (Yergeau et al., 2013) arguing telepresence (the feel and/ or appearance of presence), not just physical presence, also functions to engender kairotic spaces..


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