Online Writing Lab
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An Online Writing Lab (OWL) is often an extension of a university writing center. Online writing labs offer help to students and other writers by providing literacy materials, such as handouts and slide presentations. Writers may also submit questions electronically for feedback. Many OWLs are open to people unaffiliated with the specific institution. Online writing labs play an important part in writing center assistance because they allow writers to use some of the center’s resources remotely.
In 1976, the Department of English at Purdue University asked Muriel "Mickey" Harris to establish its Writing Lab, a campus-based service designed to assist learners in their rhetorical writing processes. Harris began the Writing Lab by collaborating with a team of graduate assistants, who worked one-to-one with student writers and often developed handouts to reinforce the lessons the students learned in the Writing Lab. The writing tutors and Harris sent paper copies of their materials to individuals beyond Purdue University who contacted the Writing Lab requesting information on writing, citation, or research. Later, these resources became available electronically through email requests and through GOPHER in 1993, a precursor to the World Wide Web. Harris and the Purdue Writing Lab launched its OWL on the web in 1995, making it one of the first OWLs on the Internet. Having made its library of resources available electronically, the Purdue OWL is now accessed by millions of users worldwide.