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The Coach: a Web-based Resource for Improving the Writing Skills of Engineering Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Rethinking Engineering Writing

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1173.1 - 23.1173.15



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Paper Authors


David M. Beams P.E. University of Texas, Tyler

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David Beams earned the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1974 and 1977, respectively, and spent 16 years in industrial practice as a design engineer before returning to graduate study. He earned the Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 and joined the founding faculty of the School of Engineering of the University of Texas at Tyler. Dr. Beams has authored or co-authored a number of papers in engineering education and conference publications in electrical engineering. He is a holder or co-holder of four patents and is a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Wisconsin.

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Luke Niiler University of Alabama

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Dr. Niiler is a member of the English faculty and Director of the Writing Center at the University of Alabama.

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Beth Todd University of Alabama

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Dr. Beth Todd is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alabama. She is interested in improving students' abilities in design and professional skills.

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Marcus Brown University of Alabama


Garry W. Warren University of Alabama

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Prof. Warren is in the Dept. of Metallurgical & Materials Engineering and has been teaching for 34 years. His research expertise is primarily in the area of processing, thermodynamics, corrosion and electrochemistry. He has been interested in improving the writing and communication skills of students for many years.

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The Coach: a Web-based Resource for Improving the Writing Skills of Engineering StudentsWhile the opportunities to create writing-intensive courses in engineering are limited, theneed for stronger writing curriculum within engineering courses is great. This need has beenshown in studies such as the Engineering Writing Initiative (EWI), which tracked thedevelopment of engineering students’ writing skills at __________ over a four-year period.In that study, the presenters identified two key deficiencies in engineering students’ writtencommunications: rhetorical skills (awareness of audience, purpose, message, and topic) andvisual communications (graphs, figures, etc.).The work begun by EWI continues with The Coach, a collaborative, NSF-funded project atthree institutions: a large state university; a small regional university; and a communitycollege. The Coach is developing a series of web-based writing instruction modules and willhelp students learn to write for audiences of engineers through sequences of writing samples,prompts, and heuristics. By emphasizing writing as a design process, The Coach will provideengineering faculty with a valuable resource for developing students’ rhetorical and visualcommunications skills. The Coach’s development is founded upon the understanding that wemust work within engineering courses to build stronger writing skills.Technical issues prevented the planned launch of The Coach in 2011, but roll-out is takingplace in fall, 2012. This paper will describe in detail the state of development, curricularintroduction, and preliminary assessment of The Coach.

Beams, D. M., & Niiler, L., & Todd, B., & Brown, M., & Warren, G. W. (2013, June), The Coach: a Web-based Resource for Improving the Writing Skills of Engineering Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22558

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