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  • MA Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies (RWDMS)

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English - Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies, Master of Arts

The Master of Arts in English - Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies provides a curriculum that will prepare you to participate and advance current knowledge and practices in rhetoric, writing pedagogy, and composition theory and practice, and to use your understanding of research methodologies and writing skills in your academic writing, workplace writing, and information development.   The program focuses on providing quality instruction for students who are interested in language, literacy, and learning in contemporary society; who wish to teach writing or who teach in K-12, college, or specialized settings; and who intend to focus on community or workplace literacy programs.   The program in Rhetoric, Writing and Digital Media Studies allows students to follow a clearly articulated plan that provides for structure within a flexible framework, and that provides the skills necessary for succeeding in competitive work environments.

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To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units. You must additionally complete:

  • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
  • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
  • All work toward the master degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

Read the full policy here .

Overview Accordion Closed

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Purpose Statement The Rhetoric, Writing and Digital Media Studies program provides a curriculum that prepares students to excel as writers, scholars, and teachers. The program emphasizes the importance of critical reading, reflection, writing, digital media, and spoken language to cultivate knowledgeable citizens who understand and appreciate their civic, professional, and personal responsibilities in local and global communities. We specialize in preparing students for intercultural and interdisciplinary communication practices in digital and traditional work settings to further global engagement, diversity, and social participation. Students gain advanced skills in rhetorical theory and persuasive argumentation, social media literacy, multimedia writing, and design, professional and public discourse conventions, and teaching literacy and writing through theory-based application projects. They acquire the necessary tools to participate in local and global communities, and they establish a foundation of diverse writing practices for academic and workplace settings. Student Learning Outcomes  Theory and Knowledge: Examine and evaluate the major theories in rhetoric, writing, and digital media studies by participating in and advancing current knowledge and practices in the field.

  • Evaluate and reflect critically on rhetorical terms and concepts used by rhetoricians from classical to modern times.
  • Evaluate similarities and differences in the uses of language, the connections between organization and structure used in specific time periods, the connections between style and delivery, and the connections between persuasion and argumentation used in specific time periods.
  • Understand how language practices during specific time periods were and are used to communicate about the diversity of human experience.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the contributions of rhetoric to workplace studies, literacy studies, narrative studies, digital studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and race studies.
  • Research, evaluate, and apply rhetorical principles from classical to modern times for academic, professional and public discourse

  Demonstrate an advanced understanding of research methodologies and writing skills applicable to English studies, including academic writing, workplace writing, and information development.

  • Evaluate and reflect critically on methodological practices and concepts used in research designs in rhetoric, writing, and digital media studies.
  • Understand research as a recursive process.
  • Use research data to formulate or evaluate new research questions, using reason and persuasion in a logical argument.
  • Summarize and evaluate a body of research, including primary and secondary sources.
  • Demonstrate competent, ethical, and responsible use of information in academic and workplace writing.

  Analysis and Critical Thinking: Critically analyze how cultural artifacts (written, digital, visual, and spoken texts) shape identities and ideologies in diverse local, national, historical, and global communities.

  • Research, evaluate, and apply knowledge of significant issues related to global learning, diversity, and sustainable educational and environmental practices.
  • Write critical analyses exploring key texts and key concepts about historical and current rhetorical terms and concepts.
  • Research, evaluate, and apply historical knowledge of rhetorical terms and concepts to show how contemporary language use is influenced by cultural knowledge.
  • Research, evaluate, and apply rhetorical principles from classical to modern times to ethnically and linguistically diverse populations.
  • Tailor your academic and professional work to a specific audience and focus your writing on a specific purpose.

  Apply theoretical and practical knowledge to projects that synthesize and evaluate appropriate research, scholarship, and methodologies in rhetoric, writing, and digital studies

  • Design text and digital projects that show the ethical use of language in diverse academic, public, and professional communities.
  • Understand how cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, and economic factors influence communication practices in text and digital environments.
  • Research, evaluate, and apply rhetorical principles to question current norms and dominant cultural assumptions expressed in text and digital media.
  • Design and present text and media that addresses experiential learning
  • Design and present projects that show a clear understanding of purpose, audience, and cultural, social, historical, and political contexts.

  Research and Application: Apply rhetorical, pedagogical, narrative, new media, and workplace theories and practices by carrying out advanced course-related and client-related projects directed at conceptualizing, researching, understanding, and reformulating current theories in the field of rhetoric and writing studies through appropriate professional activities (conferences, presentations, publications, social action, grants, internships, practicum experiences, extended research projects, fieldwork, and other activities).

  • Articulate a theoretical framework for the project (including a literature review to assess the theoretical and methodological contributions previously made to this area).
  • Identify and define appropriate methods of data collection and apply appropriate research methods.
  • Use a research design appropriate to the audience and purpose of your project, showing understanding of rhetorical approaches to multimedia design.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the project and its implications to the field of rhetoric, writing, and digital media.
  • Analyze, interpret and explain your findings and your project in an extensive project write-up.
  • Present your original research to professional and non-professional audiences, articulating sustained, coherent explanations of your work.
  • Apply appropriate writing and design standards and literacy skills to succeed in academic, civic, and personal life.

  Actively participate in local, national, and global communities of academic and workplace writers by participating in professional development activities, and by creating and updating online profiles.

  • Identify your career and learning goals and develop a personal career development plan based on your strengths and goals (Introduction to Rhetoric and Writing Studies).
  • Effectively represent your experience, skills and competencies through written (resume, cover letter, social media, application materials) and verbal (interview skills, presentation skills, etc.) communication (Analysis courses, research projects course).
  • Develop your project management skills (especially Workplace Writing and research projects).
  • Establish, maintain, and grow your professional network (start in intro to Rhetoric and WS, continue in Analysis courses, and in research projects course).
  • Increase your experience and marketability, as well as your level of knowledge about career opportunities, through internships or projects (internships and research project course).
  •  Apply appropriate communication and presentation standards to succeed in academic, civic, and personal life.
  • Establish an online professional presence by designing, adding on a regular basis, and updating a digital portfolio.

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Graduate admission information.

The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College. Admission requirements include the following:

  • Transcripts.
  • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies. Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy .

Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Writing Sample

Master's Requirements

This Master’s degree requires 36 units distributed as follows:

  • Theoretical Context: 9 units
  • Analysis: 12 units
  • Application: 6 units
  • Elective courses selected in consultation with your advisor: 9 units

Take the following 36 units: Theoretical Context (9 units) :

  • ENG 560 , ENG 561 , ENG 562

Analysis; take the following four courses (12 units) :

  • ENG 622 , ENG 623 , ENG 624 , ENG 626

Application; take 3 units from each applications course (6 units) :

  • ENG 563 , ENG 686

Three elective courses, chosen with your advisor’s approval (9 units)

Additional Information

Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.

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  • strengthen your critical and analytical writing abilities necessary for teachers, writers, and scholars;
  • prepare you to complete practical research projects needed in your current or future academic or workplace settings; and
  • provide you with the tools to continue your studies in rhetoric, composition, communications, professional writing, and related fields.

Degree availability

  • Flagstaff Mountain Campus: Study at the Flagstaff Mountain Campus, apply for a graduate teaching assistantship, and work with full-time faculty experts.
  • Online: Study online with full-time faculty experts, pay competitive tuition rates. No residency required.

Length of program

Funding and tuition, employment after graduation.

  • teaching writing/composition at the high school and college level
  • social media/digital content writing, content production, and marketing
  • grant and science writing
  • editing and technical writing
  • freelance writing
  • community organizing and marketing

Preparation for future studies

  • Arizona State University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • New Mexico State University
  • Texas Technological University
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • University of New Mexico

Questions? Please contact

Department of english, mailing address.

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Master of Arts in Professional Writing

Highlights of our online master’s degree in professional writing.

We are recognized by multiple institutions for our academic quality, affordability, and accessibility . Our commitment to excellence also helped us rank in the top 10% of Niche.com’s best online schools in America . Earning your online degree from a nonprofit university with this kind of recognition can help set you apart from others in your field.

  • Your success is our success, which is why we’re committed to providing quality academics at an affordable tuition rate. While other colleges are increasing their tuition, we have frozen tuition rates for our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs for the past 9 years — and counting.
  • Study content developed by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury , whose professional experience in creative writing offers practical, real-world insights into research, publishing, and cultural engagement. 
  • Customize your degree plan with industry-specific electives while studying essential core content that provides practical, effective training for your career.
  • Choose to demonstrate your knowledge through a final research thesis project or broaden your experience with 2 additional electives in your field of choice.
  • You can complete the online master’s degree in professional writing in less than 2 years.
  • You can benefit from networking opportunities with other students in the program from around the country.

Potential Career Options with a Master’s in Professional Writing

  • Business writing
  • Grant writing
  • Professional writing
  • Promotional writing
  • Publishing and editing
  • Technical writing

Gain Practical Writing Skills with a Master’s in Professional Writing

As a writer, you have a lot of flexibility in your career direction. You can write to sell products or move hearts. You can even be your own boss by working as a freelancer. If you are interested in a degree that can be used in many different career fields, then perhaps Liberty’s Master of Arts in Professional Writing is for you.

Learn from experienced industry professionals. In this program, you can study practical, real-world content developed in collaboration with New York Times bestselling author and Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury as well as learn from faculty members who have extensive experience.

You can focus on specialized techniques for education, grant writing, and many essential roles in business, government, and nonprofit markets. Liberty’s master’s in writing online degree can help equip you to communicate effectively through digital media, traditional publishing, and the latest cutting-edge information technology, all while providing the flexibility of our state-of-the-art online learning environment.

Specializations for Our MA in Professional Writing

Our Master of Arts in Professional Writing allows you to choose between 2 degree tracks:

This option affords you the flexibility to explore several areas that are of particular interest to you. The MA in Professional Writing allows you to choose 3 elective professional writing courses from a list of 10. In this section of the degree, you may choose to study:

Ministry and Business

Our professional writing major will cover a variety of tasks such as business research methods and writing grants. You may also choose to learn the unique communication skills needed for Christian ministry and upper levels of leadership in professional and personal settings. Let your passion guide you to study material that is meaningful to you.

This is more than just an online master’s degree in writing and editing. You could use your writing skills to make a difference and sway public opinion by studying speech writing for candidates and policymakers. Some of the greatest speeches and moments in history were scripted by professional writers.

Digital Communications

We want to make sure that our master’s in professional writing online helps prepare you for the digital age as well. You may study how to create campaigns for the movement of products or organizations towards growth. This will involve learning how to write for advertising and public relations campaigns for business, government, nonprofit, and community organizations. 

Master’s in Professional Writing Program Information

  • This program falls under the  College of Arts and Sciences .
  • Download and review the  Degree Completion Plan .
  • View the  Graduate Arts and Sciences Course Guides   (login required).
  • Students may complete a final thesis project or choose 2 additional electives.

Apply Now     Request Info

Research Administration and Sponsored Programs

Our MA in Professional Writing – Research Administration and Sponsored Programs specialization incorporates a variety of topics that cover topics related to research administration, grants, and more.

Degree Information

Why choose liberty’s online master’s degree in professional writing.

Whether you plan to engage the culture with creative writing or use your skills to solve strategic communication problems in your industry, our online master’s degree in professional writing provides a 100% online, customizable, and practical approach to the specialized skills you need to succeed. 

Throughout our professional writing degree, you can gain foundational knowledge in practical skill sets, such as editing, layout for publishing, and composition. Our highly customizable degree also allows you to pick the areas of writing that interest you. Whether you are planning to write your own novels or work in marketing, you can find a topic to suit your personal and professional goals.

What Are the Benefits of Our Online Master’s Degree in Professional Writing?

  • Explore new employment opportunities by demonstrating industry-specific strategic communication skills.
  • Develop in-demand skills such as technical writing, which has an estimated 12% job growth from 2020 to 2030 and a median 2020 salary of $78,060 per year.*
  • Pursue increased pay by learning how to adapt to many communication fields, including digital media and instructional technology.
  • Develop portfolio items during your coursework to demonstrate practical skills and marketable experience that could help improve your career options.
  • Complete coursework that can help equip you for college-level instruction so you can pursue potential supplemental income and pass on your knowledge to others.
  • Learn how to navigate the publishing process for your own creative writing from industry professionals like Karen Kingsbury.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, at Technical Writers, 2020 (viewed online April 20, 2022). Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.

What Will You Learn in the Online Master’s Degree in Professional Writing?

Professional writers or students interested in becoming writers can benefit from the foundational skills and knowledge provided by the Master of Arts in Professional Writing. This program can help you launch a career in a new industry or improve your effectiveness in your current career. 

Through course material created in collaboration with Karen Kingsbury, this degree will cover the basics of editing, layout, and publishing. You can also learn how to use your writing skills to engage diverse audiences through various mediums such as blogs, op-eds, popular journals, and more.

Admission Requirements for Our Online Professional Writing Degree

A regionally or nationally accredited bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 or above cumulative GPA is required for admission in good standing. Please visit our  admission requirements page  for more detailed admissions-related information.

All applicants must submit the following:

  • Admission application
  • Application fee*
  • Official college transcripts
  • Unofficial college transcripts may be accepted with a completed official transcript request form**
  • Proof of English proficiency (for applicants whose native language is other than English)

*There is no upfront application fee; however, a deferred $50 application fee will be assessed during Financial Check-In. This fee is waived for qualifying service members, veterans, and military spouses – documentation verifying military status is required.

**An official transcript is needed within 60 days of acceptance or before non-attendance drops for the first set of matriculated classes, whichever comes first. 

Online Master’s Degree in Professional Writing Military Benefits

Whether you are a current service member, discharged or retired from service, or the spouse of a service member or veteran, we are here to support you every step of the journey. As a small token of our thanks for your dedication and service to our country, Liberty is honored to serve and support you by offering the following benefits:

  • Tuition discounts — $275 per credit hour for graduate courses
  • Additional discount for veterans who serve in a civilian capacity as a First Responder (less than $625 per course)
  • 8-week courses, 8 different start dates each year, and no set login times (may exclude certain courses such as practicums, internships, or field experiences)

Transfer Policies

At Liberty, we want to help you make the most of your prior education by allowing you to transfer in previously earned college credit. That’s why you can transfer in up to 50% of your total credits for a master’s or doctoral program!

Some restrictions apply. Please visit our   Transfer Policy   page for more information.

*Some restrictions may occur for this promotion to apply. This promotion also excludes active faculty and staff, military, Non-Degree Seeking, DGIA, Continuing Education, WSB, and Certificates.

Apply FREE This Week*

Other programs you may be interested in

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You have to have a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline when you are going to school online, but the amazing thing is at Liberty you do not need to do it by yourself. You really do have resources like someone who is going to school on campus.

– Janae Fleming ’15, B.S. in Education

Graduate Programs

Welcome to the graduate programs in wrac.

The graduate programs in WRAC aim to prepare the next generation of leaders, thinkers, teachers, and innovators in the discipline of rhetoric and writing and in related fields both inside and outside of academia. Our goal is to serve as a model for a new vision of humanities scholars and professional practitioners. 

This vision guides our recruitment, our curriculum, our support packages, and our mentoring philosophy. It asks a lot of both students and faculty, but it also makes the program an exciting place to be.

Because we aim to create an innovative and energetic environment for research, teaching, and community engagement, we offer a broad array of curricular, co-curricular, extra-curricular, and community engagement opportunities, and a nationally renowned faculty who enjoy working with students as they become our colleagues and peers.

The graduate programs in WRAC aim to prepare the next generation of leaders, thinkers, teachers, and innovators in the discipline of rhetoric and writing and in related fields both inside and outside of academia. Our goal is to serve as a model for a new vision of humanities scholars and professional practitioners.

We have strong interdisciplinary ties to other programs and research centers at MSU, especially to  African American and African Studies ;  American Indian and Indigenous Studies ;  Asian Pacific American Studies ;  Chicano/Latina Studies ;  Cultural Heritage Informatics ;  Digital Humanities @ CAL ; the  Digital Media Arts and Technology Lab ; the  Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum ;  MATRIX  (the Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online); the  MSU Museum ; the  Native American Institute ; the  Residential College in the Arts and Humanities  (RCAH);  Teacher Education ; the  Center for Gender in a Global Context ; the  Writing Center ; and the  Writing, Information, and Digital Experience (WIDE) Research Center .

The intellectual community of the programs offer students a unique academic space to explore scholarly, intellectual, and pedagogical pathways in and beyond the traditionally understood provenance of rhetoric and composition studies. Because encouraging these kinds of risks requires a strong supportive network of colleagues and mentors, we work hard to provide an intellectual community that seeks out and welcomes all individuals, and that openly makes space for the broadest possible spectrum of diversity across categories of age, life experience, gender, abilities, race, ethnicity, class, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, and geographic identification. We attract strong students from all walks of life, and we are excited about the possibilities that arise from each cohort’s arrival in the program. Every member of our academic community has something important to contribute to our intellectual community and to the future of our discipline.

“Every member of our academic community has something important to contribute to our intellectual community and to the future of our discipline.”

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The graduate programs in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) have a complicated history. Founded in 2002 as an independent graduate-level Rhetoric and Writing (RW) Program in the  College of Arts & Letters  (CAL), we mark our formal beginnings in Fall 2003, when our first five RW PhD students and seven Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing (DRPW) MA students began their studies at MSU. Since that time, our program—and our national reputation—has quickly grown.

In 2004, the English department’s Critical Studies in the Teaching of English (CSTE) program joined us and became the Critical Studies in Literacy and Pedagogy (CSLP) MA program and PhD concentration. In 2010, we joined the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, which is home to the Professional Writing undergraduate major and to the university’s first-year writing program.

Today, our graduate programs include two MA degree programs—CSLP and DRPW—and the PhD in Rhetoric and Writing. As a community of about 60 diverse graduate students and nearly 30 diverse and interdisciplinary graduate program faculty, we work together to create knowledge that will change our discipline and transform the world in which we live.

After more than 15 years in existence, our programs are thriving; collectives, research clusters, and writing groups are constantly being formed to promote collaborative scholarship among students and between faculty and students. These collaborations have resulted in dozens of conference presentations (and other speaking engagements), workshops, grant proposals, articles, book chapters, and books. Many members of our community have graduated and moved on to college, university, and industry employment and to other graduate programs.

As we look forward to our future as a program, we remain invested in building and maintaining a visionary, innovative space for knowledge-making—a process of reflection and revision that always includes graduate student input and collaborative practices of innovation.

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  • MS in Professional Writing

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Master’s (MS) in Professional Writing

Your words, your world. Professional writing offers a broad array of career opportunities across a wide range of industries and fields. If you are interested in technical writing/UX writing, science writing, business communications, writing for digital media/content creation, medical writing or financial writing, the MS in Professional Writing offered by the NYU SPS Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts prepares you for innovative full-time and freelance writing careers . Through elective course choices, you can hone your writing skills in one area or across related fields, making you highly valuable to multiple industries. This 36-credit, fully online graduate degree provides the convenience of learning from any location. You will build a solid foundation in writing, style, and rhetoric with in-depth explorations of emerging communication practices, document design, and the principles of professional writing. Real-world assignment in core and elective courses allow you to build a comprehensive, digital writing portfolio before you graduate to showcase your writing expertise and the quality of your NYU graduate degree. Our MS in Professional Writing students develop their creative abilities with a focus on professional stability.

Degree Advantages

  • 36-credit program of study
  • Fully online curriculum provides location flexibility
  • Develop your writing and editing skills, styles, and techniques
  • Build a professional-quality, digital writing portfolio from coursework
  • Customize your elective courses to match your interests and in demand writing specializations
  • Learn from expert faculty who are business communication specialists, science and medical writers, digital media strategists, technical writers, and more
  • Complete your MS in Professional Writing in full-time or part-time study options


Explore graduate opportunities at nyu sps.

Join an upcoming online session to learn more about our graduate degree programs including the MS in Professional Writing. As an attendee of an Explore Graduate Opportunities at NYU SPS session, you will meet members of our team and have the opportunity to ask questions about the program and application process.

Graduate Instant Decision Days

Ready to complete and submit your application? During the event, you will have the opportunity to meet with Admissions Officers to discuss your complete application and receive a decision.

Who Should Apply for the MS in Professional Writing?

Turn your passion for writing into a lucrative career. This graduate writing degree is a springboard to a myriad of flexible career opportunities. Our workshop-model curriculum is an exciting fit for English majors, journalists, creative writers, educators; those working in technology, medicine, and the sciences; as well as individuals in the fields of digital media and advertising or business communications. Guided by industry expert faculty-members, you will work through assignments that target corporate, academic, and real-world audiences to build professional-quality writing portfolios before you graduate.

Become Part of an Online Learning and Writing Community

Mirroring the increasingly digital, global, and collaborative work environment of today’s professional world, the MS in Professional Writing brings faculty members, students, and guest lecturers together as part of an interactive, online educational community. Learn, write, edit, and revise writing projects with a cohort of classmates from NYC, across the country, and around the world.

Prepare for a Professional Writing Career

Words saturate our global business world and advances in communication technology and social media have increased the demand for highly skilled, professional writers across industries. Companies and clients rely on professional writers who are detail-oriented and able to produce timely and accurate copy with measurable impact on target audiences.

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Your request has been submitted, department highlights, 2023 website prototype projects by ms in professional writing students, networking with confidence: janel abrahami tells how, ai in the professions: professional writing, translation, and the new face of content creation, 2023 ms in professional writing convocation award recipients, mspw faculty speaker series recap, interview with tami herndon, class of 2017, professional communications consultant, mspw student spotlight: vivian udeh’s ux writer internship at google, nyu sps club owls wins community engagement prize, 2022 nyu mspw convocation award recipients, mspw student spotlight: brandi addison, mspw student spotlight: nandi dabrowski, mspw announces documenting global pandemic experiences project, dr. kristine rodriguez kerr, academic director of the ms in professional writing, speaks at the 2019 words without borders gala, professional writer at work: interview with megan diamondstein, acting deputy director of marketing and communications & digital director for the center for reproductive rights, mspw & msti academic directors awarded faculty innovation and antiracism microgrant, nyu sps academic director and associate professor kristine rodriguez kerr is named an upcea diversity in leadership scholar, katherine newhouse, edd, receives nyusps 2021 teaching excellence award, guided by adjunct instructor clea mahoney, ms in professional writing students share their thoughts with future students in an end-of-semester reflection newsletter, ms in professional writing adjunct instructor, emily bailin wells, edd, launches anti-racist dialogue and artifact-based initiative, frequently asked questions, what is professional writing.

Professional writing is everywhere! Professional writing includes copy created across industries for websites, emails, communication plans, pamphlets, prescription drug inserts, policy documents, FAQs (like this one), instructions, annual reports, grant proposals, white papers, chatbots scripts, social media posts, onboarding documents ... the list goes on.

Professional writers are at the forefront of creating strategic copy; applying style guides; building a unified voice and tone company-wide; tracking success measures; and editing to better engage, persuade, and influence target audiences.

Shifts in technology allow writers to combine words, images, and sounds in ways that merge digital spaces with printed documents. These new tools have created new habits in how we communicate and new avenues for professional writing to shape our society. Words have power and professional writers have impact.

What industries/who hires professional writers?

Company websites, online publications, and digital services are growing in number, sophistication, and readership every day. This has increased the demand for professional writers that can create timely and accurate copy across traditional, digital, and media experiences. 

Our alumni go on to have active and engaging professional writing careers in sectors that include: government, technology, education, financial, nonprofit/fundraising, medical/healthcare/wellness, science/environment/energy, and corporate communications/marketing.  Our graduates are engaged in professional writing careers that include the following roles:

  • Technical Editor/Technical Writer
  • Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships
  • Content Designer/UX Writer
  • Senior Medical Editor/Writer
  • VP, Marketing & Communications
  • Head Writer, in-house Marketing
  • Head of Content 
  • Assistant Director of Communications & Engagement
  • Freelance Writer/Editor

Why do I need a graduate degree in Professional Writing?

Earning an MS in Professional Writing from NYU will move you forward in your professional writing career—at any stage. We pride ourselves on a curriculum that has real-world relevance and prepares confident writers with the skills to craft strategic, ethical copy for companies and clients across industries. Our coursework will help you improve your craft as a writer and you will graduate with a professional-quality writing portfolio and access to a network of professional peers.

Guided by industry-experienced faculty, you will hone your writing and editing abilities and develop leadership, project management, and media literacy skills. Employers value the education our students receive, the skills they obtain, and their ability to confidently lead communication projects forward. This helps set our students apart and advances their job prospects and pathways.

With this degree, you can advance in your current career to a leadership role or pivot writing full-time for a passion project/industry you care about. You can also use your time in the program to try a range of industries and writing roles before launching a career that matches your writing strengths and interests.  

Does every student graduate with a writing portfolio?

Yes! Every MS in Professional Writing student builds a digital, professional-quality portfolio in their final semester. The digital writing portfolio pulls from course work throughout the program and is individualized to students’ professional goals and personal interests.

Our curriculum is designed so that every class has multiple real-world assignments that could be included in a students’ digital writing portfolio. In your final semester, you select the coursework that best fits your career goals to build a digital portfolio that you can use as soon as you graduate.

How long does it take to earn an MS in Professional Writing?

The MS in Professional Writing is a 36 credit degree program. If you choose to study full-time, you can complete your degree in as little as 3 semesters. Most part-time students complete the MS in Professional Writing degree in 6 semesters. We believe graduate school should fit the busy lives of our students and you can opt to study full-time or part-time to find a work/life/student balance that is right for you.

Is Financial Aid available for the MS in Professional Writing?

Yes!  We encourage our applicants to explore the financial aid resources available to graduate students.  This includes a unique scholarship opportunity for first-semester MS in Professional Writing students.  

What’s unique about the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies?

You! Our students build an online writing community that grows with each class you take. Students join the MS in Professional Writing program with a variety of interests, experiences, and individual goals. From NYC, across the country, and around the world, our students share a love of writing and a commitment to improving their craft. They are motivated by curiosity and by the possibilities of professional writing. They know that their writing can build understanding, communicate important messages, and create change in the world. And they have fun along the way.

A few other things that make our MS in Professional Writing unique:

  • We are a high-touch, fully online program, providing the convenience of learning from any location, on your own schedule, as part of the NYU learning community. Renowned for our innovative workshop-model curriculum, our program is designed to match the flexible and tech-forward working life of professional writers. Learn more about the courses available in the MS in Professional Writing.
  • We encourage students to explore a range of industries and writing styles in their coursework. You don’t have to narrow to one type of writing or industry until you’ve tried out a few. Alternatively, you can select electives that are clustered in one area to provide a deep dive (and targeted writing portfolio) if you already know your career path. 
  • We have industry-experienced faculty who are leaders in their professions and care deeply about impacting the next generation of writers in their fields. In the MS in Professional Writing program, faculty and industry leaders work together to continuously update our courses, preparing our students to meet today’s unique communication demands.
  • We partner with the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development at NYU SPS , providing students and alumni with career coaching and connection to a global network of peers and professionals.

Take the next step

Learn more about your program of interest and apply.

Forum for Digital Culture

Master of Arts in Digital Studies

The Master of Arts in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History provides a solid grounding in computational methods and their use in the arts and humanities. It is a stepping stone to careers that require a combination of coding skills with the skills in research, writing, and critical thinking provided by an education in the humanities.

Graduates of this program are eligible for non-academic jobs in software development or software-related marketing, communications, and technical writing. Alternatively, they may pursue doctoral studies in order to apply their computational skills to research and teaching; or they may take on an academic support role in digital humanities at a college, university, or cultural institution.

There is a one-year version of the master’s program with no thesis requirement and a two-year version of the program that entails a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. The two-year M.A. is recommended for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in the future.  

A STEM Designated Degree Program

This master’s program qualifies as a STEM Designated Degree Program under the regulations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The program is primarily intended for students who have previously majored in the arts or humanities. However, students who majored in the sciences, including computer science, may also benefit from the program and are encouraged to apply.

Click the image to view a recent info-session video about the program.  

masters in digital writing

Video of an information session with program staff (click here)

Get in touch with us.

Enter your contact information and you will receive details regarding graduate study at UChicago as well as Humanities Division updates, news, and admissions-related information.

The deadlines and required materials for applying for the M.A. are described on the Apply for the M.A. page  of this website. For more information, please send email to  [email protected] .

Click here to  start your application . If you have questions about the application process, please contact us by email at [email protected] .  

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One-Year M.A.

Students in the one-year version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for one academic year, from late September to the end of May. They do not do a master’s thesis.

Please note that students who are admitted to do a one-year M.A. will not be able to stay on to do a two-year M.A. The decision about whether to do a one-year M.A. or a two-year M.A. must be made at the time of application.

Students doing the one-year M.A. take three courses per quarter in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters, for a total of nine courses, including six core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and three elective courses . The elective courses may be in any department of the humanities or social sciences.

The Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the Forum for Digital Culture will meet with each student once per quarter, in Week 7 or Week 8, to discuss the student’s academic progress and elective courses.

Autumn Quarter

In the Autumn Quarter, students take three required core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS):

  • DIGS 30001, Introduction to Computer Programming with Python
  • DIGS 30002, Data Analysis I: Introduction to Statistics
  • DIGS 30003, Data Management for the Humanities ( in this course students learn how to acquire and clean data stored in diverse formats, how to use relational databases and the SQL querying language, and how to construct ontologies for non-relational graph databases using the Web Ontology Language )

Winter Quarter

In the Winter Quarter, students take two required core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and one elective course :

  • DIGS 30004, Data Analysis II: Data Visualization and Machine Learning ( this course provides additional practice in Python coding )
  • DIGS 30007, Introduction to Digital Humanities ( this course surveys the the history and theory of digital computing, the use of computers for research in the humanities, and current debates about digital humanities )
  • One elective course chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Spring Quarter

In the Spring Quarter, students take one required core course in Digital Studies (DIGS) and two elective courses :

  • DIGS 30005, Data Publication for the Humanities ( in this course students learn how to publish scholarly data on the Web by means of apps written in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS )
  • Two elective courses chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Please note that a grade of C (2.0) or higher in both DIGS 30001 and DIGS 30002 in the Autumn is a requirement for continuing in the M.A. program because these courses are prerequisites for subsequent required courses in the Winter and Spring. Students who have previously passed a college-level course in computer programming or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher may petition the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction for an exemption from taking DIGS 30001 and/or DIGS 30002, allowing them to take one or two additional elective courses.

Two-Year Specialized M.A. with Thesis Project

Students in the two-year research-intensive version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for two consecutive academic years. In their first year, they take the same six core courses as the students doing a one-year M.A. (described above) and three courses prescribed for their area of specialization. In their second year, they take additional courses prescribed for their area of specialization and do a thesis project in that area under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The tuition fee is reduced by 50 percent in the second year.

The proposed area of specialization must be indicated at the time of application to the two-year M.A. program. Four areas of specialization are currently available. A specialization in Digital Ethics and Public Discourse is planned for the future. Click the links below for more information on each of the areas of specialization:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Language
  • Digital Art and Archaeology
  • Digital Media and Extended Reality
  • Digital Texts and Culture

Thesis Project

In their second year, students will do a thesis project under the guidance of a thesis advisor who is a University of Chicago faculty member, instructional professor, or lecturer. The thesis advisor may or may not be someone whose own research entails computational methods. The Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the Forum for Digital Culture will work with students to select a feasible topic and find a suitable advisor. Training and advice concerning the computational methods used in the thesis project will be provided by the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture.

The thesis must have a software component as well as a written component. In the written component, the student will explain the computational aspects of the project and reflect critically on the methods being used with reference to the historical development of these methods and the assumptions underlying them and with reference to current debates in digital humanities. The length of the written component of the thesis may vary, depending on the subject matter and the expectations of the thesis advisor, but it will be at least 25 pages and no more than 50 pages of text (double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins), not counting illustrations and bibliographic references.

Students   must submit to the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction a thesis proposal form signed by the thesis advisor no later than the end of Week 6 of the Spring Quarter of their first year. This form will contain the thesis title and abstract and a schedule for regular consultation with the faculty advisor and the Forum staff , who will help the student with the technical aspects of the project.

The completed thesis project (both the software component and the written component) must be submitted to the thesis advisor and the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction no later than the end of Week 6 in the Spring Quarter of the student’s second year in the program.

Summer Internship

Students doing a two-year M.A. are eligible for a paid internship to work part-time on campus in the summer between their first and second year under the supervision of a member of the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture. They are also expected to begin work on the software component of their thesis projects during that summer.

How to Apply

Click here to start your application . contact  humanitiesadmissi[email protected]  with questions about the application process..

If you have questions about any of the Digital Studies programs, please send email to  [email protected] .

Admission Requirements and Minimum Grades

No previous background in computer programming is required and students are admitted from a wide variety of undergraduate majors. However, to be admitted to the program, the student will normally have passed at least one college-level course in mathematics or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher.

Students will apply for either the one-year M.A. or the two-year research-intensive M.A., which requires a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. Admission to the two-year M.A. will take into account the applicant’s prior training and aptitude for the area of specialization specified in the application. However, an undergraduate major in the chosen area of specialization is not required.

While in the M.A. program, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.7 (B-). If they fall below this average, they will be placed on academic probation and if their grades do not improve, they may be withdrawn from the program.

In addition, a grade of C (2.0) or higher in the initial courses in computer programming (DIGS 30001) and statistics (DIGS 30002) is a requirement for continuing in the M.A. program. These courses are prerequisites for subsequent core courses required to complete the program. Students who fail to obtain a grade of C (2.0) in either of these courses in the Autumn Quarter will be placed on academic probation and must then either (1) request a leave of absence, if they plan to return in the Autumn of the following year to re-take the course or courses in which they failed to obtain the required grade, or (2) withdraw from the program entirely.

Why UChicago?

As one of the world’s great intellectual destinations, the University of Chicago empowers students and scholars to ask big questions, break disciplinary boundaries, and challenge conventional thinking in virtually every field.

An integral part of Chicago’s urban landscape—with additional locations in Beijing, Delhi, London, Paris, and Hong Kong—UChicago, its world-class Medical Center, and three national laboratories have helped launch and advance the careers of Nobel laureates, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, literary giants, MacArthur “geniuses,” astronomers, astronauts, and more.

UChicagoGRAD  offers a range of services and resources to enhance the ability of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to navigate their careers at UChicago and beyond, including (and certainly not limited to) one-on-one advising and workshops related to:

  • Fellowships
  • Career Planning
  • Academic Writing
  • Public Speaking
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Financial Wellness & Payments

Some of the other services offered by the UChicagoGRAD office include employer info sessions and career fairs, the Family Resource Center for student parents, the Diversity Advisory Board and Graduate Council, Grads on the Ground, and the Chicago Center for Teaching. You can RSVP for GRAD events and workshops, schedule advising appointments, and find and apply for jobs and internships at the  GRAD Gargoyle . 

masters in digital writing

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Magazine & Digital Storytelling

Start Reporting Now

  • How to Apply

The Intersection of Contemporary Media and Timeless Skills

Magazine writing, whether on the printed page or on-line, will always be for writers and readers who value artful storytelling and a deeper look at complex subjects. In the Magazine and Digital Storytelling program at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, our writers develop the skills to produce memorable stories as well as explore the unique opportunities of digital media. This program is designed for students with a wide array of interests who want to pursue versatile careers.

Magazine & Digital Storytelling

  • Internships and Jobs
  • Student Work

How to Inform, Illuminate and even Entertain

Whatever subject you hope to write about — such as arts and culture, lifestyles, politics or urban issues — it’s vital to immerse yourself in the journalistic tradition.

Our curriculum provides a foundation in feature writing and hard news plus video journalism, social media and photography. Our students report on New York Fashion Week, immigration, the criminal courts and everything in between. You will learn how to tell every kind of story: profiles, personal essays, breaking news, a Q&A, service journalism and arts criticism.

In the past year, our students have published class assignments in The New York Times, Brooklyn Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Salon and Los Angeles Magazine.

Our Curriculum

Student in a classroom

New York City: Where Magazines Are Made

From Condé Nast to the New York Times to adventurous start-ups in Brooklyn, many of the world’s most far-reaching media and news outlets are headquartered in New York City, and their writers and editors are our guest lecturers and faculty. Our students gain invaluable experience in editorial internships in the magazine capital of the country, often graduating with bylines and job offers. Our graduates are working at New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Cultured, The Baltimore Sun, The Hive, The Ringer, Time, Newsweek, Hello, Wondermind, Straus News, Bloomberg News, Hearst, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, People, ABC, CBS, MSNBC.

Meryl Gordon headshot. Text at bottom reads: Author, Meryl gordon, Credit @ Nina Subin

Meryl Gordon

Professor | Magazine and Digital Storytelling Director

Meryl Gordon is an award-winning journalist who has written for New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review and Town & Country. She is the author of three bestselling biographies: “Bunny Mellon:  The Life of An American Style Legend,” “The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark,” and “Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach.” Her biography on the diplomat/hostess Perle Mesta will be published in 2024.

She has written about true crime, politics, government, food, fashion, celebrities and the arts. Meryl has primarily worked for magazines and newspapers but has also held jobs in radio and television.

Robert Boynton

Robert S. Boynton

Professor | Associate Director, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute | Lit Rep, Director

Robert S. Boynton is the director of NYU’s Literary Reportage concentration. He was graduated with honors in philosophy and religion from Haverford College, and received an MA in political science from Yale University. His book, The New New Journalism was published by Vintage Books in 2005, and he has written about culture and ideas for The New Yorker (where he has been a contributing editor) and Harper’s (where he has been a senior editor). His byline has also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Lingua Franca, Bookforum, Columbia Journalism Review, The New Republic, The Nation, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone and many other publications. The Invitation Only Zone, his forthcoming book about North Korea’s Japanese abduction project, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. For a selection of his work, go to robertboynton.com. Information about The New New Journalism can be found at newnewjournalism.com.

Watch Boynton’s video on Literary Reportage.

Meredith Broussard

Meredith Broussard

Associate Professor

Meredith Broussard is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and 2018 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow. She is the author of two books: Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (2019) , and More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech (2023) . Artificial Unintelligence won the 2019 Prose Award in the Computing and Information Sciences category and the 2019 Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology. Her research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good.

Her newest project explores how future historians will read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. Her features and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Slate, and other outlets. Follow her on Twitter @merbroussard or contact her via  meredithbroussard.com.

Ted Conover

Ted Conover

Watch Conover’s video on Literary Reportage.

Perri Klass

Perri Klass

Professor | NYU Florence, Co-Director

Perri Klass, M.D. has been writing as a medical journalist dating back to her years as a student at Harvard Medical School in the 1980s, when she published a series of essays, reflections on medical training, in the Hers column of The New York Times. Since that time she has published her medical journalism in many newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times Science Section, The New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Harpers, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The New England Journal of Medicine, Esquire, Parenting, and Vogue. She has written regular columns about medicine for Discover Magazine, American Health, Massachusetts Medicine, and Diversion. Her most recent books are A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future (2020), and the revised edition of Quirky Kids: Understanding and Supporting Your Child With Developmental Differences (coauthored with Eileen Costello, MD, 2003; revised 2021).  Her essays about medicine and medical training have been collected in the books A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student (1987), Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training (1992), and Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters To a Young Doctor (2007). At NYU, Dr. Klass is a professor both in Journalism and in Pediatrics.

Suketu Mehta

Suketu Mehta

Suketu Mehta is the New York-based author of ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,’ which won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. He has won the Whiting Writers’ Award, the O. Henry Prize, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for his fiction. Mehta’s work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, Time, and Newsweek, and has been featured on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘All Things Considered.’

Mehta is an Associate Professor of Journalism at New York University. He is currently working on a nonfiction book about immigrants in contemporary New York, for which he was awarded a 2007 Guggenheim fellowship. He has also written original screenplays for films, including ‘New York, I Love You.’ Mehta was born in Calcutta and raised in Bombay and New York. He is a graduate of New York University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Watch Mehta’s video on Literary Reportage.

Hilke Schellmann

Hilke Schellmann

Assistant Professor

Hilke Schellmann is an assistant professor of journalism at NYU and an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter. Using innovative multimedia tools, she focuses her reporting on unearthing systemic wrongdoing and its impact on vulnerable people.

As an independent filmmaker, Schellmann shot, produced and directed the investigative documentary Outlawed in Pakistan which aired on PBS FRONTLINE. The film was dubbed “among the standouts” at the Sundance Film Festival by The L.A. Times and called “extraordinary” by Variety. The documentary was recognized with an Emmy, an Overseas Press Club and a Cinema for Peace Award and successfully played at prestigious film festivals such as IDFA, Full Frame, Thessaloniki Film Festival and AFI Docs.

Jane Stone

Professor | NewsDoc

Jane Stone specializes in legal affairs journalism and investigative reporting. She has worked for NBC Dateline, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Walter Cronkite’s documentary company, CNN, and PBS’s Frontline.  Her journalism has been recognized with several journalism awards, including a national Emmy for investigative reporting. She was awarded NYU’s Golden Dozen Award for excellence in teaching.

Rachel L. Swarns

Rachel L. Swarns

Rachel L. Swarns is a journalist, author and associate professor of journalism at New York University, who writes about race and race relations as a contributing writer for The New York Times. Her articles about Georgetown University’s roots in slavery touched off a national conversation about American universities and their ties to this painful period of history. Her work has been recognized and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Leon Levy Center for Biography, the Biographers International Organization, the MacDowell artist residency program and others. In 2023, she was elected to the Society of American Historians. Her latest book,  The 272: The Families who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church,  was published by Random House in June.

At the Times, Swarns served as a full-time reporter and correspondent for 22 years. She has reported from Russia, Cuba, Guatemala and southern Africa, where she served as the Times’ Johannesburg bureau chief. She has covered immigration, presidential politics and Michelle Obama and her role in the Obama White House. She also served as a Metro columnist in New York City. As a senior writer for the paper, she helped to lead and innovate on coverage of issues of race and ethnicity. In 2018, she joined NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, where she focuses on American slavery and its contemporary legacies.

She is the author of  American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama,  published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, which traced the journey of Mrs. Obama’s forbears from slavery to the White House in five generations.  American Tapestry  was ranked as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012 by the New York Times Book Review and as one of the year’s best biographies by Booklist.

She is also a co-author of  Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives,  published by Black Dog & Leventhal in 2017, which explores the history of hundreds of images that languished for decades in the New York Times archives. Her latest book,  The 272,  emerged from her reporting at the Times and focuses on Georgetown and the Catholic Church and their roots in slavery.  The 272  was one of 24 books selected for the longlist for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Swarns also serves as an academic adviser to the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C., which is launching an exhibit based on her book about Michelle Obama’s ancestors.

Photo by Lisa Guillard.

Eliza Griswold (Photo by Kathy Ryan)

Eliza Griswold

Distinguished Journalist in Residence

Eliza Griswold is a contributing writer to the New Yorker and the author of 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning  Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America,  a 2018 New York Times Notable Book and a New York Times Critics’ Pick, and The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, which won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her translations of Afghan women’s folk poems, I Am the Beggar of the World , was awarded the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and her original poetry won the 2010 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Art and Letters in Rome. She has held fellowships from the New America Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard University and the Harvard Divinity School. Her second book of poems,  If Men, Then , will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, in 2020. Griswold is a contributing writer at the New Yorker and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

(Photo by Kathy Ryan)

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Our students, faculty, and alumni are frequent contributors to top magazines and news outlets. For the very latest bylines, head to our Facebook page .

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masters in digital writing

Master of Arts: Digital Storytelling

Interested get in touch.

As human beings, we storify everything around us: our adventures, sorrows, conflicts, dreams, and failures. In fact, without a solid and compelling story, even the best-designed messages struggle to engage their audiences. As a media professional, you want to influence, inspire, inform, and move your audiences. The power of storytelling enables you to do just that.

Begin your application today!

Today’s digital storytellers and marketing professionals must be able to create engaging stories that leverage the ever-growing resources of digital technology. The old distinctions between media sectors are rapidly disappearing in today’s online world; now, effective digital storytelling and marketing requires a mastery of social media, writing, and video production, and other aspects of convergent media. Through Asbury University’s digital storytelling program, you’ll learn how to effectively use these technologies, how to create and package stories that will captivate your audiences, and how to support your work with solid research and analytics.

If you love storytelling and want to create compelling stories for digital platforms, the M.A. in Digital Storytelling is for you. 

How the M.A. Program Works

Asbury’s M.A. in Digital Storytelling program is designed to help you master a wide range of media skills, from content writing to social media management to video production. Our program is almost completely online, so you can participate no matter where you live—in fact, we currently have students from 20 states and four countries. If you want to have the close-to-campus experience, though, you can! About 25% of our students live in or around the Wilmore area.

Regardless of how much media experience you have, our professors will help you perfect your existing skills and learn the new skills you’ll need to succeed in the rapidly-changing job market. When you graduate from the program, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the storytelling process, from first idea to final delivery; a thorough grounding in technical skills and media ethics; and the ability to conduct research to shape and support your messages. In short, you’ll have the ability to make a strong impact in any career that involves digital communication, including social media management, marketing, public relations, ministry, church media, multimedia/web-based media, and journalism.

What to Do Next

If this sounds intriguing, the M.A. in Digital Storytelling may be perfect for you. To learn more about the specifics of the M.A. program, visit our Program Details page. Have questions? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page. You can also contact us directly or email us at [email protected] to ask questions or set up a time to meet with a program representative.

Ready to apply?

If you’re interested in a terminal degree specific to the film and television industry, be sure to check out our M.F.A. in Screenwriting and M.F.A. in TV/Film Production .

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Creative Writing & Publishing

The Master’s University’s Creative Writing & Publishing (CWP) program is designed for students who are passionate about content creation across the changing and expanding spectrum of communicative media, including fiction and non-fiction, photography, videography, journalism, and podcasting. CWP students choose from a wide variety of courses that provide opportunities to develop their unique creative interests, and they graduate with content creation skills that are increasingly in-demand across diverse industries.

A key characteristic of the CWP program is that our students learn by doing. Classes are hands-on and provide regular opportunities for feedback and publication. CWP students graduate with not just a degree, but also a portfolio of creative work to show prospective employers and clients. If God has gifted you with a creative spark, and if you love inspiring others through what you create, the CWP program may be the perfect place for you to hone your talents and discover why God gave them to you in the first place!

Communication Core Courses

For a complete list of requirements for this degree please see our academic catalog .

In a day and age when on-the-street experiences are documented and shared worldwide, this class will explore the best go-to tool: the phone in your pocket. Students will create ready-to-be-viewed short video productions using minimalist technology. Throughout the course, students will focus on elements such as story structure, camera angle, lighting, editing, and sound. Finished productions will be viewed and critiqued by peers and the instructor.

An exploration of podcasting as a form of journalism. Students will be introduced to the various types of podcasts and podcast outlets. They will work with classmates to research a podcast concept and then regularly produce and publish it. Components of marketing and attracting subscribers will also be discussed. Computer expertise is not required.

Theories and techniques of social influence. Course content includes motivation, attitude change, ethics, credibility, nonverbal persuasion, logic and argumentation, emotions, and cultural influences.

An introduction to the dynamics of technologically mediated social discourse with a look at both individual implications as well as larger processes within society including culture, polity, and commercial enterprise.

An exploration of journal keeping and autobiographical writing. Students will read and write various types of personal essays and memoirs and share them in small group settings.

An introduction to the styles, techniques, content, and forms of screenwriting. Student work is considered for the department annual short film production.

This course will examine the entrepreneurial power shift in the world of business and what it means for media practitioners, entrepreneurs, and technologists. The disruptive nature of the Internet, open-source technologies, and lower barriers-to-entry have prompted a shift in the power from large media companies toward smaller organizations and individuals.

Students will study the extended short story form (novella), including plot, characterization, and dialogue. The course will include regular writing for peer review, offering ample time for revision and completion of a polished extended short story (novella).

Grammar basics and sentence structure are reinforced. However, the bulk of the course covers the real-world issues writers encounter in college and beyond. Issues such as word choice, antecedents, plurals, possessives, punctuation, clarity, conciseness, and self-editing. Chicago, MLA, and Associated Press style formats will be explored. Reading and coursework are also geared for those looking at editing as a career or see it as an important aspect of a chosen job field. Additional topics covered include “editing well means writing well,” the editor-writer relationship, and using style guides. Students learn by dissecting weekly news articles, editing articles for the campus newspaper, and self- and peer-editing various writing assignments.

Theories and methods of evaluating persuasive communication, including public address, contemporary drama, and other categories of written discourse.  Prerequisite: C371 or C391.

Students will explore the genre of science fiction short stories—how to read them critically and how to write them effectively. The course will cover the nuances and history of the different forms and motifs of science fiction to help students develop their writing skills across each of those forms and motifs. Prerequisite: C351.

Students will practice the craft of writing in the genre of fantasy fiction, with special emphasis placed on the novel and novel series formats. The course will focus on traditional fiction writing components such as plot, character, tone, setting, narrative, point of view, scene building, etc. Additionally, students will engage in discussion and guided practice surrounding genre-specific elements such as world building, history creation, systems of myth and magic, etc.

This course explores the history and impact of the graphic novel, both as a form of entertainment and social/cultural commentary. Additionally, the course will explore the process of creating a graphic novel and of visual storytelling. Students will participate in the creation of a graphic novel concept. Prerequisite: C351.

Students learn the techniques of novel writing, including plot outlining, character development and arcing, conflict, complication, and resolution. Techniques of dialogue and narration will also be explored.

Introduction to the video technical language and creative and aesthetic elements of the production process. Students will gain understanding of lighting, sound, camera operation, composition, and design of visual elements.

This class introduces the students to the concepts of Desktop Publishing. Topics covered will include color theory, page layout, composition, print requirements, and other production-related techniques. The applications used in this class are Adobe™ Photoshop™ for image editing, Adobe™ Illustrator™ for logo design, and Adobe™ InDesign™ for page layout and composition.

Visual storytelling through making, selecting, processing, and disseminating photographic images. Technical, artistic, and professional topics are covered, including composition, lighting, portraiture, photo essays, and reproducing and publishing images, as well as legal and ethical issues.

An introduction to the arena of multimedia journalism. Students will learn the process of combining text, images, sound, videos, and graphics to tell an engaging story on an online platform. Students will produce finished pieces to be viewed and critiqued by peers and the instructor. Prerequisite: C261 or C311.

Students are introduced to the basics of professional journalism to gain an understanding of how a publication works; develop instincts as an interviewer, reporter, and writer; and understand the various genres associated with journalistic writing. Students will also learn to develop editing skills by using the Associated Press Stylebook and write on deadline to prepare for writing for the campus publication and beyond.

From handheld to professional SLR cameras, students will learn the basics of equipment and advanced methods to make photographs look more professional. This class will cover how to connect, download, and upload your digital images to CDs, the web, or for print. Everything from file management to composition, this class covers a wide range of techniques to make students better, more effective photographers.

  • Publication
  • Screenwriter
  • Film/TV Editor

The Master’s University is committed to providing quality Christian education to believers around the world.

To be admitted as an undergraduate, bachelors degree-seeking student in the Online School of Education, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a clear profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. 
  • Be a high school graduate or have a GED certificate. 
  • Demonstrate college-level writing ability. 
  • Submit official transcripts from all other colleges and universities attended. 

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10 Most Affordable Master’s in Writing Online Programs

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Ranking low-cost online writing master's.

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Submitting well-organized samples for online Master's in Writing programs can help working adults refine their English language expertise for plotting career promotions. Writing master's degrees train creative post-grads on the best grammar, narrative, and character structure to craft eloquent prose.  Forbes  chose writing as the number five most important skill making good leaders great. Whether they're in-house or freelance, organizations need writers to aptly articulate messages to diverse audiences. That's especially true online where Google indexes 30 trillion pages and websites like  The Washington Post  publish around 1,200 articles daily. According to  EContent  Magazine, the United States will spend $103 billion each year on content marketing by 2019. Though shrinking recently, the book printing industry cited by the AAP Statshot Survey still boasts net annual revenue of $27.78 billion. Online writing master's open great opportunities for silver-tongued students to channel their inner Ernest Hemingway or Virginia Woolf.

Most Affordable Master’s in Writing Online


The Grad Hub School staff sought to help fellow bookworms save money on the next chapter of their education by weaving a compelling story of low-cost Master's in Writing online. We used the NCES College Navigator database as our table of contents for browsing advanced distance education programs in creative, technical, and general writing. Google was consulted to nix graduate certificates from our 48 results. Next, we checked every master's degree for regional accreditation on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation directory. Nationally accredited programs, such as Full Sail University's Online Creative Writing MFA, were edited off the list. Our final stage was comparing the schools by average in-state graduate tuition and fees for 2016-17. In descending order, we've published the 10 least expensive online writing master's that train imaginative literary geniuses for under $15,000!

Explore Master’s in Writing Programs.

These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

Ranking Cheap Writing Master's Online

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Known for its Writer's Workshop Reading Series, the University of Nebraska-Omaha is a public, space-grant RU/VH metropolitan college founded at Kountze Place in 1908 that's generating an economic impact of $605.4 million yearly by training 15,526 Mavericks on Blackboard and face-to-face at the 78-acre Dodge Campus. UNO was congratulated for America's 210th best faculty by the CWUR, 215th best research expenditures in Forbes, 211th top public education on Niche, and 170th best opportunities by the Social Mobility Index. The College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media charges our list's lowest price and funds $300,000 worth of scholarships with a Writing MFA Program Online. Directed by Dr. Miles Waggener, the 60-unit, low-residency curriculum takes 24 months with concentrations for Fiction/Young Adult, Poetry, Playwriting/Screenwriting, and Nonfiction. Four 16-week online studio seminars are paired with five brief conferences in Omaha before the thesis defense. Also consider UNO's Online M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking or M.S. in Literacy.

Monticello, AR

Merged with Great Rivers Technical Institute in 2003, the University of Arkansas at Monticello is a public, master's GAC liberal arts school that's budgeting $49.8 million to educate 3,925 Cotton Blossoms, publish The Voice, and deliver online Blackboard courses from its 1,400-acre forested campus near Pine Bluff. UAM is declared America's 473rd safest college on Niche, 223rd best university in Washington Monthly, and 451st top value in Money Magazine with a mid-career salary averaging $66,000 on PayScale. Chaired by Dr. Mark Spencer, author of A Haunted Love Story, the School of Arts & Humanities launched an Online Non-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. The 48-credit program mandates hopeful applicants with minimum 3.0 GPAs submit 20 pages of writing in poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction. Offering optional retreats like the MacDowell Arts Colony, the two-year Monticello curriculum blends online courses like Magazine Design, Simple Art of Murder, and Mind Memoirs with a thesis sequence.

Lubbock, TX

Producing The Daily Toreador weekly since 1925, Texas Tech University is a public, Hispanic-serving research APLU member of the Big 12 that's attracting 6,251 post-grad Red Raiders to eLearning on Blackboard and a Lubbock campus described by author James Michener as the "most beautiful west of the Mississippi." TTU is honored for America's 152nd best communications programs on Niche, 95th top public education in the U.S. News & World Report, and 277th best alumni employment by the CWUR. Fulfilling STC certification, the College of Arts & Sciences has a Master of Arts in English: Creative Writing Concentration Online open until November 1st yearly. The 36-credit major overseen by Dr. Brian Still admits Spring cohorts with a mean GPA of 3.75 for nurturing literary talent in diverse genres. Six hours of thesis follow portfolio-building online courses like Book History, Comparative Literature, Applied Linguistics, and Fiction Writing. Related Texas Tech programs are the M.A. in Strategic Communication and M.A. in Technical Communication Online.

Natchitoches, LA

Attracting authors like Colin Winnette Laurie Ann Cedilnik with its Cane River Reading Series, Northwestern State University of Louisiana is a public, goals-oriented UL System constituent initiated in 1884 that's budgeting $74 million to teach 9,002 Demons in Natchitoches, Shreveport, Alexandria, Leesville, and online on Moodle. NSULA was picked America's 291st best online graduate school by the U.S. News & World Report, 319th best English value on College Factual, and 399th top master's university in Washington Monthly. Home to a Sigma Tau Delta Chapter, the College of Arts & Sciences conveys the Online Master of Arts in English with concentrations for Writing and Linguistics, Literature, Folklife/Southern Culture, Generalist, and TESOL. The first 30-credit program headed by Dr. Jim Mischler considers graduates with minimum GPAs of 3.0 and verbal GRE scores of 150. Online courses like Syntactical Theories, Classical Rhetoric, Digital Culture, and Editing end with a thesis or two capstone papers. There's also an Online Writing for Business, Industry, and Technology Certificate at Northwestern State.

Norfolk, VA

Bestowed four Silver Communicator Awards of Distinction for Monarch Magazine, Old Dominion University is a public, sea-grant SURA member of Conference USA that's grown since its 1930 founding by Robert Hughes to generate $88 million for research and enroll 5,508 post-grad Big Blue from its 250-acre Norfolk campus. ODU was proclaimed America's 280th best public college on Niche, 128th best English school by the U.S. News & World Report, fifth smartest choice on Super Scholar, and 182nd top university by the CWUR. Boasting 95 percent satisfaction, the ODUOnline Division has the Master of Arts in English: Professional Writing on Blackboard. The 30-credit program chaired by Dr. Sheri Reynolds requires minimum "B" averages for undertaking textual analysis in asynchronous online courses like Visual Rhetoric, Document Design, New Media Theory, and Management Writing. For capstone, Monarchs select a thesis, oral exam, or portfolio project of at least 10,000 words. Other Old Dominion opportunities include the Online Professional Writing Certificate and Ph.D. in English for Writing and Discourse Studies.

Hosting the Shakespeare Birthday Festival each April, Louisiana Tech University is a public, coeducational quarter-based research hub originated by W.C. Friley in 1880 that's awarding $70.76 million in financial aid to 12,873 Techsters logging into Moodle or visiting the 86-building Ruston campus in Eastern Ark-La-Tex. LA Tech was judged America's 261st top value in Money Magazine, 200th best university on Plexuss, 237th best master's institution in Washington Monthly, and 183rd top college by the CWUR. The College of Liberal Arts utilizes the Global Campus to grant the Online M.A. in English with concentrations for British and American Literature or Technical Writing. Managed by Dr. Susan Roach, the 36-credit, non-GRE program takes just six 10-week online terms for graduates with minimum 2.75 GPAs to advance written communication skills. Students select the thesis or non-thesis track after 500-level courses like Technical Editing, Specification Writing, and Teaching College Composition. Notice that Louisiana Tech presents a Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Communications Online too.

Flagstaff, AZ

Publishing Thin Air Magazine for 20 years, Northern Arizona University is public, doctoral-granting RU/H Big Sky institution established in 1899 under Almon Nicholas Taylor that's budgeting $700 million to enroll 31,057 Lumberjacks total at its 707-acre Coconino County campus, 30 locations, and online on Blackboard. NAU was distinguished for America's 107th best online graduate education on the U.S. News & World Report, 240th best faculty by the CWUR, and 15th fastest-growing admissions on PolicyMic. The College of Arts and Letters created the Master of Arts (MA) in English with emphases in Literature, Rhetoric, Digital Media Studies, and Professional Writing online. Coordinated by Dr. Jean Boreen, the 36-unit, fieldwork-optional curriculum immerses students with cumulative GPAs over 3.0 into the production of reader-driven content. Study culminates with a capstone project after virtual courses like Technical Editing, Information Design, and Composition Theory. Also check out Northern Arizona's Online Master of Administration with Professional Writing Emphasis and MA in Communication.

Los Angeles, CA

Built in 1925 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Mount St. Mary's University is a private, Catholic women's liberal arts ACCU member devoted to "Deus Illuminatio Mea" that's endowed for $65.4 million to instruct 2,707 unstoppable Athenians at its 56-acre, ocean-facing Brentwood campus and online via Canvas. MSMU is crowned America's 350th best private college in Forbes, 131st top value by Money Magazine, 18th best female-centric school on Niche, and 489th best university overall in Times Higher Education. The WASC-accredited Graduate Division is authorized to provide its Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing across 34 states and multiple genres. Directed by Johnny Payne, the author of La Muerte de Papi, the 36-credit, 24-month program offers Spanish bilingualism and a low-residency format that requires only six sessions in Los Angeles. Meeting the June 1st and December 1st application deadlines opens online courses like Poetry, Playwriting, and Creative Non-Fiction before the required thesis. The Mount also confers the MA in Humanities and MFA in Film & Television.

Henniker, NH

Linked to 9,942 LinkedIn alumni, including writers Mariela Griffor and Allen Steele, New England College is a private, nonprofit business-oriented institution established after World War II that's currently endowed for $11.6 million to teach 1,500 Pilgrims online via Blackboard from its 225-acre campus along the Contoocook River. NEC was applauded for America's 173rd best online graduate education on the U.S. News & World Report, 21st most diverse students in TIME Magazine, and 186th highest service participation by Washington Monthly. The School of Graduate & Professional Studies confers 11 NEASC-accredited options online, including the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Writing. Organized by Dr. Nelly Lejter, the 36-credit curriculum has an accelerated, 12-month format for building Web-based portfolios in courses like New Media, Writing for Public Relations, and Technical Communication. Working toward the capstone rhetoric project requires a bachelor's GPA above 2.5 and TOEFL score over 550. New England's online degrees include a Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, M.Ed. in Literacy, and MBA in Digital Marketing too.

East Stroudsburg, PA

Gifting $28.54 million in annual financial aid, including the Martha L. Martin Fiction Writing Award, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania is a public, civic-engaged PSAC liberal arts school that's located on a 65-building Pocono Mountains campus and delivering eLearning on Blackboard to 1,135 post-grad Warriors. ESU was deemed America's 224th best online graduate education school by the U.S. News & World Report, 103rd top value in Washington Monthly, and 221st most conservative college on Niche. Since 2014, the English Department has awarded the Online M.A. in Professional & New Media Writing with zero campus trips. Chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Hotz, the 30-credit, non-GRE program accepts $50 applications until June 1st and November 1st from graduates with minimum 2.75 GPAs. Asynchronous, discussion-based online courses like Advanced Grammar, Visual Rhetoric, American Journalism, and The Professional Document lead to the capstone writing thesis. Two other online ESU offerings are the M.Ed. in Reading and M.S. in Health Education.

Which Careers Can Benefit From Master's in Writing Online Degrees?

Online Master's in Writing graduates aren't destined to be "starving artists" because they'll be competitive for landing several well-paid media and entertainment gigs. Writing proficiency serves well in diverse careers from public relations manager to translator, novelist, greeting card designer, proofreader, and film critic. The MFA is also considered a terminal degree, which means colleges could even offer adjunct or tenured faculty positions in their English departments. Master's degrees are particularly powerful when online students add industry credentials. For example, the  American Medical Writers Association  offers the MWCC certification for passing a 125-question, 2.5-hour exam about healthcare information. The  American Grant Writers Association  launched the CGW distinction with review courses costing $699 for the full-day exam. Let's outline five potential job descriptions where communications chops from a cheap writing master's online would be advantageous:

Magazine Editor-  Master's in Writing online graduates make skilled editors for strengthening articles featured in the over 7,390 periodicals nationwide that saw a 6.2 percent readership increase according to  Magazine Media 360 °  from 2015. Magazine editors choose editorial policies, plan published content, research audience needs, assign writing ideas, set deadlines, review submissions, suggest draft changes, place images, and approve final prints.

News Reporter-  One  News Media Alliance  poll found that 58 percent of people have encountered "fake news" in 2017, so writing online master's students might be called to restore journalistic integrity. News reporters investigate current events, pitch story proposals, conduct thorough research, interview reliable sources, vet topic tips, write feature articles, proofread for proper phrasing, update for new developments, and contribute to TV broadcasts.

Technical Writer-  Getting a cheap writing master's online could lead to the  U.S. News & World Report ‘s  85th best job creating instructions or how-to guides for mechanical items that are hard to comprehend. Technical writers study product designs, ask scientists for clarification, identify likely user difficulties, organize detailed step-by-step content, create diagrams or charts, input demo videos, address FAQs, and edit material with consumer feedback.

Content Strategist-  America's 68th best job on  CNN Money  with an "A" for telecommuting places online master's writing graduates at the helm of digital material production to boost corporate communication. Content strategists establish website styles, generate online post ideas, edit writers' work, schedule the editorial calendar, attract readers with SEO, fix marketing fails, connect with social media influencers, and stay current on industry news.

Screenwriter-  Movie production is a cutthroat niche where  ScriptMag  says the odds of writers' success is just 20 percent in 1 million, but advanced online master's in writing study might keep Oscar hopes alive. Screenwriters innovate original film concepts, develop storyboards, flesh out character traits, write witty dialogue, visualize camera sequences, truncate unnecessary plots, pitch to production crew, and collaborate with directors on set.

What is the Salary Potential for Writing Master's Online Graduates?

Hunting down cheap writing master's online degrees is vital because  Fortune  Magazine's  15th worst major has a humble earnings outlook. Writers report pay that hovers around the mean master's wage of $69,732 on SmartAsset, but higher income is possible. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics  found that the average salary for writers and authors was $71,920 in May 2016. Technical writers earn slightly more at $73,160 on average. The 97,170 book, magazine, and journal editors reached a mean annual wage of $66,080. While news reporters and translators made lower means at $49,770 and $46,120 respectively, content strategists brought home median profits of $84,400. On  Salary.com , the median earnings for speechwriters is currently $127,370. Other high averages include $95,507 for copywriting managers, $98,642 for internal publications managers, and $207,854 for communications executives.

How is the Job Outlook After Online Writing Master's Programs?

Putting pen to paper for a Master's in Writing online could be one's byline to success in a global entertainment and media sector poised for 4.2 percent, or $41 billion, growth through 2021 according to  Pricewaterhouse Coopers . Demand for writers and authors is projected by the  U.S. Department of Labor  to rise 8 percent for 10,000 jobs by 2026. Content marketing managers can expect faster-than-average increases of 10 percent. Public relations specialists are poised for a 9 percent hike to 282,600 total employment. Interpreters and translators will have the fastest writing job growth of 18 percent this decade. Hiring of editors will drop slightly by 1 percent for a 1,800 cut though. The  Huffington Post  highlighted Chicago, Charleston, Austin, Asheville, Bellingham, and Saint Paul as the best cities for writers. Words can't express the job search value of affordable online master's in writing degrees.

Forbes Econtent  Magazine AAP Statshot Survey NCES College Navigator Council for Higher Education Accreditation

This concludes our ranking of the top 10 most affordable Master's in Writing online.

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Digital Storytelling Graduate Certificate

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No Application Required

Online and On Campus Options

Average Tuition

Number of Required Courses

Learn how to produce and distribute journalistic content through engaging, innovative digital formats.

Through this certificate you will gain the skills you need to develop or enhance a career in journalism, marketing, or digital communication.

What You'll Learn

  • Learn the fundamentals of journalism, including interviewing, reporting, and crafting a narrative.
  • Gain an understanding of trends such as photojournalism, media mashups, freelancing, and journalistic branding.
  • Develop technical skills for the development and dissemination of content for digital production, including photography, video production, audio recording, and visualizations.
  • Uncover new ways of telling stories via social media, podcasting, and other digital platforms.

Certificate Courses

The professional graduate certificate in digital storytelling requires four 4-credit courses, or 16 credits.

You may choose from the following course groups, using the certificate course search.

  • Journalism (choose two courses from select group)
  • Digital communication (choose two courses from select group)

Courses taken before the 2018-2019 academic year do not apply toward this certificate.

Search for Courses

You can browse courses by term — fall, spring, or summer — in the DCE Course Search & Registration platform.

Our Community at a Glance

Students discover new methods of research, writing, editing, and digital technologies with peers and faculty from around the world.

Received a Promotion or Added Responsibilities While Pursuing

Working Full Time

Wanted to Deepen Their Knowledge to Advance Career

Would Recommend the Certificate

Earning Your Certificate

To meet the requirements for the certificate, you must:

  • Complete the  four certificate courses for graduate credit .
  • Earn at least a  B grade  in each course.
  • Complete the courses within three years .

Learn more about  pursuing a certificate  and the process of  requesting your certificate .

Affordability is core to our mission. When compared to our continuing education peers, it’s a fraction of the cost.

This graduate certificate stacks to the following degrees:

  • Journalism Master’s Degree Program
  • Museum Studies Master’s Degree Program

Harvard Division of Continuing Education

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at Harvard University is dedicated to bringing rigorous academics and innovative teaching capabilities to those seeking to improve their lives through education. We make Harvard education accessible to lifelong learners from high school to retirement.

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  • School of Arts & Letters

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  • Graduate Technical Writing Programs

Master of Arts and Graduate Certificates in Writing

Graduate certificate in technical writing and digital communication.

Working professionals know today’s marketplace demands the ability to write well, particularly using digital platforms. Employers value writers who communicate clearly in a professional setting. Our graduate degrees will enhance your existing credentials, preparing you for advancement in many career options.

Middle Georgia State offers two  fully online  graduate programs in technical writing:

  • Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing This 30-hour program provides a practical focus on writing and communication skills for today’s technical and professional settings. Upon completion of the MA, students may also earn the Graduate Certificate.
  • Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication This 15-hour program can be taken as a stand-alone credential, whose completion conveniently provides eligibility to the Master’s program.

Both the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing and the Graduate Certificate are:

  • Fully online
  • Taught in 8-week sessions
  • Designed to complement and extend undergraduate training by developing skills in writing, editing, communication, and web development
  • Interdisciplinary, with course offerings by the Department of English; the Department of Media, Culture, and the Arts; and the School of Information Technology
  • Taught by master teachers and highly experienced writers

The Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing is also stackable with two  NEW  fully online Graduate Writing Certificates, beginning in Fall 2023:

  • Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing This 15-hour program can be taken as a stand-alone credential; its classes can be used as electives for the Masters in Technical and Professional Writing
  • Graduate Certificate in Teaching College Writing This 18-hour program can be taken as a stand-alone credential; four of its classes are also requirements or electives for the Masters in Technical and Professional Writing. 
  • Technical Writer
  • Social Media Manager
  • Web Content Editor
  • Instructional Designer
  • Creative Director
  • Non-profit Information Professional
  • Project Manager
  • Office Manager
  • Digital Copywriter
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Brand Strategist
  • Corporate Blogger
  • Small Business Owner
  • Government Information Officer
  • Municipal Information Officer
  • A bachelor’s degree from an institutionally accredited college or university
  • Master of Arts program:  2.75 undergraduate GPA or better or successful completion of Middle Georgia State University's Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication
  • Graduate Certificate program:  2.5 undergraduate GPA or better
  • Letter of application that states the applicant's interest in and goals for the program
  • For residents of Georgia, documentation of lawful residence

What is the difference between the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication and the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing?

The Graduate Certificate is a 15-credit hour program made up of these courses required:

  • ENGL 5106 – Technical Writing in the Digital Age
  • NMAC 5108 – Writing and Publishing in Digital Environments
  • ITEC 5300 – Web Development
  • ITEC 5320 – Instructional Design
  • ENGL 6200 – Grant Writing
  • ITEC 5310 – Human Computer Interaction

The Master of Arts program includes all the certificate courses above; ENGL 5106, NMAC 5108, ITEC 5300, ITEC 5320, and ENGL 6200 are required for the MA, with ITEC 5310 as a possible elective.  The MA adds 5 additional courses for a total of 30 credit hours:

  • ENGL 5206 – Public and Professional Writing
  • ENGL 5650 – Theory and Practice in Editing and Style
  • ENGL 6200 – Grant Writing (also certificate elective; required in MA)
  • COMM 5000 – Rhetoric:  Written, Visual, and Oral Communication
  • 2 of a variety of elective courses (which includes ITEC 5310)

What electives can be students choose in the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing?

Students in the Masters in Technical and Professional Writing program can choose from a wide variety of electives to fulfill their two elective classes.  These include:

  • ITEC 5310 – Human Computer Interaction (also a certificate elective)
  • COMM 6610 Social Media Communication and Advertising
  • CRWR 5040 Fiction Writing
  • CRWR 5050 Poetry Writing
  • CRWR 5440 Screenwriting 
  • CRWR 5700 Narrative Journalism
  • CRWR 5900 Publishing and the Creative Writer
  • ENGL 5990 Graduate Internship
  • ENGL 6100 Seminar in Landmark Reports and Papers
  • ENGL 6300 Teaching First Year Composition
  • ENGL 6400 Teaching Developmental Writing
  • ENGL 6500 Teaching Online Research and Writing
  • MCOM 5010 Public Relations Writing and Research
  • MCOM 5030 Crisis Communication
  • MCOM 5131 News Writing and Reporting
  • MCOM 6000 Production and Design for Public Relations

Can I complete one technical writing program without the other?

Absolutely. Both the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication are stand-alone graduate credentials.

Can I complete both technical writing programs?

Yes. A number of students have completed both degrees.

Students who complete the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication may then apply to the Master’s program. Their completed courses will count toward the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing. For this option, contact the Graduate Coordinator.

Students in the Masters of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing may also choose to graduate with both the MA and the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication, completing course work simultaneously. For this option, contact the Graduate Coordinator after your admission to the MA.  We encourage all MA students to add this certificate to their program of study.

If I am admitted to the Master’s program, can I complete only the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication?

Definitely. Admitted M.A. students can still earn the certificate whether or not they complete the M.A. curriculum, as long as they complete the required Graduate Certificate course work. Students wishing to move from the MA program to the Graduate Certificate program should contact the Graduate Coordinator for more details.

Can I later add on other MGA Graduate Writing Programs, such as the Graduate Certificates in Creative Writing or Teaching College English?  Or move into those programs after completing the MA?

MGA’s School of Arts and Letters offers “stackable” graduate programs. Students can be enrolled in up to two graduate programs at a time. In fact, we encourage all MA students to add the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication, as you can earn both credentials with no additional coursework.

The Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing contains courses that can be used as electives in the MA in Technical and Professional Writing; the Graduate Certificate in Teaching College Writing includes courses also required in the MA and that can be used as electives. These courses will transfer directly into the certificate programs. Please contact the graduate coordinator for further details.

Any testing requirements for admission?

We do not require admissions exams for acceptance into the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing or the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication.

Financial aid available?

While federal financial aid is available for the M.A., it is not currently available for the certificate. However, we do offer Graduate Certificate students other financing options such as Nelnet payment plans , alternative loans , tuition assistance programs (TAP), and third-party scholarships.

Are letters of recommendation required?

Letters of recommendation are not required for either the Master of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing or the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication.

What is “evidence of aptitude for success in graduate-level studies”?

A graduate admissions committee determines aptitude for success by reviewing applicants’ official transcript(s) and statement of interest. No additional materials beyond those indicated in the application instructions are required.

If I do not meet the GPA requirement, can I still apply?

Applicants with undergraduate GPA between 2.5 and 2.75 cannot be admitted straight into the Master of Arts program, but they can be admitted to the certificate program. On completion of the Graduate Certificate, these students would then be eligible for entry into the Master’s program.

Applicants who do not meet the 2.5 GPA threshold cannot be admitted into the Graduate Certificate or the M.A. program. Students may enroll in MGA’s undergraduate Professional Writing (PFWR) courses as transient students to raise their GPA and gain valuable related instruction that will equip them well for the graduate program if/when they are admitted.

Do the Master’s and Graduate Certificate programs start only in fall semester?

Not so. Admitted students may begin either program in fall, spring, or summer semester.

Do I need to live in Georgia or near Macon?

Not at all. Both programs are fully online. We do have students from across Georgia, but also students from as far away as Pennsylvania, Texas, and Oregon.

Are there application deadlines?

Yes. Scroll to “Admissions Deadlines for MATPW & grad cert TWDC” at https://www.mga.edu/graduate-studies/admission-deadlines.php .

However, we review applications on a rolling basis and will make every attempt to review an application that comes in after a deadline.

How do I apply?

Detailed information is available at https://www.mga.edu/graduate-studies/apply.php .

In brief, though, all it takes for either the Master or Arts in Technical and Professional Writing or the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication is these three, possibly four things, submitted to:

Graduate Admissions Suite 217, Academic Services Bldg. 100 University Boulevard Warner Robins, GA 31093 Phone: 1.478.929.6865 Fax: 1.478.929.6714 [email protected] :

  • a completed application
  • a brief (1-2 page) statement of interest, indicating why you would like to enroll in either the M.A. or Graduate Certificate program
  • official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you’ve attended
  • for Georgia residents, evidence of Georgia residency: see  https://www.mga.edu/admissions/docs/Lawful_Presence_Documentation.pdf .
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Five Careers for Writing & Publishing Grad Students

Grad school is a major investment in your future career and it’s much more specialized than your focus of study in undergrad, so it’s always a good idea to make sure your grad school plans align with your end-game career goals . Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to careers in writing and publishing.

Here are just a few of the major career paths for graduates of a writing and publishing grad program:


Graduate student working on a book manuscript on their laptop to prepare for a career in writing and publishing.

Of course, most students seeking a degree in writing want to become a writer! Though it may sound like a lofty goal to have your new work published or made into a movie or TV show, (and don’t get me wrong, it is!) the job prospects for a writer/author are about as good as any other industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) writing careers are projected to grow about 9% through 2030 . That said, this includes writers for a variety of media types (who only ever writes in one genre, anyway?) and it’s common for most writers to be self-employed as freelancers so they can work on a variety of projects to support themselves. In 2020, for instance, the BLS reports that 68% of writers were self-employed .

Self-employment, freelancing, or even writing your own book or script (in any genre) aren’t your only options, though. Working for a magazine or newspaper, typically as part of a larger “media group” that bundles online and print publications within one brand or subscription, can offer a lot of opportunity for growth and creative variety as a writer. Even in the book world, “ghost-writing,” or writing under another person’s name, is becoming a popular way for writers to make money on the side while they work on their own projects or bylines. Almost any industry has a need for some type of writer – whether it’s technical or creative, brand-oriented or personal, private or public sector – so keep your eyes open for any position that strikes you as one with potentially interesting subject matter.

Publishing: Design & Digital Production

Many graduates with a Master’s in Writing and Publishing are more than qualified to work in the production side of the book or magazine industry, helping publishing houses or major media brands design and create layouts for print and online publications. These jobs often vary in their range of requirements that depend largely on whether they publish magazines, periodicals, books, online or in print, and even the size of the publishing or media company. Some will rely on production editors to write their own copy or design their own layouts, while others may have large separate departments for each element of their production cycle.

A printing press in action, printing several copies of a book cover on bright yellow paper at a local Boston publishing house as part of a tour for a course in Book Design.

Regardless of the company’s size, most publishing houses, magazines, or other media groups and publications tend to put stock in industry experience over a degree — but that’s not to say an MA isn’t a great way to get both! Make sure you focus your courses appropriately – taking classes in book publishing won’t help much if your dream is to become an editor at Vogue – and leverage your extracurricular time in graduate school to gain experience in the field you’re interested in working in, especially if you’d like to work with a specific publisher or publication.

Though it’s long been argued that “print is dying,” I wouldn’t be concerned too much with the BLS’ declining job outlook here . As long as people continue to consume media at a breakneck speed and print brands continue to diversify the way they engage with (and advertise to) readers, there will still be plenty of demand for editors and designers in publishing. If you are looking for a publishing industry job with some more security, working as a publishing agent, or for a publication’s sponsored content division is often a great way to blend an eye for writing, design, and editorial skills with advertising and marketing.

Publishing: Editing & Copyediting

Within the writing and publishing world, editors hold one of the most essential jobs to getting books and periodicals in front of readers. Editing – reviewing a text to make comprehensive changes that will clarify or enhance its argument or central ideas – and copyediting – reviewing a text to make changes at the individual word- or sentence-level that will clarify meaning or correct errors – are two distinct positions that help writers move their work forward on the path to publishing. The courses required for an MA or MFA can prepare you equally well for this kind of work, though it’s important to focus your training in the genre (or genres) that you’d like to work with. Again, you’ll want to get some hands-on experience in editing too, as many employers will ask for a sample of written work you’ve either authored or edited independently.

Though job growth for editors is estimated at about 5% through 2030 , remember that projections for Media & Communication Workers is estimated at about 11%, which includes those who work as editors for media companies not included in the BLS’ traditional “information sector,” definition (AKA: print books and periodicals). Even digital-only publications need editors, and as social media and independent content creators continue to rise in popularity, it’s likely that demand for digital writing careers will continue to grow as well.

An Emerson graduate student interviews an individual in front of the state house, image shows student holding the recording device while the interviewee speaks.

Though a journalist could technically be classified as a type of writer, the skillset required of journalists is specifically tailored to writing for news. Whether it’s light celebrity gossip or breaking current events, journalists are tasked with gathering and fact-checking information from their sources to create a cohesive package for a variety of media outlets. As you might guess, a Master’s in journalism specifically, or even an undergraduate degree from journalism school will prepare you well for this type of career, but many writers find their way to journalism through experience with other types of writing , too.

The BLS projects that employment for print news analysts, reporters, and journalists will increase by about 6% through 2030, though it’s important to note that this figure doesn’t include what the BLS distinguishes as “media and communication workers,” projected to grow at 11% . As most print newspapers and magazines continue to expand into the digital sphere, it’s safe to assume that the need for journalists familiar with a varied approach to writing for different genres will also grow. 


Aside from writing itself, one of the most popular career paths for graduates of Writing and Publishing grad programs is teaching others how to write. According to the BLS, employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow 12 percent through 2030 , faster than the average for other occupations, with an average of about 140,000 openings projected each year.

Whether you’re interested in working as a professor in postsecondary education, a teacher of high school, middle grade, or younger students, or even as an instructor with a local community writing center, a doctoral or terminal degree is typically required by most institutions. A Master’s may suffice for most secondary educational institutions, certain community colleges or writing centers, and will certainly prepare you well for a PhD, but an MFA in Writing typically provides plenty of opportunities for training in teaching. 

For those interested in teaching Creative Writing specifically, the MFA is considered a terminal degree ( though PhD programs have begun gaining popularity ), and graduates are often able to pursue jobs in teaching with experience they’ve gained just by completing their program. At Emerson, all Publishing & Writing MA students and Creative Writing MFA candidates are eligible to apply for a position as a Graduate Student Instructor within the Writing Studies Program after completing WR600, Teaching College Composition, a semester course designed to prepare students for careers teaching writing, rhetoric and composition.

A graduate writing course in action, the professor stands at the front of a classroom where students are seated at long tables with laptops or notebooks in front of them.

As you can see from the variety of options here – in both careers and degrees – any grad program in writing and publishing has a wide range of possibilities! Once you’ve narrowed down your future career aspirations, you’re ready to find a grad program that best fits your needs . 

For those interested in any of these careers in the writing or publishing industry, Emerson has several different graduate programs that offer either a Masters (MA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, each with a slightly different focus. Although, you’ll find a lot of overlap in potential career paths for both MA and MFA students. If you’re looking for a Master’s in the writing field, check out our Publishing & Writing or Journalism programs , or the Creative Writing , Popular Fiction Writing & Publishing , and Writing for Film & Television programs if you’re interested in getting your MFA.

For a look at what GradLife is really like in the many programs here at Emerson, check out some of our other blog posts , or give us a follow on social media: @emersongradprograms!

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Ashling Chupak is the Graduate Admissions Writing Assistant and a fiction writer in her second year as a Creative Writing MFA candidate at Emerson College.

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Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Digital Writing

Get exceptional career preparation in one of the nation’s best college writing programs..

Nationally recognized for excellence in writing instruction, Oakland University developed the professional and digital writing major to meet the high demand for strategic, technically savvy communicators. This unique undergraduate writing degree prepares you for careers in technical writing, business communication, social media, digital storytelling and other forms of professional and digital writing. You’ll hone your ability in the classroom, the media lab and the community, getting a hands-on writing degree that includes significant real-word experience. With a Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Digital Writing, you’ll be very well equipped to meet the growing need for strong, versatile professional writers.

Professional and Digital Writing: The Oakland University Advantage

Oakland University’s professional and digital writing program combines best-in-class academic instruction with relevant, highly marketable professional training. Oakland University is one of only a few institutions nationwide to offer an undergraduate degree program focused exclusively on professional and digital writing.

Our professional and digital writing major earned national recognition for its:

  • High academic standards. In 2016 Oakland University earned a prestigious Writing Program Certificate of Excellence from the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  This rare honor recognizes innovative college writing programs that achieve excellence in instruction, career development, community engagement and cultural inclusivity. 
  • Hands-on professional experience. Oakland’s high profile in Southeast Michigan yields outstanding opportunities for writing internships, volunteer projects, and other forms of real-world engagement. You can build your resume, acquire professional polish, and develop your writing portfolio by working with local businesses, nonprofits, schools, cultural organizations, schools and other clients.
  • Superior faculty. Our professional and digital writing program is led by prominent scholars with national reputations. You’ll get personalized, one-on-one guidance in small classes from seasoned educators and professional writers who help you hone your individual strengths and maximize your talent.
  • Well-rounded career development. You’ll cultivate versatile skills that fit the needs of 21st-century employers. Our broad selection of college writing courses allows you to align the professional and digital writing degree with your individual abilities and career aspirations. 
  • Creative freedom. We encourage professional and digital writing majors to explore and experiment. You’ll have opportunities both within and outside of the classroom to try your hand at many forms of writing and digital expression, with multiple outlets to publish your work and showcase your ability.

What Can You Do With a Professional and Digital Writing Degree?

Because digital publishing tools are ubiquitous, companies of every size in nearly every industry need content creators for their social media feeds, websites and multimedia channels. Legacy media publishers also require individuals with these skills as they migrate to new platforms and embrace digital storytelling forms. Likewise, publishers of technical, corporate, educational and government materials are seeking new talent as they adapt to modern modes of communication. 

After completing the professional and digital writing program , you’ll be well qualified for graduate writing programs or for immediate employment in fields such as:

  • Digital storytelling
  • Social media and blogging
  • Technical writing
  • Website design
  • Corporate communications
  • Education and tutoring

Professional and Digital Writing: What You’ll Learn

The academic core for the professional and digital writing degree includes courses in rhetoric, writing, civic engagement and technology. The remainder of the program consists of electives, enabling you to personalize your studies and gain skills and experience that support your personal objectives. You’ll also complete a senior capstone project, designed in consultation with a faculty adviser, which may involve a professional internship, research and/or independent study. 

Professional and digital writing electives vary widely to accommodate a broad range of interests. You can satisfy major requirements with courses in subjects such as:

  • Digital publishing
  • Digital identity and culture
  • Science writing
  • Business writing
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Global rhetorics
  • Rhetoric of race and ethnicity

Professional and Digital Writing Program Resources

  • Major requirements
  • Minor requirements
  • Department of Writing and Rhetoric
  • College of Arts and Sciences

Programs Related to Professional and Digital Writing

Not sure if the professional and digital writing program is right for you ? Check out these other undergraduate degrees at Oakland, and contact our admissions team to discuss your options.

  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication

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Literacy studies, master of science in education (m.s.ed.) and reading specialist certification (pennsylvania), you are here, inquiry-based master's program for educators and reading specialists committed to educational change and social justice..

The Literacy Studies master's is an interdisciplinary program focused on the study of literacy and language from sociopolitical, cultural, psychological, historical, and linguistic perspectives. This program was previously known as Reading/Writing/Literacy M.S.Ed. Beginning in Summer 2024, this program will be titled Literacy Studies M.S.Ed.

What Sets Us Apart

About the program.

The master’s degree program in Literacy Studies can be completed in just one year. Students can tailor the program to their area of interest, through selecting electives from our courses, from other Penn GSE programs, and from across the University of Pennsylvania. During fieldwork and research, students have the opportunity to work with learners from diverse age groups and cultures, building their expertise as researchers and practitioners.

Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 courses; Summer: 2 courses

Research apprenticeship Internship

Culminating experience Academic portfolio

Duration of program 1-2 years (full-time) 2+ years (part-time)

Transfer courses accepted 1 course

The M.S.Ed. in Literacy Studies is a master’s degree program that prepares students to be literacy practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in a wide range of contexts. Four principles guide the program:  

  • The program is interdisciplinary because literacy, language, and culture interact in rich and complex ways. Literacy and language are studied from sociopolitical, cultural, psychological, historical, linguistic, and literary perspectives. 
  • The program is inquiry-based, intended to raise questions about the relationships among theory, research, policy, and practice while encouraging students to build their own theories of research and practice.  
  • The program focuses on diversity, urban settings, and the contexts of different schools, communities, families, and cultures.  
  • The program is committed to educational change and recognizes that educational institutions are sites in which to work for social justice, equity, and transformation.

Certificate/Licensure offered Reading Specialist certification (PA) available

Dual degree options Master of Social Work (MSW)

The master’s in Literacy Studies program includes 10 courses: four required courses as well as six electives. One of the program’s highlights is the flexibility in choosing electives. Students can take electives from our program, electives from other programs at Penn GSE, or even courses offered elsewhere at the University. The culminating experience is the presentation of the student’s academic portfolio.

The Literacy Studies master’s program with Reading Specialist certification requires 10 courses: eight required courses and two electives. An eleventh course is required for students without a teaching certification or one year of teaching. Only U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for Pennsylvania Reading Specialist certification after the completion of coursework.

For more information on courses and requirements, visit the  Literacy Studies M.S.Ed. program in the University Catalog .

Internships and Research

The internship in the Literacy Studies master’s program gives students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom. Through internships in settings such as the Weingarten Learning Resources Center; public, charter, and independent schools; community colleges; and community and social service agencies, students will work with learners across generations and cultures.

During their internships, students work with our faculty in research associated with some of the most distinguished research centers and professional development projects in the country: the Philadelphia Writing Project, the Penn Literacy Network, the National Center on Fathers and Families, the National Center on Adult Literacy, Penn’s Early Childhood and Family Studies Institute, and the International Literacy Institute.

Other Options: Certification, Dual Degree, and Accelerated Program

Reading specialist certification.

The Reading Specialist certification can be part of the master’s program, or students can enroll in it as a stand-alone program. Read more about the stand-alone  Literacy Studies certificate in the University Catalog .

Dual Degree

Students enrolled in the master’s program have the option of pursuing a  dual degree in Literacy Studies (M.S.Ed.) and Social Work (M.S.W.)  with Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Interested students should consult with their academic advisor.  Learn more about Dual and Joint Degrees at Penn GSE.

Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Degree Program

The  Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Degree Program  (Accelerated Program) is an exclusive offer for undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania to explore graduate education and apply up to four specific courses to both degrees, at no additional cost while they are full-time undergrads.

Funding Opportunities

Philadelphia writing project fellows program.

All full-time Literacy Studies, M.S.Ed. applicants are encouraged to apply for the Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP) Fellows Program.  Each PhilWP Fellow will work as a graduate assistant for the Philadelphia Writing Project , gaining research experience while assisting in nationally-recognized studies and professional development experience activities.  Additionally, fellows will receive:

  • A half-tuition scholarship to be applied toward their graduate coursework
  • Enrollment in PhilWP’s exclusive Summer Invitational Institute.  This two-week professional development experience will yield students a certificate and status as a Teacher Consultant, making them eligible to facilitate paid professional development activities across the district and region.
  • Opportunities to participate in professional learning experiences and community partnership work across Philadelphia and the U.S.

Students can apply for this fellowship opportunity when completing the GSE Application .  In addition to the general application requirements, students applying for this fellowship will be asked to write a 250-word statement on their interest in becoming a PhilWP Fellow.  There will be two fellowships awarded annually.

Literacy Studies Search Candidate Talk: Dr. Saba K. Vlach

Our faculty.

Our faculty are renowned scholars who are committed to the study of literacy and language, to educational change, and to educational institutions as agents for social justice, equity, and transformation.

Penn GSE Faculty H. Gerald Campano

Affiliated Faculty

In addition to Penn GSE faculty, our program draws on scholars from across the University of Pennsylvania as members of its affiliated faculty.

Myrna Cohen Adjunct Associate Professor Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Adrianne Flack Adjunct Assistant Professor Ed.D. University of Pennsylvania

Adelyn Heidi Gross Lecturer, Penn GSE Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania

Jessica Whitelaw Adjunct Assistant Professor Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

"I’m using the skills I developed at Penn GSE to collaborate with my colleagues to deliver targeted literacy supports for students, while also constructing a vision for literacy across our school."

Alicia Heffner

Our graduates.

The M.S.Ed. program in Literacy Studies prepares students as practitioners, researchers, and policy makers in educational settings that include K-12 schools, colleges and universities, community-based literacy programs, educational publishing, and government programs.

Alumni Careers

  • Basic Skills Teacher, Plumsted Township School District
  • Doctoral student, English Education, Teacher’s College, Columbia University
  • English Teacher, Olney Charter High School
  • Language Arts Teacher, Ocean City School District
  • Reading Specialist, Cristo Ray Network of Schools
  • Reading Specialist, Southeast Delco School District
  • Seventh Grade Teacher, Khepera Charter School
  • Editor, Chinese News
  • Literary agent (e.g. Penguin Random House)
  • Planning Director, United Jewish Appeal
  • Assistant Fine Arts Librarian, University of Pennsylvania
  • Marketing Manager, AWE Learning
  • Product Development, American Reading Company

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements , as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Graduate School of Education University of Pennsylvania 3700 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 (215) 898-6415 [email protected] [email protected]

Tamika Easley Program Manager (215) 898-3245 [email protected]

Kemba Howard Administrative Assistant  [email protected]

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.

Related News & Research

Penn GSE student Meresa García sits outside on cement steps in front of a brick wall on the University of Pennsylvania campus wearing a tan t-shirt and blue jeans, smiling at the camera

UTAP student Meresa García shares her passion for literacy and community work with Penn Libraries in “Penn Today”

Celebration of writing and literacy seeks proposals on safe spaces for october conference, maría cioè-peña receives prestigious 2023 naed/spencer postdoctoral fellowship.

A group of teenage high school students hanging out during a recent Black Girls Literacies Project meeting. Everyone is casually dressed and comfortable. They’re seated around a coffee table piled high with school boxes, art supplies and snacks. They’re in the middle of doing a project. Everyone is happy and smiling, and several of the students are making the peace sign with their hands. It looks fun and friendly.

Black Girls Literacies Project promotes self-care and community for Philadelphia teens

Mural depicting a child writing.

Collaboratory for Teacher Education

The Collaboratory for Teacher Education at Penn GSE is a laboratory for the design, implementation, and study of experimental approaches to teacher education.

Philadelphia Writing Project logo.

Philadelphia Writing Project

The Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP) is network of over 800 teacher consultants who work with teachers and other educators to explore literacy, writing, teaching, and learning in their classrooms and schools regardless of grade or discipline.

Students wait outside of their school.

Urban Education Journal

The Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education journal is an electronic, student-run publication and interactive forum to investigate critical issues in urban education.

You May Be Interested In

Related programs.

  • Education, Culture, and Society M.S.Ed.
  • Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program M.S.Ed.
  • Urban Teaching Residency Program M.S.Ed.
  • Independent School Teaching Residency

Related Topics

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Digital Writing Technologies in Higher Education

Theory, Research, and Practice

  • Otto Kruse   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8167-5127 0 ,
  • Christian Rapp   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9494-0914 1 ,
  • Chris M. Anson   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9799-3111 2 ,
  • Kalliopi Benetos   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8259-7303 3 ,
  • Elena Cotos   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2515-9857 4 ,
  • Ann Devitt   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4572-0362 5 ,
  • Antonette Shibani   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4619-8684 6

School of Applied Linguistics, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland

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School of Management and Law, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland

North carolina state university, raleigh, usa, tecfa, faculty of psychology and educational sciences, university of geneva, geneva, switzerland, english department, iowa state university, ames, usa, school of education, trinity college dublin, dublin, ireland, td school, university of technology sydney, sydney, australia.

Covers the advancements of 40 years of digital writing with precise descriptions of more than 20 key technologies

Makes the state of the art in writing technology and its development accessible for both researchers and practitioners

Discusses the implications of technological advancements for writing theory and practice

Is open access, which means free and unlimited access

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Table of contents (30 chapters), front matter, word processing software, the beginnings of word processing: a historical account.

  • Till A. Heilmann

Word Processing Software: The Rise of MS Word

  • Otto Kruse, Christian Rapp

Beyond MS Word: Alternatives and Developments

  • Christian Rapp, Till Heilmann, Otto Kruse

Web Applications and Platform Technology

Hypertext, hyperlinks, and the world wide web.

  • Susan Lang, Craig Baehr

Creativity Software and Idea Mapping Technology

  • Otto Kruse, Christian Rapp, Kalliopi Benetos

Digital Tools for Written Argumentation

Kalliopi Benetos

Digital Note-Taking for Writing

  • Joanna Pitura

Synchronous and Asynchronous Collaborative Writing

  • Montserrat Castelló, Otto Kruse, Christian Rapp, Mike Sharples

Social Annotation: Promising Technologies and Practices in Writing

  • Justin Hodgson, Jeremiah Kalir, Christopher D. Andrews

Multimodal Chat-Based Apps: Enhancing Copresence When Writing

  • Tracey Bowen, Carl Whithaus

Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

Teacher feedback tools.

Chris M. Anson

Digital Student Peer Review Programs

Reference management systems.

  • Antje Proske, Christina Wenzel, Manuela Barbara Queitsch

Plagiarism Detection and Intertextuality Software

  • Chris M. Anson, Otto Kruse

The Electronic Portfolio: Self-Regulation and Reflective Practice

  • Gerd Bräuer, Christine Ziegelbauer

Content Management System 3.0: Emerging Digital Writing Workspaces

  • Lance Cummings
  • Digital writing
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Christian Rapp

Elena Cotos

Antonette Shibani

Otto Kruse is a retired professor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. He received his doctoral degree and habilitation from the Technical University of Berlin and is specialized in the teaching and research of academic writing. He was and is involved in several international research projects exploring writing in European higher education and currently is focusing on digital writing, for instance, by developing Thesis Writer, a tool supporting dissertation writers.

Christian Rapp is leading the Educational Technology Team at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, School of Management and Law, Zurich University of Applied Sciences. He is a coordinator of several international R&D projects funded by EU and Swiss National Science Foundation. He specializes in writing technology and is a fellow of the Digitalization Initiative of the Zurich Higher Education Institutions.

Chris Anson is Distinguished University Professor and Executive Director of the Campus Writing and Speaking Program at North Carolina State University. He has published extensively in the field of writing studies and has spoken and consulted widely across the United States and several dozen other countries. He is the past chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication and past president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, and is currently Chair of the International Society for the Advancement of Writing Research. His professional summary can be found at www.ansonica.net.

Kalliopi Benetos is a senior researcher and lecturer in educational technology at the University of Geneva's Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, where she teaches courses in HCI and digital fabrication. She uses design-based research approaches to develop and study instructional designs and digital environments to support critical and epistemic thinking and learning through argumentation and has published multiple papers in the domain of technology-mediated learning and instruction.

Elena Cotos is an associate professor of applied linguistics, director of the Center for Communication Excellence, and associate dean for professional development at Iowa State University. Her research bridges corpus-based analysis of academic discourse, genre-based automated evaluation of scientific writing, and computer-assisted language learning. She has led design, research, and evaluation projects focused on intelligent writing technology and also developed massive open online writing-related courses sponsored by the US Department of State.

Ann Devitt is an associate professor in language education at the School of Education and Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  She is Academic Director for Learnovate, the Enterprise Ireland funded centre of excellence for educational technology which is hosted in Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests lie in the use of technology in education, in particular for language and literacy learning. 

Antonette Shibani is a lecturer and researcher at the TD (TransDisciplinary) School, University of Technology Sydney. She researches the use of learning analytics and artificial intelligence tools to improve educational practice with a special focus on writing technologies. Shibani has served on the executive committee of the Society for Learning Analytics Research and founded its special interest group on Writing Analytics.

Book Title : Digital Writing Technologies in Higher Education

Book Subtitle : Theory, Research, and Practice

Editors : Otto Kruse, Christian Rapp, Chris M. Anson, Kalliopi Benetos, Elena Cotos, Ann Devitt, Antonette Shibani

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-36033-6

Publisher : Springer Cham

eBook Packages : Education , Education (R0)

Copyright Information : The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2023

License : CC BY

Hardcover ISBN : 978-3-031-36032-9 Published: 16 September 2023

Softcover ISBN : 978-3-031-36035-0 Published: 14 September 2023

eBook ISBN : 978-3-031-36033-6 Published: 14 September 2023

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XXV, 526

Number of Illustrations : 2 b/w illustrations, 23 illustrations in colour

Topics : Writing Skills , Language Education , Education, general , Literacy

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What the Heck is Digital Writing and Why Should I Think it’s Important?

What is Digital Writing?

The development of modern technology has challenged educators to rethink what good academic writing is to consist of. As digital environments become more omnipresent in our modern society, the line between traditional academic writing and multi-modal digital writing will continue to blur. While professors of older generations remain bound by the belief that academic writing and writing in digital environments are entirely different entities, the fact remains that the implementation of digital writing in academic curriculums will benefit students living in this modern world.

The multimodality of digital writing makes it inherently difficult to pinpoint a singular definition of this rhetoric that challenges the norms of traditional academic writing. In her article, “ Keeping Up With Digital Writing in the College Classroom ”, Andrea Baer defines digital writing as “writing that is composed-and most often read-through digital environments and tools” (Baer 2013). However, it is clear that digital writing encompasses far more than this simple definition. Baer goes on to discuss how digital writing is wholly multimodal, and how the incorporation of images, video, and audio not only supplements the author’s text, but also “interact with one another to create new meanings and multiple potential interpretations” (Baer 2013).

The definition of digital writing can be expanded further. In her article, “ Consider the Audience ” Jen Rajchel explores the different ways in which writers can manipulate a digital platform to best suit their needs. Rajchel explains digital writing on two levels: “at one level, web writing is about writing on the web: the flexibility as a multimodal piece, the ability to nimbly circulate, and the capacity to create a network of texts. At another level, the practice is about writing for the web and situating ourselves as readers and writers within its evolving architecture” (Rajchel 2014). Rajchel’s piece not only focuses on defining the multimodality of digital writing, but also stresses the importance of online writers to utilize this multimodality to add a critical lens to their arguments and engage an online audience.

Ultimately, the multimodality of digital writing can lead to an incredibly vague definition for what it actually encompasses. In his article “ Digital Rhetoric ”, James Zappen states that digital writing is “an amalgam of more-or-less discrete components rather than a complete and integrated theory in its own right” (Zappen 2005). Zappen explains that the development of digital writing is challenging how traditional writing is composed. In particular, he notes that digital writing is transforming traditional notions of rhetoric as a mode of persuasion into a mode of “testing one’s own ideas, a contesting of others’ ideas, and a collaborative creating of ideas” (Zappen 2005).

Why is Digital Writing Important?

It is clear that digital writing has become incredibly important to the academic experience of this generation, and will continue to be for generations to come. Across the country, professors are modifying their curriculum to prepare students for life after academia. Leigh Wright’s “ Tweet Me A Story ” shows how using the social media application Twitter to supplement traditional learning methods in her journalism class can teach students to quickly and concisely compose their thoughts in order to become part of a social media conversation. In addition to teaching students how to compose thoughts quickly and concisely, Wright utilized Twitter as a way to teach students teach how to develop their voice online for the purpose of writing leads and live tweeting events.

The idea of addressing a particular audience is an important part of how digital writing helps students shape their voice online and develop writing styles that best suit their academic needs. Rajchel stresses the importance of teaching students how to address their online audience and how to determine the appropriate platform to address this audience. She says that students must “be prompted to become critical users who delineate the context, content, and circulation for each platform” (Rajchel 2014), and that it is important to develop an understanding of how to make their writing appealing to their target audience.

In addition to teaching students to create voices and writing styles that best suit the platform they are using to create digital writing, digital writing encourages participation, collaboration, and community building that can extend beyond the classroom. Zappen discusses these ideas in the section of his article regarding the formation of identities and communities, stating that digital communication and writing is not only used to persuade a reader, but also to foster “self-expression for the purpose of exploring individual and group identities and participation and collaboration for the purpose of building communities and shared interests” (Zappen 2005).

Rajchel also discusses how participation and collaboration through digital writing are an important part of the modern academic experience. She compares the skills gained from implementing digital writing into academic curriculum to skills learned in seminar style courses: “reading across disciplines, developing expertise, and delving into discussions. Students learn to challenge each other, but more importantly, themselves” (Rajchel 2014). Online, students learn to compose writing that encourages thoughtful discussion and collaboration of ideas in order to develop their ideas and share them with a given audience.

Leigh Wright’s use of Twitter as part of her class’ curriculum fostered this participation, collaboration, and community building as well. While her live tweeting exercise was designed to develop quick and concise thought by her students, the exercise also allowed students and other members of the Twittersphere to engage in discussion on the event they were covering. This open discussion in turn developed the open lines of communication between other Twitter users and students, and provide a key example of how digital writing can enhance the academic experience of students.

However, despite the fact that digital writing should  be a part of the modern academic experience, there are academics that believe that traditional writing and digital writing cannot coincide within the academic arena. In “ Set in Stone or Set in Motion? ”, authors Hudley and Holbrook give examples of teachers and students who believe that academic writing and writing online are entirely separate, and that the latter should not be a part of a student’s academic experience. In turn, these individuals fail to recognize digital writing as a development of academic writing. The article points out that the inclusion of digital writing in their curriculum merely supplements these traditional learning methods, and that there is no “either/or” dividing the two; traditional academic writing and digital writing should be taught side-by-side (Hundley & Holbrook, 2013).

The goal of these educators (Rajchel, Wright) is still the same of traditional academics: to teach students how to become better writers. While traditional academic writing skills will always be key to academic development of students, the study discussed in Hundley and Holbrook’s article states that teachers like Jen Rajchel and Leigh Wright should recognize the importance of finding ways to utilize digital mediums to make their courses relevant to students of a modern generation. If educators “can embrace the twist of technology while giving students the tools to develop their voice, tone, and unique writing style” (Wright 2013), students will better develop the digital writing skills needed in the modern world.

As a college student living in a world of rapid technological advances, the importance of courses focused on writing in digital mediums has grown exponentially since my arrival on campus. iPads and digital writing platforms have become widely implemented in curriculums across the academic spectrum, and the ability for students to utilize them as an academic tool has become an important part of our learning experience at Dickinson.

As a Policy Management major, a major that focuses on the creation of organizational policies and initiatives, I believe that the college’s decision to implement this technology into students’ learning experiences will be beneficial to the academic experience of students now and in the future. While almost everyone who attends Dickinson has a smart phone or some form of modern technology, the classes that teach students how to manipulate this technology in order to use it productively in an academic setting will provide students more than just a basic understanding of this technology. I see our class as a great example of this. Everyone in our class had a basic understanding of the iPad technology prior to taking this course. However, after learning how to utilize apps like Feedly and WordPress to create and analyze writing in digital environments, students have gained the understanding of how to compose the multimodal literature using the technology that has become commonplace in our modern society. While this class has not necessarily promoted the ideas of quick, concise thought found in “Tweet Me A Story”, this class does encourage students to project a voice that is in accordance with the subject matter discussed in our blogs found in “Consider the Audience”.

I have seen the use of digital writing employed in courses prior to this course. In my freshman year Civil War History course, our teacher assigned weekly 500 word blog posts designed to have students summarize and analyze each week’s readings. While these blog posts were only a supplement to assignments for this course, it still provided me early exposure to digital writing that has helped me throughout my academic career at Dickinson. This experience taught me how to express my ideas and thoughts in a concise manner. In a world where technology has forced us to be straightforward with our ideas (since there is so much information readily available to us), this class taught me how to formulate ideas in a way that allowed the reader to quickly understand the points I was trying to make.

As students like me graduate from college and enter the work force, companies are searching for students that have adapted to and mastered the use of the digital mediums these companies expect employees to use. Companies are rapidly adding divisions within their organizations to focus solely on their social media content and digital marketing strategies, and students with a background in digital writing will be much more appealing to these companies. Students who have had exposure to academic environments of both Rajchel and Wright, who sought to create through their use of Twitter as a means to teach quick though, concise writing, and collaboration, will be far better off than a student who has been subjected to the linear approach of traditional academic writing.

Works Cited

Jen Rajchel, “Consider the Audience,” in Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning , ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014), http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/rajchel .

Zappen, James P. “Digital Rhetoric: Toward An Integrated Theory.”  Technical Communication Quarterly : 319-25. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.  http://homepages.rpi.edu/~zappenj/Vita/DigitalRhetoric2005.pdf

Wright, Leigh. “Tweet Me A Story.”  Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning . University of Michigan Press at Michigan Publishing. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://webwriting2013.trincoll.edu/engagement/wright-2013/

Baer, Andrea. “Keeping Up With… Digital Writing in the College Classroom.” 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/keeping_up_with/digital_writing .

Hundley, M, & Holbrook, T 2013, ‘Set in Stone or Set in Motion?: Multimodal and Digital Writing With Preservice English Teachers’, Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy , 56, 6, pp. 500-509, Education Research Complete, EBSCO host , viewed 28 October 2015.  http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=8cf26b30-8c76-4cf0-95c0-47de6914a2fc%40sessionmgr120&hid=111&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=85862587&db=ehh

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Why Digital Writing Matters in Education

Writing teachers like me (and perhaps like you) have been caught in a tight spot for some time now. On the one hand, computing technologies have radically transformed the meaning of "writing." On the other hand, high stakes assessments and their impact on teaching have limited what counts as writing in school.

As a teacher, I feel pulled in different directions. Thankfully, there are some good educational resources available. The National Writing Project recently published Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments by Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl and Troy Hicks. Their book is a good resource for teachers interested in thoughtfully incorporating digital writing into their teaching, and it also will point readers toward other high-quality resources. In the spirit of their book, I am going to take up the issue of why digital writing matters, focusing on two issues:

  • Digital writing challenges what counts as writing and reveals the gap between how writing works in the world and how we teach it in schools.
  • Digital writing platforms and services are ways to innovate instruction and learning.

Why Writing Matters

I always find it worth starting with why writing matters in education and in life. In school, writing is a key language skill (if not a subject) and also supports learning in other content areas. In a knowledge society, written expression shapes success for individuals and groups. Because of computer networks, youth now in school will write more than any prior generation in human history. Yet we pay relatively little attention to writing in school, which is why the National Commission on Writing has called writing the " forgotten R ."

A second Commission report concluded that writing is a "threshold skill" for hiring and promotion among professional employees. Those who cannot write and communicate clearly will have difficulty landing a job and little chance of promotion. Leadership positions are out of the question.

The "Digital" in Digital Writing

What distinguishes "digital" writing? Yes, technologies matter, particularly networks, which really are the big change agent in the last twenty years. But the most powerful changes are cultural. Digital writing is networked, and because of this, often deeply collaborative or coordinated. Wikipedia, for instance, is not possible without a computer network. But it is the cultural changes in how we write that an example like Wikipedia makes clear. Or consider Facebook, which is perhaps the most pervasive and commonplace collaborative writing platform in human history.

But digital technologies also have made it easy to "write" in all sorts of new ways. We can use more modes and resources, such as image, sound and video. We can remix the work of others -- with and without permission -- and share what we create more easily than ever before. And people do, all the time, and for all sorts of compelling reasons. Many of these people are our students.

It is often said that technologies don't get interesting until they become culturally meaningful. I think this is the case with the technologies of digital writing, and I can't help but contrast the dynamic ways that writing is changing in the world with what happens too often in my school. According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life survey , 86 percent of teenagers believe that writing well is important to success in life. But they don't see most of the writing that they do in their lives as "real" writing. Yet, ironically, it is the writing in which they find the most pleasure, that they do most eagerly and, arguably, that they do most successfully.

Making "the Digital" Work for Teaching and Learning

One of the problems worth solving is how to scale high quality writing instruction in ways that enrich the lives of teachers and students. We know what works in writing instruction:

  • Engaged teachers and engaging environments
  • Direct writing instruction and practice
  • Revision focused on higher order concerns, guided by review feedback and informed by shared criteria

High quality writing instruction can also be expensive and time consuming, and often schools feel as if they can't do it. Or, as a cost-saving measure, technologies like machine grading are seen as a substitute for teaching.

But the same digital technologies that enable communication and collaboration might help teachers design technologies that make their teaching lives richer and their students more productive. We have been inventing technologies like this out of our own teaching, such as Eli , a service that supports peer learning in writing. Increasingly, there are other services available that extend the ability of computer networks to be tools for learning in writing (see, for example, Crocodoc ). We need many more efforts to support and share the innovations of teachers wrestling with how to teach digital writing in their schools.

There is no question that we have been witnessing an explosion of digital writing for some time now. We are living through a period of particularly rapid changes in how we write. Digital writing matters, and our challenge is to figure out how to be useful to those interested in leveraging these new writing platforms with thoughtfulness and power.


Daniel Oppenheimer: Can hand writing survive the digital age?

Child hand writing

Writing by hand forces pupils to process the material and rephrase it in their own words. Photo: Tan Kian Khoon

As handwriting disappears from our society, research shows that putting pen to paper is good for our brains.

Daniel Oppenheimer is a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences.

He told Jim Mora on Sunday Morning that typing was not better or worse than longhand, but led to different outcomes.

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"It's not that writing is better than using a keyboard, but writing changes the way you think."

He said one of the advantages of hand writing was that it slowed you down.

"If I'm typing what a teacher is saying, I can type verbatim what they say, which means I don't really have to listen and understand what's being said, I just have to type word for word... and it'll get into the record.

"But if I'm taking notes by hand, I can't write that quickly, and that forces me to listen to what the person is saying and rephrase it in my own words.

"That means that I understood the material, I thought about the material, I figured out what is the best way to describe the material - and all of those things are helpful for learning."

Research showed that the fine motor skills required to map letters to paper were helpful for literacy, he said.

"...As opposed to typing,  where you press a button and there's no relationship between the button press and the visual manifestation of the letter that you'll later have to read."

Oppenheimer said it was easier to write ideas quickly on computer, and edit one's writing, but this meant people did not have to think through what they were writing.

Writing by hand, on the other hand, was more laborious to edit, so required deeper and more insightful thinking, he said.

The precision of thought required when handwriting also lead to using a wider vocabulary, as it gave people more time to consult their "mental lexicon".

"This means that people who type tend to have less variance in vocabulary. They tend to reuse the same words over and over, they tend to be using simpler words that are quicker to bring to mind."

Conversely, he said, people who wrote by hand used "a greater number and diversity of words, more complex and nuanced words that are better able to convey complex ideas", he said.

Despite an online thesaurus being readily available when students wrote on a computer, that also opened them up to other distractions.

Oppenheimer said research did not show a great difference between the benefits of printing versus longhand - also known as cursive - although the latter tended to be more legible.

"It's not that computers are bad - they're good for some functions. But if your goal is to comprehend the material, then handwriting seems to be the best way to do that."

Was there a link between the decline of handwriting and classroom behaviour?

Any activity that instilled discipline - from learning to write carefully to karate - could help students learn to focus more effectively and then may help with classroom behaviour, he said.

However the research was unclear whether handwriting was necessarily better than other activities that instil discipline.

And it would be a mistake to ban computers in the classroom altogether, he said.

Despite the potential problems and distractions, there was no escaping from the advances in technology, such as generative AI.

When they left school, students were going to be expected to use tools such as ChatGPT in jobs, and would be at a competitive disadvantage if they were unable to do so.

"A person who uses AI effectively can be much more efficient, much more productive than a person who can't, and why would an employer prefer someone who is less productive?"

There were certain lessons and lectures when he himself asked students to put their laptops away, and other times when he insisted they use them for particular assignments, and to use certain techniques and software.

The decline in handwriting was not the primary cause of a decline in literacy, he said.

"I think that one reason that kids are not learning to read is that they're not reading as much."

Oppenheimer gave the example of when his university students lined up outside his office, to ask for feedback on their progress. Earlier in his career, they would have had a book and be reading, he said - now, they were on their phones. The same could be said for people on long-haul flights.

"One of the best ways to get good at reading is to practise reading... and to the extent that fewer people are reading, that would explain why people are becoming less literate. In a way that's a lot simpler than blaming it on not handwriting."

There was always concerns raised when new technologies emerged, he said - besides, people could be reading ebooks on their phones.

So can hand writing survive the digital era?

"Every time new technologies come out, it takes a while for society to adjust to their optimal use.

"We have the internet and social media... and that caught America - and probably New Zealand -... by storm and changed culture in some fundamental ways, and in some ways that are very clearly negative. But that was true of almost every new technology that has come out in the last century.

"But what happens is that eventually people learn how to use it, they learn how to adapt. Society and culture shift to accommodate the new technologies."

As a university professor, he had noticed students being more deliberate about what they used their phones for, and was also seeing parents becoming more thoughtful about when and how they let their children have and use phones.

"We may hit a period where writing is less common and less prevalent, but I do think that there will always be a place for writing, and that once we as a society figure out what that place is, there will be a value afforded to writing."

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  21. Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Digital Writing

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