The Classroom: Context

This school has the highest percentage of first-generation college students in the region; in 2008, 50% of entering first-year students would be the first in their family to earn a college degree. The school draws a majority of its population from the immediate area, as it draws overwhelmingly from a nearby urban center and the surrounding rural, agricultural-based communities. The school has the lowest admission standards of any four-year university in the state and actually charges less for tuition than any of the local community colleges. The average entering SAT score in 2008-2009 was 977. (For comparison, in the same academic year, the SAT score of students in the 25th percentile enrolled at the state's flagship university was 1100.) As such, it is safe to conclude that this four-year university has the highest percentage of under-prepared students in the state. It can also be said safely that the school in question has a higher percentage of under-prepared students than the average four-year Research University, though it is comparable to other regional comprehensive universities.

My interest in the hyperliterate discourse practices of college students at this university and elsewhere has grown, in part, from my work as a Writing Program Administrator. Specifically, my interactions with students have led me to become interested in the correspondence of students in the academic discourse community. Two-sentence emails sent to me (as the director of composition program), such as (to paraphrase):

Hello my name is [redacted]. My teacher said I should talk to you.

suggest a profound depth of communicative difficulties—an illiteracy in rhetorical awareness. I find myself wondering why students send e-mails such as this, and what, if anything, should be done about it.

The Classroom: The Study ...