Open Online Courses in Writing

What is Writing?

Writing is the textual representation of thematic concepts and ideas, which is used either to promote goods and services or to generate fictional worlds and stories. College writing programs have many different titles, but they are essentially divided into two categories: technical and creative writing. Technical writing courses detail the process of writing for large pharmaceutical, media, and regulatory agencies while creative writing programs teach the fundamentals of fictional and nonfictional writing, including plays, short stories, screenplays, novels, and biographies. An online writing course that specializes in fiction will also outline the editing and dramaturgy processes so students understand the function of constructive creative critique.

What Can Online Courses in Writing Actually Teach Me?

There is no common accrediting agency for university-based or online writing courses, so your curriculum may differ from other degree programs in small ways. However, on-campus and online courses in writing will share common courses including English composition, technical editing, and critique workshops because the writing and revision process is similar for most professionals. Online courses are more viable than in other areas of study because hiring managers and creative agencies assess writing skill by a person’s portfolio of work, professional recommendations, and ability to meet editorial deadlines. You can certainly earn an equivalent writing education through online courses, but you should make sure that your program is regionally or nationally accredited so you can demonstrate the rigorousness of your degree program to hiring managers.

An online writing class is a useful tool for learning more about literary theory, technical editing, online documentation, and screenwriting. During these courses, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the key components of a fictional plot and how do they relate to one another?
  • How is writing for the medical industry different than writing for a media or creative advertising agency?
  • What are common grammatical, syntax, and punctuation mistakes I should look for when editing a piece of writing?
  • How has the concept of story structure changed from the days of antiquity (i.e., ancient Greece and Rome)?
  • What are some literary strategies for proper character development?

Since there is no accrediting agency for writing degree programs, you will have to independently examine your intended department’s curriculum and staff to assess how professionally viable it is. For example – unlike most degree programs – it is not vital for all your professors to hold a Ph.D. in writing. However, if you intend to enroll in a creative writing program, it is additionally beneficial to choose one with faculty members that have experience in the film, play, or publishing industry. Also, you should only enroll in programs that require you to maintain a writing portfolio since that is the absolute first credential a creative manager or hiring personnel will look at to gauge your ability.

Free Online Courses in Writing From Around the Web

We have compiled relevant open courseware in writing and organized it in the directory below. Open courseware is a collection of online tests, video lectures, and related course materials from universities from around the world. These materials are free to access, but you will not receive the usual student amenities of a typical on-campus or online class, such as professor interaction and classroom discussions. However, open courseware is an excellent tool for assessing your enthusiasm for writing and gauging the workload of degree programs.

Subjects

Writing (9)

Principles of Research and Problem SolvingUniversity of Michigan

Open Courseware

Grant Writing, Research
Taught by: Kathleen Stringer

Course Description:

Published in 2011, this online course is available for graduate level students and is designed to introduce them to the systematic scientific research method and proposal writing. Upon completion of this course, you will have a foundational understanding of how to develop a purposeful hypothesis, gather information and draw conclusions using the systematic research and problem solving approaches. In addition, you will have the opportunity to perfect your research writing and oral presentation skills.

Writing and Reading Short StoriesMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Writing, Short Story
Taught by: Shariann Lewitt

The Creative SparkMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Creativity, Western Culture, Writers
Taught by: Dr. Karen Boiko

Course Description:

This MIT Courseware teaches students to develop clear and purposful writing and speaking to an audience. This essay-based courseware requires student write three essays on different themes which focus on developing the creative process. Considerable revision will be emphasized. This self-paced approach enables writers to develop their sense of self as it relates to the audience. Courseware materials include required reading and 25 assignments. Study materials are provided in pdf format.

What is good writing?The Open University

Open Courseware

Writing, Communication, Style

Course Description:

This Open University Courseware teaches students the importance of writing, understanding what makes a good essay, critically reviewing technical and stylistic considerations in writing, and teaches that essays do not have to be perfect to be complete. This 12 hour course includes an overview of how to write persuasively and with style.

Writing and ExperienceMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Writing, Experience, Identity, Culture
Taught by: Dr. Elizabeth Fox

Course Description:

This MIT courseware from Dr. Elizabeth Fox explores the experience of individuals who are living dual traditions of their home country while growing up in America, and their feelings with not feeling at home with either. The class readings include first person accounts of individuals who grew up Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and South-east Asian homes and their experiences. There are not prerequisites for this class. You are urged to have an interest in reading and writing.

Science Writing and New MediaMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Writing, Communication, Engineers, Design
Taught by: David Custer, Elizabeth A. Page

Course Description:

This MIT undergraduate course from David Custer and Elizabeth A. Page introduces a wide range of disciplines relevant to science writing and new media, including writing, graphics, meetings, oral presentation, collaboration, and design as tools for product development. You will work in teams to conceive, design, prototype, and evaluate energy-related products. Instruction focuses on the communication tasks that are integral to the design process, such as design notebooks, email, formal and informal presentations, meeting etiquette, literature searches, white papers, and reports. In addition to the assignments specific to product development, a few assignments will address the cultural situation of engineers and engineering in the world at large.

Technical WritingNew Jersey Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Writing, Communication, Technical
Taught by: Dr. Jim Lipuma

Course Description:

This advanced writing course from Dr. Jim Lipuma combines current theory with actual practice to prepare students as technical writers. Through a series of videos, you will analyze complex communication scenarios and design appropriate responses through tasks that involve problem solving, rhetorical theory, document design, oral presentations, writing teams, audience awareness, ethical considerations, and gender equity issues. Prerequisites for this course are HUM 101, and two from among HUM 102, HUM 211, HUM 212 and HIST 213 or their equivalents.

Critical Reading and WritingUMass Boston

Open Courseware

Communications, Critical Reading, Critical Writing
Taught by: Professor Erin M. O'Brien

Course Description:

This creative studies online course, originally published in 2011, will help you enhance your analytical thinking, written communication, active reading and problem-solving skills. In addition to examining literary works from a historical perspective, you will learn to critically analyze various forms of media and to effectively communicate your perspective in writing. This class has no required prerequisites, as it is designed to introduce college freshmen to collegiate-level research methods and reading and writing strategies.

Writing for the ScreenUniversity of British Columbia

Open Courseware

Screenwriting, Creative Studies

Course Description:

This screenwriting online course will teach you the basics of thematic narrative crafting and three-act story structure. Additionally, you will learn how to construct dialogue that advances story and informs character attributes simultaneously. This course is open to all degree levels and has no additional academic or software prerequisites. However, you should be comfortable producing extended written works under strict deadlines.