Pilot online writing resource

Creative Writing, E-Learning

Brief Descriptiontrace1

The trAce website went live in 1997 and is a substantial collection of original new media writing (both single-authored and collaborative), articles, journals, meeting logs and discussion boards plus the archives of three Incubation international conferences. It has been selected for archiving by The British Library as one of the UK’s 100 most nationally significant websites in terms of innovation, culture and research. This pilot project will select and contextualise key materials from within the site to create a portal for HE teachers and researchers working with online writing, and will make recommendations for development of the project beyond the pilot stage. Content will be selected after extensive consultation with English staff in the partner institutions to ensure that it is appropriately integrated into existing curriculum. Special attention will be paid to the needs of staff who are unfamiliar with new media. Some materials will be downloadable, others web-based.

Aims and Objectives

Aims trace2

  1. To facilitate the inclusion of new media writing in the English curriculum.
  2. To provide a professional development opportunity for teaching staff to widen their field of expertise.
  3. To link research into new media writing with the practical process of writing for digital media.


  1. To identify opportunities for the addition of new media writing to the existing English curriculum.
  2. To build a portal to materials contained within the trAce website, featuring web-based and downloadable materials for use in teaching and research.
  3. To demonstrate and promote the Interdisciplinarity nature of new media writing.

This pilot project will use the trAce Online Writing Centre website as the basis for developing resources for HE teachers and researchers working with online writing. The final product will be a portal website containing annotated links, with further explanatory and teaching materials, including downloadables.

Interest in writing specifically for the digital medium is growing. It’s likely that new media writing will increasingly be introduced into the curriculum at UK institutions, for example in the undergraduate “with Writing” strand on the English degree being introduced at NTU this coming academic year, so this is a timely moment for such a resource. Close consultation with English staff in the partner institutions, will ensure we meet the needs of existing curricula as well as identifying areas where new media writing can be added to the curriculum.

In April 1005 trAce will complete its latest research project, Writers for the Future, providing further material suitable for adaptation for teaching, so this is an appropriate time to link our research with teaching in this subject. These will be accessible, useful and relevant resources for teaching the particular form that is new media writing, as well as to introduce the genre in an appropriate way to English researchers in other areas.

Much of the content at the trAce Online Writing Centre was originally developed by Sue Thomas and Helen Whitehead so trAce’s move to DMU where Thomas is taking up a Chair in New Media, provides an ideal opportunity to develop a collaborative HE-based resource.


Phase 1
Investigate the existing level of knowledge of new media writing in English departments at NTU & DMU.

This will involve consultation with members of the English teaching teams at the two universities as well as a more general survey of English researchers to assess existing knowledge, relationships with their areas of study, and potential needs and uses for the materials. . We will consult closely with English staff in the partner institutions, with special reference to those new to this area, to meet the needs of existing curricula as well as identifying areas where new media writing can be added to the curriculum.

Phase 2
Design and production of resource:

We will analyse the trAce site and resources existing on it to identify key materials which can be contextualised and interpreted. Materials will be written and presented via a specially designed portal website: some resources will be downloadable.

Phase 3
Delivery of teaching sessions using the resource

The resources will be piloted as appropriate in the participating departments, e.g., an undergraduate creative writing module, with the MA in Writing, as an online distance learning course for lifelong learners

Phase 4
Evaluation of student and teacher experience plus recommendations for future development

We will monitor and evaluate the pilot teaching materials with selected interviews with and questionnaires for both teachers and students. Resources will be modified as appropriate. We will indicate priorities for future development of the resources. We will disseminate the portal resources via the Subject Centre and our own insitution websites and via trAce’s network.


New media writing is a relative newcomer to higher education in the UK. It is so new that even the name of the field has not settled, and it is also known as electronic literature, digital literature, digital writing, networked texts and so on. Digital Art & Multimedia is now taught across many universities but

the potential of its critical and literary aspects have not so far been realised in English Departments mainly due to lack of appropriate resources aimed at HE in the UK. We aim in this project to address that lack and to provide opportunities for academic staff to develop skills in this area.

Through the trAce Online Writing Centre we have conducted various research projects in the last few years and can draw on the results to produce materials for teaching and studying new media writing. As leading workers for trAce Helen Whitehead and Sue Thomas are uniquely placed with the particular expertise to develop these materials. By its nature, new media writing is already distributed electronically and the trAce site has always aimed to serve the UK literary community so it is particularly appropriate to share the proposed resources online across the HE establishment.


Helen Whitehead is a practising new media writer and has worked for trAce since 1997 with particular interests in elearning and lifelong learning, the international writing community and technical and process aspects of writing for new media. Helen has developed a variety of elearning materials for teaching writing and new media writing to children and adults as well as in the context of HE. Sue Thomas has been Artistic Director of trAce since it began in 1995 and is the foremost researcher in this field. Both have presented at important conferences over many years and have been guest lecturers on undergraduate and postgraduate courses at several institutions in this country and abroad. As national and world leaders in this field of expertise, both are well placed to research and produce these resources.

Similar Work

There are a variety of courses in New Media Writing (under a variety of names) in the USA, Europe and Australia. Many of their teachers are known to us and already use parts of the trAce website in their teaching. We will be able to draw and build on their experience and resources. We have strong links with other organisations in fields related to this one, both in the UK and abroad including the Eliterature Organization and Alt-X in the USA and ANAT in Australia. We will seek to draw on relevant aspects of digital art and multimedia courses already being taught in our own institutions and elsewhere in the UK, as well as the few English and related courses which already include new media writing.


This pilot project will select key works of new media writing and research results from within the trAce site and use them to create the beginning of a framework of resources for use of both HE teachers and researchers beginning to work with online writing. The pilot materials will be in the nature of an introduction to digital writing with pointers to further study. They will be collected in the form of a portal website with annotated links, web-based and downloadable materials.

We will make recommendations for future development of the project.

To ensure that the materials are accessible to staff and students who are currently unfamiliar with new media, we will be working with English staff in the partner institutions to ensure that the materials are appropriately integrated into the existing curriculum as well as providing a basis for further teaching of new media writing in future.

We will provide appropriate metadata to ease re-use in various elearning environments.

The portal and its resources will be available via the Subject Centre website as well as the trAce website at DMU and at NTU. Dissemination will also take place via our already extensive network of contacts interested in this area.


With the increase in the number of creative writing courses in institutions across the country it is certain that the materials will be of use to the wider English subject community within HE.

Also, the trAce Online Writing Centre has a history of supporting national and international writers interested in developing skills in writing in this area.

We have taught various aspects of new media writing in a lifelong-learning context in the trAce Online Writing School. The materials produced will be available on the Web to introduce the wider reading public to a better understanding of how to read these works and also how to begin to approach writing them. The materials will be piloted in a lifelong learning context as well as in HE and continue to be available for lifelong learners, both writers and readers.

Related websites & Links

Project leader

Helen Whitehead
School of Arts, Communication and Culture
Nottingham Trent University

Project partners

Sue Thomas
Professor of New Media
School of Media and Cultural Production
Faculty of Humanities
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.


Due to staff changes this project was terminated in September 2005. Reports on the first phase will be available shortly.