Teaching Writing for the Web to Students

(c) Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

Over the Festival of Creative Learning, I ran a workshop to teach Writing for the Web to students and had them demonstrate their newfound skills through a collaborative writing exercise.

Why Writing for the Web

We read online differently than we do in print, and because of this, we need to structure our content differently to accommodate for this.  

I first did Writing for the Web training as part of a web editing internship while I was an undergraduate, and it’s what led me to the role I’m in today with the University Website & Communications team. 

My hope with the session was to teach students a skill they wouldn’t be learning at university, but that could help them if they were looking to pursue a writing or communications-based career. 

Session format

The session was split in two halves – training in how to write for the web, followed by a collaborative writing exercise.

The collaborative writing exercise used a technique called pair writing, which got students to work together to write a web page about their student experience.

I was especially keen to teach pair writing to students as it introduces them to a more collaborative way of working that will be important in their careers.

When you write essays for university, your name (or identification number in the case of anonymous marking) is attached to your work and it must be in your own words. 

In the working world, though, you may be writing on behalf of a company where authorship isn’t stressed, and writing together can facilitate a shared sense of understanding and ownership of content in an organisation.

Creative effective content quickly with pair writing (blog post)

Pair writing results

I was absolutely impressed with the webpages the students wrote. 

After a short amount of training, the pages demonstrated web writing best practice, including: 

  • beginning with effective summary sentences
  • using lists with keywords pushed to the left-hand side
  • breaking up content into subheadings and short paragraphs
  • ending pages with calls to action

It was also great to hear the discussions going on between pairs as they worked together, including hearing how helpful they felt it was to have a second pair of eyes look at their work.

How it can help students going forward

On my feedback form, I asked the students how they would use these lessons going forward as I wanted to know more about what made them come to the session.

Answers included:

  • working with digital content in their career
  • making their personal blogs easier to read for their audiences 
  • making online job applications and cover letters more concise

There is no doubt learning about how to write for the web will help in all of these cases, so I’m happy I had the opportunity to deliver this training to students in person.

Want to try it for yourself?

Our official Writing for the Web course (called Effective Digital Content) is open to all University of Edinburgh staff and students through the Learn VLE.

Effective Digital Content course

Author bio

Lauren Tormey is a content developer in the University’s Website & Communications team. She leads on content projects including website builds and audits, while also providing editorial support for the University’s web publishing community. 

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