Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lynee Lewis Gaillet - Chair

Second Advisor

Baotong Gu

Third Advisor

Beth Burmester


As fully online course offerings continue to grow at colleges and universities around the country, we are faced with the challenge of preserving what we value in first-year writing while making the affordances of online environments work for our students. This dissertation explores how the online writing instructor, guided by feminist pedagogy and civic rhetoric, can begin to shift the center of power within the course, allowing students to become co-teachers and promoting the social construction of knowledge central to first-year writing. Facilitated by computer-mediated communication technologies, this approach relies on online activities that invite ongoing contributions from students, promote interactivity within the course, and facilitate a collaborative learning environment that can foster student success in online distance learning. Having studied the effects of these feminist moves on two sections of online first-year research and writing courses, I examine in this text their impact on the development of community, students’ impressions of their place within the community, and the decentering of the virtual learning space. Specifically, I explore how students can write to shape and to change our online community and how students tie their work within the course to their development as writers and critical thinkers. Ultimately, in combining the goals of feminist pedagogy, first-year writing, and civic rhetoric in our design and delivery of online writing courses, we can begin to fulfill our vision for significant learning experiences for our students that will be as good as or better than their experiences in the traditional classroom.