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© Walden University Writing Center 2019
CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,
KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz.
CLAIRE: We’ll have a familiar voice on the podcast today, with Beth guest starring to discuss tips for writing an award application.
KACY: We use writing in many different contexts outside of Walden coursework and documents as well. Many students are working for or developing their own organizations as part of their social change vision. And so grants and awards can be useful in those contexts as they can come with prestige and authority, money and community attention. Writing for these other genres can come with their own challenges and so we’re grateful to have Beth here today. She’s written a successful award – the OLC Effective Practice Award – and she’s agreed to share her experiences with us on the podcast!
Listeners might recognize Beth’s voice from previous WriteCast episodes, as she was once one of the cohosts!
CLAIRE: Welcome Beth!
BETH : Thanks for having me! I appreciate it!
CLAIRE: Can you tell us a little bit more about the OLC Effective Practice Award? Such as, what it was for and when you won it?
BETH: Sure! So, the OLC stands for the Online Learning Consortium and they’re a great organization that provides training and conferences for online educators. So, it’s a really fantastic organization if anyone is interested. You can just Google “OLC Online Learning Consortium” and you’ll find lots of different resources and materials. But every year they have what they call “Effective Practice Awards,” which are just basically meant to reward or recognize organizations that are doing things practically to help students learning online. So, it isn’t necessarily research-focused. It’s not like an official study or anything like a lot of students are doing as part of their dissertations or doctoral studies, but it’s more focused on the practical aspects of online education. So, essentially what you do is you just write up a little application that talks about the specific initiative you’re working on and try to demonstrate how it’s an effective practice for your students.
Does that help clarify?
CLAIRE: It does! And you won that award based on some of the work we do here at the Writing Center for Walden students, right?
BETH: Yes! So I applied for the OLC Effective Practice Award with our self-paced modules. And those are the modules that students can take either through the coursework or optionally they’re on our Writing Center website. And they’re self-paced and multimedia. So students can go through them on their own pace. There’s multimedia, like I said, so video and audio, and then there’s opportunities to practice and kind of see what they’re learning. And so, it’s sort of a more interactive way to engage with different writing and APA topics. That’s what we used for that application.
KACY: And they’re awesome. I love our interactive modules. I probably recommend those more than any other resource. So, I will give that extra plug. So well deserved, Beth!
BETH: I appreciate that! Well clearly I’m a fan!
CLAIRE: I think we just plugged them in our last podcast.
KACY: So lots of attention and definitely well-worth the prize. So, congratulations again! Can you tell us a little bit about your overall process for applying for the award? What kind of steps were involved in your writing process and maybe, how it was different from a traditional academic paper or traditional document might draft?
BETH: Certainly! So I actually think there are a lot of similarities between applying for a grant or any sort of award. I think both sort of the award and a grant have very similar processes because there’s very specific requirements. So, I’ll say that there seem to be a lot of similarities I think, if students are thinking about what they’re learning in their own coursework, a lot of that can be applied to grants or awards. But really the most important thing is making sure you know the requirements. So most often awards and grants will have very specific directions for what information they want to see and what order they want to see it. And eve down to the page or the word count for each section. So, for the award what I first did was make sure to get the requirements. There were very specific requirements about what the OLC wanted to know about our effective practice. And so, I needed to take a look and make sure we had all the information we would need to actually write the award. And then I went back and made sure to gather that information.
So starting with the reward requirements is really essential, and then going from there. And honestly the process really follows a lot like a normal academic writing process. You know, collecting your information is a lot like researching in the library, and then drafting the actual award application, which was multiple, multiple pages, I think it ended up being close to 20 pages long. And then, you know, revising and proofing that argument. The other thing I would just note here too is, it’s helpful for applicants to think about what they’re writing for as an award or grant as an argument. For a grant, you’re arguing that you should get this money, that your initiative is worth that money. For an award like this, we were arguing that the self-paced module was an effective practice and fulfilled those requirements. And that was a really helpful perspective. It made it feel less like I was just telling them about the self-paced modules and instead making sure that I had a perspective and a purpose in what I was writing.
CLAIRE: Absolutely. And, listening to you describe it does sound a lot like a lot of the advice we give for working on those general course paper or even dissertation documents where you’re making sure that you meet the requirements first and then working towards whatever goal and audience that might be.
BETH: And I think that’s a good thing, right? So, all of the skills that we’re learning in that coursework and in our academic writing can certainly be applied in these situations as well.
CLAIRE: Great. So, can you tell us a little bit about what it felt like applying for the award and then winning the award?
BETH: Yeah, I sure can! I’d been working with modules very in-depth in creating them, but actually writing about them and pulling the data around those modules and developing an argument around them was something new. So that was, you know, something that took some time and I was pretty nervous about it, hitting that submission button, it was pretty nerve-wracking. But it all turned out, and it was really gratifying. It was great to see that we had been recognized for this and acknowledging that it certainly wasn’t just my work that was involved with this. I was the primary author for the award, but I also had helped from my colleagues as well as all the different people who contributed to developing the modules themselves. So, what I just loved was it was really a recognition of the team’s collaboration and all the Writing Center. So, it was cool to see our work being recognized and the work that we do with students outside our specific department. That was the fun think about it, I think, And just seeing that other universities could potentially learn from what we’re doing as well.
CLAIRE: Definitely. Would you say that the act of writing the award application would still rewarding or beneficial even if you hadn’t won?
BETH: That’s a great question, yes! I think so! For sure, I mean, you know by writing the application I feel I have been more prepared to write subsequent awards. A colleague and I applied for one of the Walden Social Change grants and the process of writing this award, I think, certainly informed how I wrote that grant, and helped me feel more confident. And even just the process of writing the award helped me really articulate to myself the value that I see in this particular resource, and helped me see how I can communicate that value to other writing center staff, other people at Walden, faculty, but also students as well. So, the whole process itself, I think, was really useful. Definitely.
KACY: That’s a wonderful point, and I’m glad you asked that question, Claire. Because I was kind of thinking the same thing. I’m sure there are lots of benefits even though, like I said, it’s great that you won that award and I think it’s extremely well-deserved, but just that practice like you said of putting in to words what is important about your work I think is a great technique or thing to practice.
So, can we talk a little bit more about the actual writing of the award? I’d be interested to know what you found to be the most challenging of that process.
BETH: For me it was really distancing myself from what I was writing, and...let me explain that...because that probably isn’t very clear. What I mean is, you know, I had worked so closely with these modules, and developing them and sort of pulling metrics for them every month and I was just so close to them. So for me it was really a struggle to kind of take myself out of that—I guess first-person perspective I have of the modules—and think about “what do I need to explain to someone else who doesn’t know what modules are at all?” I had to really start from the basics and make sure that my reader what modules are, consist of, how we create them, how they’re structured. And that was even before I got to the part where they were effective. So I really had to start at the foundations, and that was certainly a struggle for me. And what really helped was getting outside readers to help me with that. So, I did have other staff within the Writing Center read my draft as I was going along. And that really helped me make sure that I was addressing those outside reader perspectives.
KACY: I think that’s something that’s a challenge, like you said, with a lot of writing, is remembering that your reader is a different person and is not going to have the kind of information that you do about your project. So, yeah that’s really important to keep in mind.
CLAIRE: Right, I was going to say something very similar, Kacy, which is that I feel like I’m often kind of being that person for students in my paper reviews and saying “hey, this evidence seems really great, but since I’m not an expert in it and didn’t read it, I need a little more explanation there.”
BETH: Well, and to your point, Claire, I think that just goes to show that giving outside reader feedback whether it’s a colleague or a fellow student or someone from the Writing Center through a paper review, it’s not about being a bad writer. It’s really not. It’s just about everyone needs outside readers to let them know, you know, where they’re getting lost or where they’re missing information. So, I think that’s also important to keep in mind.
CLAIRE: Yeah, it’s still part of my writing process when I’m writing something important, to have other people read it. And I’m sure you both are doing the same thing and we’re supposed writing experts! And we spend a lot of time with writing! But it’s still really good to have that extra set of eyes.
BETH: Yep, I agree.
CLAIRE: So, we talked a little bit about what this process was like for you specifically. What are your top suggestions for students thinking about writing their own grant or award application? Either, at Walden or outside of Walden?
BETH: My top suggestion, or the thing I found most useful, was really what I talked about when I started my writing process. Making sure you’re very clear on the expectations. Take whatever template, outline, requirements, anything that they will give you and make sure you fully look those before you even start. That was so helpful for me in understanding what information they were looking for, and what information I didn’t have to worry quite so much about. And also really guided my writing. I didn’t have to spend so much time on once section if the requirements or the rubric for the award really focused on a different section. That was so helpful for me. And I actually used, as I was writing the award, I used the sections and the requirements under each section as an outline for myself. So when we talk about academic writing we also often recommend students create an outline, right? And they’re kind of creating that outline from themselves from scratch. But with an award or grant you probably should have that outline from the requirements. So, you probably don’t have to create that outline from scratch, but should create it from those requirements. And that was so useful in guiding me and giving me direction. Without that I think I certainly would be lost. That’s for sure.
KACY: And you mentioned that you have some experience with writing award applications...was there anything that you wish you had known before either writing your first or writing a specific award application?
BETH: I think the whole process sort of made me feel a little overwhelmed or intimidated at first. When you talk about, “oh, I’m applying for this award or this grant...” right? It sounds kind of like something you’re like, “oh gosh, that sounds really intense!” And, you know, it’s a lot of work and depending on the requirements you’re going to put some time in, but it actually it was a lot more similar to the other writing I had done that I thought. And after doing it once I was like, “oh, I can do this! This isn’t, you know too bad!” And so I would just say, you know, don’t be intimidated, don’t feel like it’s something you aren’t able to do. Other people just like you write and win these grants or these awards all the time! You’re really no different from them! So don’t be intimidated, I guess, is my main recommendation.
CLAIRE: That’s a good recommendation, Beth. And although, of course, we want our writing to be polished, I think if I was writing a grant application I would probably feel like it needed to be absolutely perfect. Did you struggle with that at all?
BETH: I certainly did a lot of proofing, a lot of proofing for sure. And you want that final document to represent you well. Certainly. But again, remember that everyone who’s submitting these is human, and so...don’t let that get in the way!
KACY: And the people reading them are human as well, right?
BETH: Yeah that is very true as well. So, I’m sure if someone who was receiving these applications were here they would say, “well of course we don’t want spelling errors and stuff like that,” but also know that, yeah, everyone’s human who’s writing and reading these.
CLAIRE: Well thank you so much for coming in today, Beth!
BETH: Yeah! I really enjoyed it! I appreciate you all taking the time and I hope these tips and kind of thinking through this is someone in thinking about their own award or grant application.
CLAIRE: Definitely. I really hope that students are applying for these kinds of things because of all the incredible work that I read about and Kacy reads about in their papers and prospectus drafts and everything. I know what great work you’re all doing and I hope that you get funding and recognition for that! And you have to apply to eventually get that.
BETH: And if any of our listeners are interested in actually applying for the OLC Effective Practice Awards, we will include that information in the show notes, so take a look at that link as well.
CLAIRE: So, to sum things up today, keep in mind that as a student you can use what we’ve talked about in considering your own grant or award application, and that a lot of the tools and general writing tips that we have discussed in previous podcast episodes and in our other resources are really helpful to those award applications. We talked about outlining, we talked about understanding the requirements, we talked about getting secondary readers and considering your audience. Those are all topics we cover frequently in our resources. So, keep in mind that just because it’s geared towards discussing your coursework, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply elsewhere as well.
KACY: Definitely. And we would love to hear about any of your own grant or award application experiences. So please contact us, either through our blog or through firstname.lastname@example.org. And until next time, keep writing!
CLAIRE: Keep inspiring!
KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter. Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you! Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at email@example.com. Thanks for listening!