Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL)



The Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a highly-interactive, publicly-available and media-rich online writing lab designed to help students make the transition to college-level writing. In 2014, the Excelsior OWL – ESL Writing Online Workshop (WOW) won the 2013 Distance Education Award by the National University Technology Network (NUTN).

The Excelsior OWL offers videos, interactive PDFs, video games, quizzes, Prezis

Home Page and Learning Areas

From the Excelsior OWL Home Page you can access all of the learning areas, as well as “Additional Resources” found in the header, and “Acknowledgements”, found in the footer.

Each learning area has its own landing page, with access to the content, as well as the “How to Use OWL” and “Additional Resources” pages. Depending on the learning area, there may be additional options available on the landing page.

Page Navigation – How to Use the OWL

Once inside a learning area, you will see the online writing lab menu on the left side of the screen. The active learning area is highlighted, at which point all of the topics for that learning area are displayed below it.  Some of the topics have multiple sections.


The built-in quizzes allow students to check their understanding of a particular section of the OWL. Examples include – paraphrasing quiz, punctuation, and digital writing.


For ESL students using the ESL-WOW area of the OWL, they will learn to:

  • Generate Ideas
  • Develop a Thesis
  • Map Ideas
  • Revise, Cite
  • Edit and Polish

Ideas for using the Excelsior OWL for online or blended classes

  1. Send students to individual links within the OWL

For example, if students are to provide an annotated bibliography, provide a link to the Annotated Bibliography page.  Another example, the Literature review section, which includes a prezi.

  1. Refer students back to the OWL in your feedback

For example, if the student has provided a weak thesis statement, you may provide a link to the Thesis section, or a specific section (such as Stating your Thesis) within the Thesis section.

  1. Support student understanding of plagiarism

The Avoiding Plagiarism section of the OWL provides a thorough overview of the topic of plagiarism.  With audio, video, and supporting documentation, students will develop a keen understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it.  The pre-test and post-test provide a method for students to track their progress.