Skip to Content

OWL: Online Writing Lab

If you need help with your writing but can’t make it to our in-person writing support services, Sweetland offers the new OWL (Online Writing Lab). The OWL allows writers to work with our Peer Writing Consultants in real time via the web using video or text chat. We can help you with assignments from U-M courses as well as personal statements, resumes, cover letters, and application essays.

These services are available for undergraduates only; graduate students can seek help through the Writing Workshop.

OWL Hours

May 1 - June 18
(closed May 28)

Monday-Thursday 7-9pm

Before Making an Appointment

Getting the Most Out of Your OWL Consultation

We encourage writers to talk with us early and throughout the writing process in order to see the greatest benefits. To get the most out of your consultation, come prepared to actively participate in a conversation about your writing. You’ll need: 

  • Reasonable expectations: What one or two issues would you like to discuss with the peer writing consultant? If you have a really long paper, on what part or parts would you like to focus? 
  • Your assignment sheet, writing prompt, and any guidelines you’ve been given for composition. 
  • Ideas about or a draft of your writing project in electronic copy. You can bring whatever you’d like: a paper for a course, a personal statement, a cover letter, a blog post, a PowerPoint, a website, a poem, etc.

OWL Policies

  • OWL sessions are by appointment using our online scheduling system. Reservations can be placed from 48 hours to 10 minutes in advance. Sessions last 45 minutes.
  • You can’t be required to come. Writers cannot be required to use our services and Peer Writing Consultants won’t sign anything or provide evidence of your visit. This policy exists because writing consultations work best when writers genuinely want to talk to consultants.
  • You’ll be responsible for making all changes to your text. Peer Writing Consultants won’t edit your writing or do the work for you.
  • Make sure you’re allowed to submit a take-home exam. Peer Writing Consultants cannot assist writers with take-home exams unless the instructor has given Sweetland written permission to provide assistance. Permission can be emailed to
  • Make sure collaborators are present. Peer Writing Consultants can help writers with collaboratively written pieces if 50% or more of the collaborators are present.

How to Use the OWL

Making Your Reservation

  1. Open in a new window or tab.
  2. Register for an account if you do not already have one. If you have used the appointment system for our Writing Workshop, you will still need to register for a new account.
  3. On the login screen enter your email address, password, and then under "Choose a Schedule" choose "Online Writing Lab"
  4. Set up an appointment with an OWL Peer Writing Consultant by clicking on an available time slot next to their name.
  5. Complete the reservation form and make sure the box Meet Online? is set to Yes – Meet Online.

Starting Your Session

Use Chrome or Firefox as your browser. Safari currently does not work with the OWL.

  1. Click on your appointment box at least five minutes prior to the start time.
  2. In the Appointment Window, click the Start or Join Online Consultation link.
  3. In the new popup window, click Connect then click Start Publishing.
  4. In the bottom right corner click Start Video Chat.
  5. An Adobe Flash Player dialog box will ask you for Camera and Microphone access. Choose Allow. Note: We recommend wearing headphones during the session to prevent audio feedback.
  6. Should you have difficulty connecting via video you can use the Text Chat Box in the lower right hand corner to communicate with your Consultant.
  7. The Consultant will guide you through uploading your paper. If you are early, you can read the information posted on the Whiteboard (main text area) about how the interface works.

Please read the Before Making an Appointment and How to Use the OWL sections above before clicking the Schedule Appointment button below.