Carleton prof co-founds essay writing app

A Carleton University professor has partnered in creating an app that teaches students how to structure essays.

Created by co-founders Dr. R. Rueben Balasubramaniam and Dr. Lindy Ledohowski, the goal of EssayJack is to reduce stress and anxiety associated with essay writing. Balasubramaniam is an associate professor of law at Carleton and Ledohowski was a former English professor at the University of Waterloo.

EssayJack uses an interactive, step-by-step template to guide students in the essay writing process. The service is avalaible for a monthly subscription rate, or $60 per year.

Ledohowski said essay writing is a big problem for students.

“They are short on time and short on training in persuasive scholarly writing,” she said.

Ledohowski added that it is “heartbreaking to see students grapple with content,” but it is not the professor’s job to teach them how to write.

“[Students] have good ideas and good content,” she said.

The team created EssayJack to help students get going on the writing process, and to get their ideas written down instead of staring at a blank screen, Balasubramaniam said. This is done by providing the framework for comparative, argumentative, and persuasive essays.

However, the basic scaffolding provided by EssayJack can be used to organize ideas for a number of different types of essay drafts, not just for the specific types listed above. According to the site, educators can even customize the templates.

Balasubramaniam said a prototype version of EssayJack was developed in January 2014. Proper product testing and feedback began early the following year, at the University of Toronto.

“It was a user-driven process,” Balasubramaniam said. He added that high school teachers and professors collaborated to design the features available.

The app is currently in its beta version as of September 2015, and continues to be tested and tweaked.

“I would definitely give it a try, because for those types of essays you generally need guidance,” said first-year student Haley Inkpen.

According to Balasubramaniam, EssayJack has been very well received since its beta release.

“We have over 600 users as of Sept. 1, 2016,” he said.

Balasubramaniam hopes that the app will reduce the anxiety students have when it comes to structuring and writing essays.

“More than 60 per cent of students must write an essay,” he said. “It’s a billion-dollar industry.”