Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

Online Consultations

Welcome to the Writing Center Online!

Our online consultation service can be a great way to get feedback on your writing or research project if you can’t make it in for a face-to-face consultation.

We are happy to schedule online consultations for any stage of your writing or research process.  Just as in the “real” Writing Center, you don’t have to have any thing written to use the “online” Center.  You can have an online consultation just to brainstorm ideas and find your best starting points.

Scheduling Online Consultations

You may make an online consultation by calling us at 828-4851 or by stopping by our reception desk (fourth floor, Academic Learning Commons).  Make sure that you request an online consultation specifically and provide your e-mail address. You will be asked to send a confirmation e-mail to after you schedule your appointment. This e-mail confirmation is necessary to set up the electronic features we need to create an online consultation. The links below will provide more detail about how online consultations work and what you might expect from them.

How Does it Work?

We use a combination of Google Drive and Google Chat to facilitate online consultations, which occur in real time. Further instructions are included in the link below.

What’s the Difference?

In the online consultation, we aim to preserve the conversational nature of the writing consultations. While this is possible in the virtual environment just as it is in any electronic chat, it does create some challenges. If you choose an online consultation, please bear a few things in mind:

  • Be patient. Online consultation are generally longer and slower-paced than in person consultations because of the restraints of electronic chat.
  • Be involved! Since this is a real time exchange, both the consultant and the writer will participate. So expect to hold up your end of the conversation!

Students sometimes inquire about online editing and proofreading services, but unfortunately those are not something we offer. Online consultations are, however, great for brainstorming, further developing your ideas, and discussing organization.

Thanks from the Writing Center!

Writing Center Online Instructions

Here are a few instructions to help you prepare for an online consultation.

  • Call (804) 828-4851 to set up an appointment. This appointment must be made 24 hours in advance.
  • Tell the receptionist you’d like an online consultation. Again, be sure to specify that it will be an online consultation. Give the receptionist your VCU email along with your name.
  • Once you’ve made the appointment, email using your VCU email or gmail account. Send any relevant documents (your paper, an assignment, etc.) as attachments.
  • You will receive an auto-reply message that will confirm receipt of your e-mail and outline what you should expect from an online consultation and how you might prepare for it.

Remember that you can have an online consultation even if you haven’t started drafting. If this is the case, you must still email the Writing Center Online ( to confirm the appointment and to provide your email address. It will be helpful to include the assignment or a description of the project as well.

Online consultations will be conducted using a combination of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) and Google Chat. Before the consultation begins, your consultant will upload any documents you provide to Google Drive and share them with you for the purposes of the consultation.

Click the link below for further instructions on how to access shared documents in Google Drive.

Using Google Drive and Google Chat

Accessing documents on Google Drive:

  • Sign on to your VCU email account.
  • Click the tab that says “Drive” in the top corner of the page.
  • Click the upload icon in the top corner of the page, then click the “Files” option that emerges. Find the document on the computer and click “open.”
  • Next, click “start upload” and the doc should appear in the middle of the screen under “modified today.”

Signing on to Chat:

  • Sign in to your VCU email account.
  • Once you’re logged in, make sure you are signed on to Chat.  The Chat function is located at the bottom left of the page when you first log in.
  • You should expect the consultant to initiate a chat conversation with you. A chat request will pop up automatically on the left of the screen in your chat list asking you to join a chat with your consultant. The consultant’s username will either be VCUwritingcenter1, VCUwritingcenter2, or VCUwritingcenter3. Once you accept the chat, the consultant’s username should appear in your chat list and the consultation can begin.