a page from a sample simulation created with CS/CR Builder


Introducing Case-Scenario/Critical-Reader Builder

Welcome to this virtual community for writing center professionals and for student-tutors interested in using Case-Scenario/Critical Reader (CS/CR) Builder as part of tutor education!  CS/CR is an authoring program that you can use to create simulations and critical-reading activities which you can then use in tutor-education courses or staff development.  Developed by the Writing Center and the Engage Program in the Division of Information Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States and widely used by faculty and students in courses across the university, CS/CR is distributed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison free of charge.

The fact that CS/CR Builder is an authoring program means that you–as a writing center director or tutor or anyone interested in tutoring and tutor education–can use it to create your own simulations.  Then if you have access to a web server, you can easily publish your simulations on a public or private website and then have tutors use those simulations as part of their training or professional development.  So rather than providing a set of already developed simulations for tutor education, CS/CR Builder gives you the chance to design and revise your own, tailored to your local writing center setting and to your student-writers and tutors.  You can choose the focus and the degree of complexity for your simulations.  Because most simulations take a team to develop, the process of developing simulations is a wonderful collaborative activity and a powerful form of professional development in itself.


Getting Your Own Copy of CS/CR Builder

CS/CR Builder, which runs on both windows and mac computers, is available for free.  To request a copy, click on “Getting CS/CR” on the menu at the top of this page.


Learning to Use CS/CR

Although it’s fairly intuitive, CS/CR Builder does take a while to learn to use–in many ways it looks and feels like creating slides in PowerPoint or other presentation software.  You have an outline of all your pages in a column at the left-hand side of the screen and you build the page on the right, inserting text, images, audio, video, and questions for learners.  To help new tutors learn to read some of the texts that are central to writing tutoring, you can also use CS/CR to create what we call “critical-reading” activities–you can put in a text (a sample writing assignment that a student-writer brings to a tutor, for example, or a sample student draft).  In that text you can highlight particular words or phrases and add hyperlink or audio glosses, and you can ask learners who are using the simulation to answer questions about the sample text.  What’s very different from using PowerPoint, however, is that you have to build in links between the pages and you have to understand how to have learners move through sequences of parent and child pages–to create a path through the simulation and to branch based on choices a learner makes.  Fortunately, the Engage Program at UW-Madison has created a wonderful series of short instructional videos to teach you how to use CS/CR Builder.  And once you’ve learned basic techniques, it really is simple to use.  To access those support materials, click on “Using CS/CR” on the menu at the top of this page.



getting started creating a new simulation with CS/CR


inserting multimedia when designing a simulation with CS/CR















Learning to Design Effective Simulations

The real challenge–and delight–in using web-based simulations as part of tutor education is learning how to design effective simulations.  That does not mean having high-production values or perfect fidelity to in-person tutoring.  What matters?  The choices you make about–

  • an appropriate focus and learning goals for a simulation–something new tutors need to learn, something that they will learn better from doing, from immersing themselves in a tutoring situation and seeing what happens as they make choices, rather than from only reading about or discussing
  • a compelling challenge or situation
  • a role for the learner
  • characters to interact with
  • decision points
  • feedback on choices a learner makes

To learn more about designing effective web-based simulations, click on “Designing Simulations” on the menu at the top of this page.



To give you a feel for the possibilities, my colleagues and I from the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shared a couple of sample simulations for new writing tutors.  These are available by clicking on “Samples” on the menu at the top of this page.  But there is an infinite variety of creative ways to use CS/CR, and we’re eager to showcase some samples from you!  If you have a sample CS/CR simulation for writing center tutor education that you’ve created and had success with, please share it with us, using the contact information on the top right of this page.  In your email to Brad Hughes (Director of the Writing Center and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison), please say which school, college, or university you’re from, explain briefly the audience and goals for your sample simulation, include a link to the website where you’re published your tutor simulation, and include contact information so that others who are interested can write to you.  We’ll then post your sample and your explanation in the “Samples” section of this website.



As we’ve developed CS/CR Builder, we’ve been guided by several important learning theories, ones that explain the power of situated learning or simulations.  For a quick introduction to these principles, please click on “Theory” on the menu at the top of this page.



If you’d like to read more about CS/CR Builder and about designing simulations and about the learning theories behind situated learning, please click on “Bibliography” on the menu at the top of this page.



Deep and enthusiastic thanks to the Engage Program in Academic Technology at UW-Madison and to the faculty advisory board of Engage, whose sustained funding and vision made CS/CR Builder possible.  And great thanks to the brilliant colleagues with whom I had the honor to collaborate as we created CS/CR Builder–Melissa Tedrowe, the former associate director of the Writing Center at UW-Madison; and Blaire Bundy, Les Howles, Chris Lupton, Ben Longoria, Emmanuel Contreras, and many other current and former colleagues in DoIT’s Academic Technology at UW-Madison and to Professor Jan Miernowski in the Department of French and Italian at UW-Madison.