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With advances in digital technology and the convenience of e-platforms, the number of college English writing courses offered to students via the Internet has increased exponentially in the past few years. Teaching online is unlike any other educational experience, since instructors and distant students have to rely solely on the written word. Those, effective online instruction of English writing mainly depends on computer-mediated communication, which in turn might lead to changes in students' literacy practices. From these initial explorations, this paper reports on a study of computer-mediated communication within the context of English writing courses by distance learning. The study focus is on the communication beliefs and practices faced by online students. Findings reflect a basic belief that effective online instruction requires an interpersonal communication. It is paramount that English writing teachers maintain good communication with their distanced students. These perceptions were revealed in responses to an online survey and e-mail log within and after distant courses. The study concludes with suggestions for further research and presents possible alternatives to the traditional instruction of English composition.