by Stone Shiflet | July 10, 2009
All Capella learners who are registered for one or more courses are provided free access to Smarthinking. To being using these services, learners can visit www.capellawritingcenter.org, click on the first link under ‘Resources’ on that page (titled ‘tutoring’), and follow the prompts to make an account. Any one in the general public can use Smarthinking, but the fees can mount quickly, so to avoid being charged fees for the service, Capella learners must make the account using the prompts provided at the location noted above. Once the account is established, learners can use the account with the password and ID that they create.
On that same Writing Center public home page, learners can find new ways to ask for feedback from Smarthinking. The Writing Feedback Tool (WFT) on the public page (second link under ‘Resources’) provides users with a common language to use when talking about academic writing. The WFT starts with critical reading (category 1) and moves all the way through 11 categories, including organization, APA format, grammar, mechanics.
Here’s how the WFT can make Smarthinking a more effective tool. Smarthinking tutors are experts in rhetoric and composition. The Capella Writing Process resources are written and maintained by experts who use the same vocabulary and vernacular as those experts at smarthinking. Over the last year, the Writing Across the Curriculum program has worked with faculty and learners from all Schools to develop this feedback tool to create a common, standard language to use when talking about academic writing. The Smarthinking tutors are familiar with these terms and concepts. Therefore, learning the categories and definitions of the WFT process provides learners with a better way to talk to their faculty and the Smarthinking tutors who are also familiar with that common language.
It takes time to define one’s own academic writing process. The 11-step WFT is the first tool to help get writers on the path to seeing the layers of that process. Once writers begin to chart a process, they can make more effective use of their time by dividing the process in to stages–reading, drafting and/or outlining, revising, and polishing. The WFT offers tools to grow each step in that process, and the tutors at Smarthinking are equipped to understand the complexities of this graduate writing process.
So as writers prepare to use smarthinking, imagine this scenario. When writers submit papers to Smarthinking, they are asked questions, and the writers can be as vague or as specific as they choose; feedback is provided either way. However, if a writer asks a specific question (ex: I am working on organization–can you read the passages on pages 9-22 and locate areas in which my organization seems off focus for my main ideas), the feedback from the Smarthinking tutor is more focused and detailed.
Writers are then encouraged to send the text back at the next stage of the writing process (in the case of the example above, imagine that first submission was for the draft, and the second submission might be for polish and revision, so the request might move to a smaller detail, like asking about feedback on citation style or grammar).
The more writers use the WAC tools in conjunction with Smarthinking, the more fluent writers become in Capella’s 11-step process for academic writing. Remember: being a part of Capella is a life-long relationship, so learning the process now sets the foundation for academic work and for top shelp wriitng for publication beyond graduation. Work to keep that in mind as you use these tools to advance the academic community at Capella, and Happy Writing!