Capella University offers a variety of services to improve student writing skills.
How this practice supports student satisfaction: The primary mode of communication in the online environment is writing. Written communication predominates course postings and discussions as well as the typical course assignments. The degree to which learners feel themselves to be competent and proficient writers, in large part determines their satisfaction with their online academic experience. Learner satisfaction surveys have indicated that access to writing support is important to Capella learners. The surveys also revealed that the learners are satisfied with the array and quality of services available. To enhance the communications skills of its learners, Capella University has developed a comprehensive writing support program. The program includes online courses, writing workshops, individual online writing tutoring, faculty development, links to external websites that assist learners in enhancing their writing skills, and a variety of writing resources available on the university's website. The website provides learners with references and aids designed to assist with the preparation of written products including style guides and templates. It is also the point from which learners access web-based writing tutorial service provided by SMARTHINKING. Writing tips are featured regularly on the University's learner portal. The majority of Capella's 7,000 learners are enrolled in graduate programs. Three online writing courses are offered to graduate learners: Professional Writing for Graduate Learners, Graduate Writing for ESL/EFL Learners, and Advanced Scholarly Writing. An undergraduate communications course is also offered.
To date, the evidence of effectiveness has been based primarily on usage figures that tally the total number of entries to the online Writing Center, the specific parts of the site that are being accessed and the total number of unique visitors. The average number of learners that use the Writing Center each month has been approximately 2,500. The Writing Guide for the university which is housed in the online Writing Center is accessed 14,000 times a month; the Dissertation Manual is accessed 7,000 time a month. On average, 500 learners per month use online writing tutoring. The number of registrations in writing courses and the number of participants in in-person writing workshops are also tracked. The use of these resources by learners has been steadily increasing, at a rate that exceeds the rate of growth in enrollment. Starting with a pilot project in April 2003, we will begin assessing the writing skills of all incoming learners. Faculty members in learners first courses will use a rating rubric to identify learners whose writing skills need to be strengthened. Academic advisors will use this information with learners in degree planning so that the use of the Writing Center and writing courses will be a part of the formal degree plan. Follow-up assessments to determine efficacy of writing support will be conducted.
The primary direct costs associated with Capella University's Online Writing Support Center are the director's salary and online writing tutoring costs.