Norton’s Smartwork is the online homework system that supports students using Karty’s Organic Chemistry. Within this system there are thousands of questions which can be used for homework assignments, quizzes or even exams. But this robust library of questions doesn’t just spring from nowhere. Behind every question, there are multiple people and hours of work. Let’s take a look at the process for writing a Smartwork question.

With a large catalogue of questions already available, the process of adding new textbook questions begins by focusing on the learning objectives that are either new or could use more support. This work is done by the Chemistry editorial team. With the list or objectives in hand, they are able to secure the funding required to create the questions. They also put together the team of authors and reviewers who are going to complete the work. Smartwork authors and reviewers are faculty and students who are using the book, have a great eye for details, and have some free time.

Authors start the process by thinking about each learning objective and how the Smartwork system can be used to its full potential to assess student knowledge and mastery of the objective (while also providing coaching and feedback). A variety of answer types are often used within a single question to come at the objective from different angles. Once question ideas have been generated, each author writes a summary of their proposed questions for review by the editor.

After the editor gives the green light the question is authored in Smartwork. The question, along with hints, default feedback, incorrect feedback, and the solution are authored by the same person to ensure consistency. The question then goes into the review process. The review starts with two student reviewers who look at the question and see if there are any errors, if the question makes sense, and if the hints are helpful, and give us their take on what the question is trying to assess.

The results of the student review are incorporated by the author. Then,  two faculty members and one more student perform an additional reviewis . As an author I know this round of feedback can be brutal, but will make the question so much better! This is the point where every methyl group will be accounted for and each word scrutinized. The feedback is incorporated and occasionally the question needs a major overhaul to address the reviewers’ feedback. If a major overhaul is needed then the entire review process is repeated. After all the review and revision the question is now ready to go to copyediting, which is usually a smooth process. Then, at long last, the question can be released to our adoring fans.

Know that behind every great (or simple yet beautiful) question in Smartwork there is a team that worked diligently to make it the best question it can be. For the 3rd edition of the Organic Chemistry textbook an additional 716 number of questions were written, and 25 additional new questions will be released every year. Each of them is lovingly crafted to give you the right tools to support your student’s learning.

If you would be interested in being part of the team working to make Smartwork the best system it can be please contact Norton’s chemistry media editor, Marilyn Rayner,

– Heather Sklenicka, Rochester Community and Technical College

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