Case Study: Accounting - Valencia College

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Accounting/ LearnSmart

Course Name:

Principles of Financial Accounting

Principles of Managerial Accounting

Course Type:

Traditional, Blended/Hybrid, and Online

Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Fundamentals of Financial Accounting by Phillips, Libby, & Libby, 3e

Managerial Accounting for Manager by Noreen, Brewer, & Garrison, 2e

Instructor Name:

Patti Lopez


150/175/term (instructor total)

2,000/year (East campus in Financial Accounting)

1,800/year (East campus in Managerial Accounting)

Case Study Term:

Financial Accounting - Spring and Fall 2012

Managerial Accounting - Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Spring and Fall 2012

“Using Connect Accounting and LearnSmart is great in any class, but really enhances online and hybrid sections. We are having better success with our online and hybrid classes as a result of having these tools available to us.”

-Professor Patti Lopez

Digital Course Solution Motivates Students to Read and Engage in Course Content

Professor Lopez now assigns LearnSmart for credit in all of her accounting classes because it is proven to help students understand and remember concepts. An average of 20% more students in Lopez’s courses are succeeding (and at higher rates), and fewer students (only approximately 12% from 21%) are withdrawing from the course. Professor Lopez comments, “LearnSmart has had a great impact on student preparedness and I would hate to have to go back to teaching without this tool.” In fact, due to the below-standard success rates in their hybrid courses, the accounting faculty at Valencia was considering not offering the hybrid classes back to back anymore. Since incorporating LearnSmart and seeing higher success rates, they are pleased to continue offering these courses knowing students have a better chance of succeeding.

Institution Profile

Winner of the 2012 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and named the top U.S. community college in the nation in 2011, Valencia College provides opportunities for academic, technical, and life-long learning in a collaborative culture dedicated to inquiry, results, and excellence. With over 60,000 students enrolled, Valencia is ranked third among the nation’s two and four-year colleges and universities in the number of associate degrees awarded (2010/2011). In addition to Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees, Valencia offers bachelor’s degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology and in Radiologic and Imaging Sciences.


Course Description:

The Financial Accounting course presents accounting concepts, principles, procedures, and underlying theories applicable to the nature of accounting. Financial statements, the accounting cycle, current assets, and other aspects of financial accounting are included in the course.

The Managerial Accounting course presents accounting for business information requirements with cost accounting concepts and relationships, statement of cash flows, financial statement analysis, cost-volume-profit analysis, and other aspects of managerial accounting.

Course Grade:

Professor Lopez uses a point system in both courses through which students have more point-earning opportunities than points actually used to determine the final grade. For example, for her Financial Accounting hybrid course, 500 points for exams and 200 points for homework (mostly in Connect) – a total of 700 points – determine the students’ grades, but the students actually have 795 point-earning opportunities made available to them. In doing so, she has been able to eliminate the phrase “extra credit” from her courses, even though the additional points are built into her system. Consequently, students now value every point-earning opportunity equally, which motivates them to do all of the work.

  • 4 exams - 500 points
  • Homework - 200 points
  • Group Work (in class) - 40 points
  • LearnSmart (11) - 55 points

Similarly, for the Managerial Accounting hybrid course, 785 point-earning opportunities are made available to students, with the final grade based on a total of 690 points:

  • 5 exams - 490 points
  • Homework - 200 points
  • Excel Quizzes - 40 points
  • LearnSmart (11) - 55 points

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Professor Lopez teaches short term (8 week) and full term (15 week) courses, so the assignments per week vary depending on the length of the class. For each chapter, there is a LearnSmart assignment and a homework assignment due. The LearnSmart assignments are set for an average of 30 minutes each and are due prior to the class session. Professor Lopez finds that this implementation of LearnSmart is critical to its impact on student preparedness. On average, Lopez assigns five to seven homework items per chapter. All homework is due before exams and in face-to-face classes after the class coverage of the chapter.

Professor Lopez discovered that “fewer students miss homework assignments than missed them in the past. I attribute this to the fact that Connect is easy to use and students really appreciate the detailed solutions that they get after the homework due date.”

Results Achieved

Professor Lopez teaches an eight week Managerial Accounting hybrid class that meets half of the time face-to-face and the other half of the time online. She collected student results over four semesters of this hybrid class. For the first two semesters, the students used Connect only. For the second two semesters, students used Connect and LearnSmart, and LearnSmart assignments were due before the class met.

Prior to implementing LearnSmart, students came to class unprepared and most had not read or even looked at the material before class. As a result, more time was spent lecturing and there was little time left for group work or higher-level learning. Both the student and course success rates were low, and the accounting faculty at Valencia was considering not offering them back to back anymore.

Since implementing LearnSmart, students now come to class familiar with the material to be covered. Thus, less time is spent on basic concepts in lectures during class and more time is spent on problem areas and higher-level learning. A more efficient use of class time allows for group work in every class, and the students are achieving a better success rate. Additionally, Professor Lopez is able to custom-tailor the class experience for each section by consulting the detailed LearnSmart reports prior to class, such as the most frequently missed questions report, which identify areas of student misunderstanding and confusion.

With LearnSmart, more students earned higher grades (A’s, B’s, and C’s) and fewer students received D’s, F’s, or withdrew from the course than without LearnSmart (Figure 1).

As Figure 2 shows, only 12% of the students dropped the course when using LearnSmart compared to 21% of the students before implementing LearnSmart. “My retention rate – especially in online courses — has increased since I started using the system. I used to lose 25%-30% of the students and now the drop-out rate is around 10% — sometimes less.”

Additionally, the student success rates are higher by an average of 20%. Before implementing LearnSmart, the course had a 52% success rate – which is below Valencia’s average and standards – however, since implementing LearnSmart, the student success rate increased to 74%, which is well above Valencia’s average and standards.

In Professor Lopez’s Financial Accounting hybrid class, the students used LearnSmart for two semesters. Over 50% of the successful students completed 75% or more of the LearnSmart assignments. Lopez notes that “every successful student completed at least some LearnSmart.”

In contrast, over 50% of the unsuccessful students did not complete any LearnSmart assignments. Those students who did use LearnSmart and were still unsuccessful in the course completed 40% or fewer assignments.

When Lopez used LearnSmart in her Financial Accounting course, only 12.5% of the students withdrew, with an 83% success rate for those who completed modules (the average success rate for that class is 72.5%).

Moreover, students enjoy using LearnSmart. Professor Lopez reports the following students’ comments:

  • “Great way to learn the concepts!”
  • “Good review for tests.”
  • “More interesting than just reading the text.”
  • “The gaming aspect of LearnSmart makes it fun!”
  • LearnSmart has improved my grade.”
Connect Accounting and LearnSmart are great tools for student engagement. The systems are very stable and virtually error free. Once you get them set up and running, you will find that you have more time to spend on the important tasks like class prep and student engagement. That’s because you can spend much less time on more tedious tasks like grading homework.


Connect Accounting and LearnSmart improved student grades and retention rates in online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses by engaging the students and preparing them for higher-level, applied learning. Students enjoy using LearnSmart because they understand and remember concepts more completely. This engagement leads to both more focused discussion time on areas of misunderstanding and on a higher level of learning, which ultimately resulted in higher grades on exams and more successful students.