Case Study: Introduction to Business - Kansas State University - Manhattan

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Introduction to Business

Course Name:

Business Foundations

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Program in Use:

Understanding Business by Nickels, McHugh 11e

Instructor Name:

Stacey Lhuillier


48 students/section

1250 students/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Fall 2012 - Fall 2014

“Connect has provided an individualized learning approach to meet the needs of my students who are coming to my course from various backgrounds.”

-Stacey Lhuillier

McGraw-Hill Connect and SmartBook Increase Class Retention Rate for Students from a Variety of Backgrounds and Allows for More Applied Topics in the Classroom

With Connect, Lhuillier knows her students are coming to class on a level playing field, despite the varied backgrounds and knowledge with which they started the class. This results from their use of Connect and SmartBook to prepare for each class. And for those who are still struggling in the class, Lhuillier can identify those students at risk and offer them additional support in time to impact their success.


Course Grade

The grade is determined by the following:
25% - Exams administered within Connect
25% - Connect homework including SmartBook
17% - Group project
17% - Professionalism and participation
8% - Resume
8% - Feasibility analysis

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Prior to assigning SmartBook, Stacey Lhuillier was using the video cases and interactive applications to introduce the course content to the students. Lhuillier decided to add SmartBook as a required assignment to enrich the student course preparation. “We were hoping to address issues and concerns with student retention of material based on the various needs of our students,” she says. “Our course audience is derived from all levels of the college, in addition to varying degrees being sought.” As a result, it was challenging to provide the level of personalized learning needed by students. “We perceived SmartBook could provide an individualized learning plan and ensure students achieved the required retention of material.”

Lhuillier implemented SmartBook to introduce the material to each student based on his or her individual needs. Those students with prior exposure to the material were then able to proceed through the material quickly, while those who needed more time with the content were provided the opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge. Since it is assigned and required before lecture, she says, SmartBook “ensures that each student comes to class with the same level of understanding to provide an environment where application of the material can be discussed.”

Lhuillier’s class includes a SmartBook and Question Bank assignment typically each week to ensure all students understand the concepts and terminology for each chapter’s content prior to class. One SmartBook assignment is set to require an average of 30 minutes and typically accounts for 40 topics. The second assignment consists of seven questions: one terminology matching exercise, one Interactive Application drag and drop, and five quiz questions. The Interactive Application questions provide an opportunity to enhance visual learning and create a connection with the content through these matching exercises. The five multiple choice questions mimic the online exam questions, giving students the opportunity to try similar types of questions that will be presented on the exam.

Lhuillier describes her class as a ‘flipped’ classroom, since the course -- and specifically the use of Connect and SmartBook --creates an opportunity for students to take ownership of the information, which allows her to serve as a resource of additional information to reinforce the learned content. Connect and SmartBook has enabled her to revise her primary focus for the lecture content. “My lectures are more revolved around providing supportive examples and applications of the assigned content versus reciting or repeating an outline of the information in the textbook.”

Results Achieved

Student retention rates increased from 86 percent in Fall 2012 to 97 percent in Fall 2014 (Figure 1). By using SmartBook, Lhuillier has been able to dedicate time to providing applicable examples and activities in the classroom in lieu of simply reciting chapter content. Students come to class prepared and confident. She attributes their confidence to the use of SmartBook, and that confidence she says, has led to the class’ boosted student retention rate.

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Help students come to class prepared.
  • Provide students of varying backgrounds with a tool to gain the material knowledge they need in an individualized way
  • Reduce grading time with grade synch to Canvas

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Students came to the class from a variety of backgrounds with an assortment of degree plans.
  • Instructor had to frame her lectures around providing content to those with varied understanding of the material.

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Retention rate has grown.
  • Grading time has decreased.
  • Students come to class familiar with a basic understand of the material prior to lecture.

Course Description:

Kansas State University is a public research university with its main campus in Manhattan, Ks. The school is classified as a research university and its academic offerings are administered through nine separate colleges. Graduate degrees include 65 master’s degree programs and 45 doctoral degrees.

Institution Profile:

This class examines the foundations of business. It serves as the cornerstone business course that includes topics in accounting, finance, information systems, management, marketing, and operations. The course demonstrates how the core business areas are interrelated with one another. This is an applied class in which students engage in the process of making business decisions through a wide range of activities. In addition, this course provides students with basic skills and knowledge to begin their career and help them succeed.

SmartBook had a direct impact on both the increase in exam scores by 5.45 percent and increase in retention rates by 11 percent, Lhuillier says, as well as prompting improvements on student achievement for overall course grade and student’s passing the course. “Since SmartBook was included in the course, the impact has been remarkable on students’ average total exam scores,” Lhuillier says.

“As a goal in the College of Business, we were approaching the course with the assumption that students would have a foundation of information with which to build upon,” she says. “With SmartBook, we have some control mechanisms in place to ensure that all students have the required level of understanding that has proven to provide a solid foundation as indicated by subsequent business course professors.” The system is improving the level of preparation for the business class students as well as the level of rigor in the courses required, due to student readiness.

In attempting to incorporate a solely online exam, the program had to provide students with the proper preparation to succeed. With the Reports feature of Connect, providing students with assignment result data and SmartBook reports including Self-Assessment, Missed Questions and Most Challenging Learning Objectives, students were able to better prepare for the exam and create a concise personalized study plan. This improvement is illustrated by the 5.45 percent increase in student exam scores.

With changes to the grading scale from Fall 2012 to Fall 2014 that reduced the proportion for which Connect points are allocated, currently 25% for Connect and SmartBook assignments, the new scale still has shown the same grade distribution even though the Connect assignments and exams are worth less to the overall score for the course. “This would indicate that students were achieving higher scores in the course to acquire the same number of students with grade distribution”, say Lhuillier.

“I am using Connect and SmartBook to introduce basic concepts and then bringing more applied topics and examples to the lecture and class discussions.”


Lhuillier appreciates the ability to ensure all students are on the same ‘level playing field’ by completing these assignments in advance. Otherwise, those students with concerns could easily be overlooked. “I also have the ability to be proactive versus reactive by utilizing the Students At-Risk Report. I can reach out to at-risk students as needed to discuss alternate methods of course success.” With her flipped classroom environment, where students are responsible for the learning plan before lecture, Lhuillier spends more time in the classroom teaching the application of content with examples and activities.