Wake Technical Community College

Deep Linking Assignments and Automated Instruction Makes SIMnet a Game Changer for Experiential Learning in the Classroom

Instructor Matthew Henry and his colleagues were looking for an online training and assessment solution that took the routine tasks out of teaching so that instructors could focus on students who needed help learning course content. Henry says, “Our previous platform had an unfriendly interface and offered little in grading. We needed a way to hold students accountable for their learning by being able to assign tasks for a grade.” The “Let Me Try” activities as a grade ensures that students have to verify task mastery before moving on to assessments.

Henry says that deep linking makes the student experience effortless. Instead of students having to navigate the previously used platform after leaving Blackboard, SIMnet’s single sign-on with Blackboard ensures that students have easy access to the assignments they need to complete.

After implementing SIMnet, both instructor and student morale jumped. Instructors found SIMnet easier to work with and valued the fact that SIMnet did the grunt work of grading. Students who took the class under the previous platform and retook it with SIMnet raved about SIMnet—both because of the ease of use and the thoroughness of the content.
Matthew Henry


The course grade is determined by the following:
20% — SIMnet Homework
20% — Labs
15% — Application Capstone projects
10% — Quizzes administered in SIMnet
25% — Exams administered in SIMnet
10% — Employability skills/professional success skills

Henry assigns three assignments per week. Each assignment covers “Let Me Try” activities completed for homework, an independent project done for lab, and a quiz administered in SIMnet. Henry says, “The SIMnet simulations were game changing. Students could learn in Office, instead of following along in a book.” 

Henry appreciates the ability to deep link assignments. He says, “If a student is stuck, I refer the students to ‘Show Me’ and ‘Guide Me’ for scaffolding.” Assignments, quizzes, and exams are available via Blackboard, and student grades are synced from SIMnet to Blackboard. Henry says, “My grading time is slashed to almost nothing now. SIMnet content grades itself.”

Using SIMnet has given Henry more time to work one-on-one with students who may be struggling. Henry analyzes student performance with ease utilizing SIMnet. Students work independently in the classroom, and instructors float among students on an as-needed basis. “This is where SIMnet shined and changed the game. With the previous platform, I had to walk each class through each task. However, “Let Me Try” enabled me to flip my classroom,” says Henry.

Results Achieved

SIMnet is helping Henry’s students perform better in the classroom because students can access and be responsible for learning the course content. Henry says, “Both instructor and student morale jumped.” Retention rates improved from 74.5% to 77% with SIMnet (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Average Grade Distribution

Time spent grading decreased by 4 hours per week (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Passing Rates

Henry administered two pre- and post-tests at the start of the course. One test covers Applications, and one test covers Concepts. For the 2017-2018 classes, at the beginning of the semester, students scored 53.88%; at the end of the semester, students scored 77.88%—a 24% increase in students’ Applications scores (Figure 3). For the Concepts tests, students scored 72.77% on the pre-test and 76.62% on the post-test—a 3.85% improvement (Figure 2).

Figure 3: Retentions Rates


SIMnet is a game changer in the classroom because students can use “Let Me Try,” “Show Me,” and “Guide Me” activities to learn and to practice the content by working with the programs instead of just reading “how to” accomplish a task in a book. The ability to learn by doing via a SIMnet simulation has made all the difference for Henry’s students. Further, the ability to deep link has made the student experience effortless, and the automated grading has helped free instructors’ time to work directly with students who may need extra help.

Deep linking is a dream come true. It’s made life easier for teachers and students.

Matthew C. Henry

Matthew C. Henry is a lead instructor in the Networking and Computer Technologies department at Wake Technical Community College, where he specializes in computer literacy, applied computer skills, and customer service and technical support skills. A teacher of fifteen years, he previously taught college composition before transitioning to IT. His past research includes exploration in gender studies, popular culture, gamification, and inclusion-based classroom management techniques. He has just completed his third graduate degree—a Masters of Education in digital learning and teaching at NC State University.

Digital Product in Use: McGraw-Hill SIMnet®
LMS: Blackboard
Course Name: CIS 110 – Introduction to Computers
Course Type: Online and Hybrid
Credit Hours: Three
Program in Use: Technology at Your Service (Concepts) In Practice (Applications)
Instructor: Matthew Henry, MEd, Digital Learning and Teaching
Enrollment: 24 students per section; 20 sections; 1,000 year (university total)

Instructor’s implementation goals

  • Ability to deep link assignments
  • Opportunity for students to learn at their own pace with automated instruction
  • Auto-graded content
  • Minimize routine teaching tasks so instructors can focus on helping students
  • Hold students accountable for their learning by being able to assign tasks for a grade

Issues for instructor before using SIMnet:

  • Previous platform had an unfriendly interface
  • Little to no auto-grading meant instructors spent time doing the grunt work of grading
  • Few opportunities to help students who needed more instruction
  • Needed to encourage students to be responsible for learning the material

Benefits to instructor after using SIMnet:

  • Auto-grading freed instructors to work with students in need
  • Ability to look at class and student performance reports to identify where students may be struggling
  • “Show Me” and “Guide Me” activities lets students with different learning styles be responsible for their own learning
  • Opportunity to assign “Let Me Try” activities enables students to practice before assessment
  • Experiential learning opportunities allows for application of skills as part of the course instead of following along in a book
  • Grades synced from SIMnet to Blackboard
  • Instructor and student morale jumped

Course Description:

This course introduces computer concepts, including fundamental functions and operations of the computer. Topics include identification of hardware components, basic computer operations, security issues, and use of software applications. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the role and function of computers and use the computer to solve problems.

Institution Profile:

Wake Technical Community College is North Carolina’s largest community college, serving over 74,000 adults annually, with six campuses, three training centers, multiple community sites, and a comprehensive array of online learning options. Wake Tech is accredited and offers more than 240 associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates that prepare students for university transfer or immediate employment.