Case Study: Connect® Economics - St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University

Digital Product in Use:

McGraw-Hill Connect® Master: Economics

LMS Integration:


Program in Use:

Connect Master: Economics by Asarta/Butters

Course Name:

Principles of Microeconomics 206

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Instructor Name:

David Switzer, PhD


25 students per section; 1 section; 700 year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Summer 2014 (without Connect Master) and Fall 2015 (with Connect Master)

Connect Master Enables Students to Achieve Higher Exam Scores and Earn More A's and B's

Dr. David Switzer wanted to find a way to engage his online students in the course content. He says, "Students were not reading the previous textbook and were procrastinating. The ability to assign videos and LearnSmart Achieve® (within Connect Master) homework assignments is a definite advantage." After implementing Connect Master, Switzer said his students improved their pass rate, achieved higher exam scores, and earned more A’s and B’s. Switzer says, "The number of students who have dropped the course is down relative to the norm. Given the average exam, homework, and quiz grades, I am certain more students pass my classes and more students earn more A’s and B’s than ever before."

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Course grade is determined by the following:

60% – Exams administered within Connect

15% – Connect Master weekly homework assignments

15% – Connect weekly quizzes

4.5% – Weekly discussion

4.5% – Practice exams administered within Connect

1% –Self-introduction

Switzer creates a list of recommended best practices for students to follow and facilitates a webinar on the first two days of class to walk students through Connect Master. He says, "I spend time at the beginning of the semester explaining how to use Connect Master, so students know how to access the assignments and complete assignments as efficiently as possible."

One LearnSmart Achieve module is assigned each week. The LearnSmart Achieve homework usually takes about 1.5 to 2 hours on average to complete. LearnSmart Achieve is Connect Master’s adaptive technology that uses assessment and metacognitive questioning to pinpoint a student’s strengths and weaknesses—and then provides that student with lessons and resources tailored to his or her needs. With LearnSmart Achieve students can better prioritize their time and improve their course performance. Students are encouraged to watch the topic videos and Switzer’s own lecture videos by each Monday evening. Students then have until Wednesday to complete the LearnSmart Achieve homework assignment and until Friday to complete a 20-question quiz, which consists of the Connect Master question bank interactive exercises for that topic. The average completion time for a 20-question quiz is about an hour. To aid in student preparation for exams, he gives them two attempts at practice exams. Subsequently, students can take the practice exams twice, with the best score counting towards their grade. Exams consist of 50 randomly determined multiple choice questions of varying difficulty levels (30% easy, 50% medium, 20% hard) and three short-answer questions. All questions are set at one attempt. Using the seamless integration with D2L, students grades are automatically synched.

"My students are watching videos, learning more, and performing better on their quizzes and exams. The vast majority of students prefer Connect Master to a printed book."

– Dr. David Switzer

Switzer uses At-Risk reports and the Connect Insight dashboard. He sends e-mails to the at-risk students over the first two weeks of the semester and before midterms, and uses the Insight dashboard to find trends across the class to help him provide students guidance. Switzer says, "The reports are useful when students complain that they are doing everything I tell them to do. I can see from the Insight dashboard that they are spending very little time on the assignments and starting those assignments the day they are due, instead of earlier in the week like I recommend."

Switzer utilizes the LearnSmart Achieve Progress Overview and Most Challenging Learning Objectives reports. The Progress Overview report details how much time it is taking students to complete the assignments. He says, "The Most Challenging Learning Objectives report identifies if there is a topic everyone is struggling with." When everyone is having difficulty on a topic, Switzer uses the discussion area of his online course to spend extra time on teaching that topic. He says, "The reports allows me to see how much time students spend on each assignment, which helps me have a better indication of their effort. Using these reports, I know how much time students are putting into the course when they come to me for help."

Results Achieved

Since using Connect Master, Switzer has seen more students earn higher grades (Figure 1). He says, that on average, "the percentage of A’s has increased by 8%, and the percentage of B’s is up an incredible 15%. C’s are down 8%, D’s are down 5%, and F’s are down 1%. It seems clear that Connect Master allows anyone who tries (i.e., those students who put in the effort to learn) to improve their performance. The course GPA went from 2.19 to 2.77, which is remarkable."

Student pass rates have also improved. Before implementing Connect Master, the average pass rate was 71%. After using Connect Master, students pass at a rate of 79% (Figure 2)

Switzer has seen a significant increase in exam scores using Connect Master (Figure 3). He says, “For the first two exams, scores were up over 10%. For the semester as a whole, for students who completed all three exams, exam scores were up almost 7% — a statistically significant increase.”

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Encourage students to stop procrastinating

  • Engage his students in Economics concepts and discussions

  • Able to monitor students’ efforts

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Students were not reading the textbook

  • Students were not engaged in the class discussions

  • Unable to monitor students’ efforts to learn

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Students are watching the videos and participating in weekly assignments and quizzes

  • More students are earning A’s and B’s

  • Able to monitor student progress by reviewing Connect reports

Course Description:

This course covers the fundamentals of microeconomics at an introductory level. Microeconomics deals with decision-making behavior by consumers and businesses, the effects of government intervention in markets, and the effects of industry structure on market outcomes (prices, product quality, profits, etc.). At the end of the course, a student should be able to determine who is affected positively and negatively, and by how much, as a result of a variety of different events (government policy, technology, entry/exit, changes in demographics, etc.).

Institution Profile:

St. Cloud State University, located about an hour northwest of Minneapolis, is Minnesota’s second-largest public university. Founded in 1869, over 15,400 students choose from more than 200 majors, minors, and pre-professional programs. St. Cloud State University also offers graduate degrees in more than 60 programs

"There were more A’s and B’s than C’s, D’s, or F’s, which has never happened. For the three courses I supervise, 33% of students received an A. In my online classes, this number is normally closer to 15%"


Switzer believes Connect Master has had a real impact on students’ study habits and their understanding of course content. “Because students are watching the videos and required to complete homework assignments online (where I can monitor their progress), the number of very wrong answers I get to my discussion questions has fallen. Students are working towards a better understanding of the fundamental material in the course.”