University of West Florida

Increased Time for Active Learning in the Classroom and Scores Improve with Connect

Since Connect was implemented for Macroeconomics, Dr. Richard Hawkins has required that students complete the LearnSmart and Connect homework assignment relevant to the chapter assigned that week. Because students are already familiar with the chapter as the weeks’ classes commence, Hawkins can focus lectures on related research beyond the chapter content as well as current events. As a result of using Connect, he has seen improvement in student performance.

Connect is a powerful tool for teaching Economics and can improve course grades.
Dr. Richard Hawkins


Course grade is determined by the following:
20% – LearnSmart and Connect homework
60% – Exams
10% – Attendance
10% – Class presentations

Hawkins was seeking a program that would prompt students to read before class and also enable him to develop review questions based on where they struggle. Hawkins’ class covers roughly one chapter a week. To ensure students keep up with the course work, LearnSmart is required for 30 minutes before each new week of material is introduced. Hawkins says, “LearnSmart gets students to read before class and then, develops review/recharge questions based on where they struggle.” A Connect homework assignment (with nine multiple-choice and one end-of-chapter problem) is then due at the end of the week. These same questions are also available in a semester-long review format.

This format has ensured students stay on task, Hawkins says, and that frees him up to introduce relevant material beyond the text chapter. Since implementing Connect, he says, his own preparation is more focused on related research or on current events that apply to the material, since the students are already familiar with the material in the chapter. Hawkins is now able to add two outside, but related topics per chapter. For chapter 5 (inflation and the price level), he added more material on the dangers of deflation. “Falling prices sound like a good thing until you think about the ramifications,” he notes.

Hawkins has cut his grading time with Connect by no longer assigning paper problem sets. The students are now completing their homework and gaining an understanding of each chapter before class by completing LearnSmart reading and practice modules.

The Connect reports assist Hawkins in keeping his students on task and address problems as they arise as opposed to after they score poorly on an exam. “When we review before the exam, the reports help me emphasize material they struggled with,” Hawkins says. He also makes adjustments to his lectures based on the Connect report results to focus on this content.

Hawkins advises other instructors implementing Connect to make a folder for each course chapter, have LearnSmart due at the beginning of the week and homework due at the end of the week. He recommends the LearnSmart and Connect homework assignments to be at least 15 percent of the course grade. After the first two weeks of deadlines, instructors should solicit feedback on missed assignments so that problems can be caught early into the course.

Results Achieved

Hawkins no longer assigns paper problem sets. His weekly time allocation for grading has gone from 120 minutes to 20 minutes (Figure 1).

Since he began using Connect, the class’s median test score has increased by about eight points. For those scoring in the lowest 25th percent of the class, the improvement is more than ten points. “The best performing students were always engaged, but now the mid-level students are more engaged in class discussions,” says Hawkins. The top achieving students, already with A grades, increased their scores by four points. There was a 20 percent variation in an exam grade as well as an 8 percent median test score increase.

Because Connect has engaged students in learning the course content out of class and provides them meaningful feedback about their performance and progress, the school has even increased section sizes.


The Macroeconomics class has experienced an overall eight percent boost in student performance. Students now come to his class with a knowledge of term definitions that will be discussed, since they have learned these definitions while completing LearnSmart assignments. Since minimal time is now spent on definitions, he says, more time is allocated to going beyond the basic material, such as related research or current events that apply to the material. At the same time, he no longer assigns paper problem sets, since the material is covered in the Connect, and as a result, has decreased his time spent grading.

The best performing students were always engaged. The ‘second-tier’ students now have more self confidence in discussing the course material because of Connect and LearnSmart.

Dr. Richard R. Hawkins has conducted research on a variety of national and local issues.

Hawkins’s peer-refereed research has been published in Applied Economics, Journal of Internet Commerce, National Tax Journal, and Public Finance Review. He has examined tax structures and related factors in both Florida and Georgia, including the rise of e-commerce and the growth of local-option sales taxes. He has studied various aspects of sales taxes, property taxes, and “bed taxes,” a key source of revenue for Florida’s huge hospitality industry.

Hawkins also has participated in many national conferences. They include The Society for Marketing Advances, Advances in Marketing Conference; the National Tax Association’s Annual Conference on Taxes; and the Academy of Economics and Finance.

His work has appeared in State Tax Notes and other technical publications. Published articles include “Four Aspects of Telecommunications Tax Reform;” “State and Local Individual Income Tax Trends in the 2000s,” and “The Curious History of Florida Property Tax Limitations.”

On a local level, Hawkins has studied issues such as underemployment in Northwest Florida, the financial impact of hurricanes, and the economic effects of increased road building in Escambia County.

Digital Product in Use: McGraw-Hill Connect® Economics
LMS: Principles of Macroeconomics
Course Name: Blended lecture
Credit Hours: Three
Program in Use: Macroeconomics, 6th edition, Frank & Bernanke
Instructor: Richard R. Hawkins, PhD
Enrollment: 2 sections; 60 students/section, 480 university-wide enrollment each year
Case Study Terms: Spring 2015 (without Connect) to Summer 2016 (with Connect)

Instructor's implementation goals

  • Get students to read the material and understand it before lectures.
  • Develop review questions based on where students are struggling.

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Hawkins had to focus on helping students grasp the material in the chapters.
  • He needed a way to get students up to speed before class so that he could expand lecture discussion to outside material such as current events.

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Students come to class better prepared.
  • Lecture preparation can focus on current events and outside material.
  • Student grades are increasing in all categories from the highest achievers to those in the bottom 25 percent.

Course Description:

Introduction to economics with emphasis on the study of aggregate economic activity, national income, price level determination and economic growth and development.

Institution Profile:

The University of West Florida is a member of the State University System of Florida. The college was founded in 1963 and serves a student population of more than 12,000. It offers bachelors and master’s degrees as well as a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. The school’s main campus is 1,600 acres and borders the Escambia River in the Ferry Pass area of Pensacola.