Case Study: Finance with Blackboard Integration - Towson University

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Finance with Blackboard Integration

Course Name:

Fin 331-013 Principles of Financial Management

Course Type:

Traditional (face to face)

Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Fundamentals of Corporate Finance, 10th edition by Stephen A. Ross, Randolph W. Westerfield, and Bradford D. Jordan

Instructor Name:

Dr. Michaël Dewally




Case Study Term:

Fall 2013

Grading has been significantly reduced as a result of using Connect. Moreover, the experience of the recitations makes the students know their strengths and weaknesses better so they become better judges of their abilities and they less frequently seek direct feedback from me; and, if they do, the previous work leads to higher quality interactions.

-Professor Michaël Dewally

Connect Improves Student Engagement and Performance

Professor Dewally had used an online/homework system before, but switched to Connect with LearnSmart because the questions in Connect and LearnSmart are directly related to the textbook and the range and variety of questions were better than the previous system. The ultimate goal of using Connect and LearnSmart was to lower the DFW (D / fail / withdraw) rate for this course. Connect and LearnSmart worked. In the Connect and LearnSmart section, Professor Dewally calculated that the DFW rate, “was 10%, less than the department’s historical 20+% and also my own historical rate. That’s a success.”

Institution Profile

Towson University, located eight miles north of downtown Baltimore, is the largest comprehensive university in the area. More than 22,000 students choose from undergraduate, master, and doctoral degrees in nationally recognized programs in the arts and sciences, communications, business, health professions, education, fine arts, and computer information systems.


Course Description:

This course introduces several fundamental financial management concepts and definitions, such as time value of money, financial statement analysis, risk and return, stock and bond valuation, capital budgeting, and cost of capital. Students learn to think about the issues a corporate manager faces every day, and the choices a manager has in selecting a project, financing it, and managing the project successfully.

Course Grade:

The course grade is based on two mid-term exams, a comprehensive final exam, and several assignments. The breakdown is: Exam 1 (15%), Exam 2 (15%), Comprehensive Block Final (30%), Connect Homework (25%), LearnSmart (10%), and the Stock Portfolio Project (5%).

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect Finance

Professor Dewally was already utilizing Connect in his other courses and wanted to “flip the learning environment” in their introductory Intro Finance since “students are largely unfamiliar with the material that we needed them be exposed to before the actual class and lecture coverage.” The addition of LearnSmart to the Connect course gave them the additional tools they were seeking to accomplish this goal. “We felt the exposure to course content prior to class would give context to the in-class discussion and improve students’ engagement with the material.”

Dewally assigns on average two weekly assignments while also using Connect problems during the in-class recitation. The LearnSmart assignment is due before lecture and the homework, typically consisting of 7 problems, is due afterwards. “The range of questions (and the variety of pools I can choose from) helped me tailor my Connect assignments better than I ever could in the other system. I was able to duplicate the content of the in-class exercises with those for the homework without completely asking the same questions verbatim. That helped me reinforce concepts through repetition for students.”

Professor Dewally is pleased with Connect and LearnSmart. “Using LearnSmart allows me on Monday to review the areas my students did poorly and to adjust my content coverage in class. Connect recitation allows me to have hands on personal contact with students during that session and encourages peer-to-peer learnings / teaching. With all that (and experience), my class prep time has gone down as I frontloaded the selection of which Connect problems I want to cover prior to the semester so that in-semester, all tasks and coverage are already in place.”

Results Achieved

Connect and LearnSmart has impacted student pass rates significantly. Professor Dewally states “Our goal was to lower the DFW [D / fail / withdraw] rate for this course. In the Connect section, the DFW turned out to be 10%, less than the department’s historical 20+% and also my own historical rate. That’s a success.”

More students are getting better grades and attending more classes. Professor Dewally notes “GPA has increased for two reasons: 1) no Fs in the Connect/LearnSmart semester and 2) a higher percentage of Bs.” Prior to implementing Connect/LearnSmart, 27 students failed the course over the course of 3 semesters. After using Connect/LearnSmart, none of the students failed the course (Figure 3). He believes “having the Connect in-class practice dropped absenteeism. Students recognize the value of the lab element coupled with my presence. The atmosphere was relaxed and students could engage with me, with each other, or just the online resources. A great environment was created.”

When averaging the grade distribution among the semesters before Connect/LearnSmart was used, 72% of the students passed with a C or higher (Figure 4). When students have the opportunity to use Connect/LearnSmart, 93% of the students pass with a C or higher.

Professor Dewally credits Connect and LearnSmart with giving him the opportunity to review student progress and address any students who may be falling behind. “After an assignment is submitted, I review the assignment results. I use that for two purposes: 1) checking that performance is not slacking through the semester as students either disengage or get busy with other courses and 2) checking the performance of students at risk. I then switch to the student performance so I can intervene more directly in the event of a decline. Both are therefore used for class admin purposes and to motivate the students if necessary. Also, I use the LearnSmart diagnostic tools to check on which content area to focus during lecture time.”

Students believe Connect and LearnSmart makes a difference in their academic success as well. When asked to comment on the benefits of using Connect and LearnSmart by finishing the statement “I like this class format because . . .,” one student said, “I feel like everyone has an equal opportunity for being successful and getting the grade he or she wants.” Another student said, “Connect and LearnSmart makes me actually do practice problems. And not only that, it makes me keep doing the practice problems until I get them right and it doesn’t penalize me for wrong answers.”

Professor Dewally was pleased to see his students’ satisfaction with the new course design also affected his faculty rating. He reports that his “faculty rating greatly benefited, increasing by over 0.30 on a scale out of 5.0.”

“Connect / LearnSmart allows you the opportunity to learn some of the material on your own, but also provides a period where you can test your knowledge and ask questions of the instructor if needed.”

“The LearnSmart done before the week helps us prepare for the chapters. The in-class Connect homework helps reinforce what we learned over the week.”

- Students at Towson University

“Content has not been impacted as far as breadth but the nature of the Connect problems. I selected more applied problems so that during lecture I have to spend more time on application to prepare for an effective recitation session in which students do not seek my leadership but take charge of the problems on their own and work at their own pace.”


Connect / LearnSmart helped Professor Dewally accomplish his ultimate goal of reducing the course’s DFW rate -- by an average of 15%! The required homework helped the students practice the material until they mastered it and the reports helped Professor Dewally monitor student progress and intervene when necessary. Additionally, grades went up: 93% of students in Professor Dewally’s course passed with a C or higher when students had the opportunity to study using Connect and LearnSmart versus 72% of students who did not have the opportunity to study using Connect and LearnSmart -- an improvement of 21%! Professor Dewally shares that Connect “should have appeal for every teaching style. It’s a matter of how much to deploy it for each faculty, but the elements are there to be adapted to all teaching styles.”