Case Study: General Education - Austin Peay State University

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® General Education
LMS Integration:D2L

Course Name:

EDUC 2100-Foundations to Education

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Teachers, Schools, and Society: A Brief Introduction to Education by D.M. Sadker and K.R. Zittleman, 4th ed

Instructor Name:

Erin Lynch-Alexander, PhD


1 section

45 students/section

200+ students/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Fall 2014 and Spring 2015

“Students who used Connect throughout the semester were not only more cognizant of instructional strategies during their field observations, but also were more analytical and reflective in what they would do had they been the classroom teacher.”

-Dr. Erin Lynch-Alexander

McGraw-Hill Connect and SmartBook Brings Student Evaluations to an All-Time High and Makes Class Time More Effective

Professor Lynch-Alexander began requiring Connect in Spring 2015. Before implementation of Connect, the class was entirely assessed manually without any digital products. Lynch-Alexander was in search of a tool that would help students interact with their material more directly than simply reading a text. With Connect and SmartBook she found that students have a greater conceptual grasp of the subject and score higher in the course overall than they had in previous semesters without Connect.

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Course grade is determined by the following:

  • 25% - Research Paper
  • 25% - Field Observations
  • 20% - Group Project
  • 15% - Midterm/Final
  • 10% - Connect/SmartBook
  • 5% - Essay Quizzes

Prior to using Connect, Lynch-Alexander’s class was assigned reading according to text chapters, took written tests with no digital component, and their performance was then assessed according to their written responses to questions. She selected Connect for its ability to enhance the study time for students; taking them one step beyond simply reading the text, to actually interacting with the content they were learning. Lynch-Alexander was especially intrigued by SmartBook as it adapted to the individual learning needs of students

Lynch-Alexander requires students to complete the SmartBook assignment before the scheduled day of class lecture for concept mastery and vocabulary instruction. “Requiring the assignments before lecture provided students a more concrete conceptual base to which they could connect in class discussions and group tasks,” she says.

Since implementing Connect, Lynch-Alexander’s preparation time is about the same, but that preparation is much more focused, she says, since Connect enables more conceptual based activities to strengthen student understanding in class. As a result, she finds that rather than simply lecturing to students, she is now answering more questions from students and leading an interactive class experience.

The SmartBook Module Details and Metacognitive Skills reports have provided her with important information for class preparation. “Using the SmartBook reports provided a basis of which learning objectives needed most focus and were awesome in reflecting the metacognitive skills of students demonstrating which areas they thought they knew and facilitating the conversation as to why they thought they knew it so as to dispel conceptual myths ,” she says. In addition, she found that in the spring semester with Connect, the Assignment Results and Student Performance reports were helpful in identifying conceptual elements on which students did not have a firm grasp. “This allowed me to see thematically which concepts were most difficult for students.”

SmartBook also serves as a reliable presentation tool since Lynch-Alexander can access specific pages and diagrams during class activities. Students are able to use SmartBook during class activities or to refer to points of discussion in class.

Connect is accessible to students through the Tennessee Board of Regents OLMS Desire to Learn (D2L) system. Lynch-Alexander says, “Connect is linked directly to the D2L shell for ease of access.”

Results Achieved

Students using Connect have a higher use of pedagogical language in the area of instructional strategies than students without Connect. In Spring 2015, she says, 55% of the total narratives included explicit discussion of instructional strategies, while without Connect that percentage dropped to 47% (Figure 1). Similarly, when Lynch-Alexander compared the use of pedagogical language related to effectiveness of instruction, (another focus for the education class), with and without Connect, she found that 11% of the total narratives included explicit analysis of effectiveness of instruction with Connect, and without Connect the percentage was 8%. (Figure 1) “These initial results suggest that students who used Connect throughout the semester were not only more cognizant of instructional strategies during their field observations, but also were more analytical and reflective in what they would do had they been the classroom teacher,” she says.

Mid-term and final essays are assigned and graded in the same way as they had been done in previous terms, however, overall student performance in Spring 2015 was improved with the implementation of Connect. Final exam scores rose with Connect from an average of 77.80 percent without Connect, to an average of 83.80 percent with Connect. (Figure 2) “Clearly, the semester with Connect reflects higher test scores than the semester without it,” Lynch-Alexander says.

Course Description:

This course covers the social, philosophical and historical background of education as well as the integration of standards-based instruction. The course contains lecture/ discussion and/or field based experience. Students are expected to gain knowledge, competency and dispositional strategies as preparation for a profession in education

Institution Profile:

Martha Dickerson Eriksson College of Education at Austin Peay State University, founded in 1845, is a four-year public university in Clarksville, Tennessee and is operated by the Tennessee Board of Regents. The school is the fastest growing university in Tennessee. Its programs of study include an undergraduate degree in licensure programs, a master of arts in teaching and a master of arts in education. Zittleman, 4th ed.

Once the class was finished, the final evaluation scores demonstrated the advantages of Connect for students. “This was the first semester that my student evaluations for this course were as high as they were,” Lynch-Alexander says. “My overall scores have been 4.4, 4.4, 4.6 in previous semesters, but in one semester of using Connect my overall evaluation score was 4.9.” (Figure 3) What makes these numbers of interest to Lynch-Alexander is that she has not changed her teaching style, “nor have I changed the course content, only the supplemental modality by which students can access and interact with course content.”

Connect improved overall grade distribution with more students scoring in the C or better range. (Figure 4) This is important as students must repeat the course if they score below a C. Pass and retention rates have also risen. In Fall 2014, without Connect, a total of 43 students began the course, 38 were still enrolled at the end of the semester, but only 26 had passing grades. In Spring 2015, with Connect, 45 started, 42 remained enrolled and 36 had passing grades. (Figure 5)

“Students who used Connect throughout the semester were not only more cognizant of instructional strategies during their field observations, but also were more analytical and reflective in what they would do had they been the classroom teacher.”


Student performance has been directly impacted by Connect and SmartBook in this class, according to Lynch-Alexander. The results from Student Performance and Assignment Results reports provided by Connect along with the SmartBook Metacognitive Skills and Module Detail reports helped identify conceptual elements on which students didn’t have a firm grasp and thereby enabled her to focus on specific content. Lynch-Alexander concludes, “Connect allowed me to make class time more meaningful for students. Rather than lecture on concepts or attempt to discuss concepts from the reading in a room of students who had not read, Connect allowed me to more effectively use class time on activities that strengthen student learning.”