Case Study: Geology - University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Geology (SmartBook and Quizzes)

Course Name:

Geology 100 – Physical Geology

Course Type:

Lecture and Lab

Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Exploring Geology by Stephen Reynolds, Julia Johnson, Paul Morin and Chuck Carter, 3e

Instructor Name:

Gina Seegers Szablewski


155 students/term (instructor total)

600 students/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2014

Learning Management System:


“Students refer to SmartBook and Connect much more often than they previously did to a traditional textbook.”

-Gina Seegers Szablewski

Requiring Connect and SmartBook For Large Classes Allows For More Flexible Teaching

Requiring McGraw-Hill Connect resulted in improved student performance, decreased grading time, and increased student engagement. “Connect should be required…. It makes teaching large classes much easier, it’s dependable, it provides high-quality content, and there are different reports that provide any type of information you may want to assess. And, students like using it. I will always use Connect in my classes; hard to think about not using it.”

Institution Profile

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a four-year public urban research university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The institution comprises 14 schools, as well as online learning, all of which serve a total of over 28,000 students. UW-M offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, with 186 programs available to its students.


Course Description:

Physical Geology is a course about Earth and discovering how relevant geology is to everyday life. Students will learn how the scientific process works and what a scientist does. Introduced are the different processes that work together to shape Earth’s surface as we see it today, and gain a deeper understanding of the landscapes around us. Students will begin to grasp the concept of deep time and learn how and why Earth’s surface and climate have changed, sometimes dramatically, over the planet’s 4.6 billion year history.

Course Grade

The course grade is determined by the following:
24% Connect (12% SmartBook; 12% quizzes)
36% Three Course Exams
40% Course Lab

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

SmartBook assignments cover 75-90% of the material from each chapter, with average time required: 40 minutes. Quizzes assigned through Connect comprise of 10 questions and students are given 15 minutes for each, with the option to retake quizzes.

Professor Szablewski integrated Connect into her course as a means of introducing new material and strengthening students’ comfort level and understanding of the material. She reports, “SmartBook is used prior to class to get my students used to the new terms and processes in each chapter, and I use it to identify what they are struggling with — I currently use the reports to guide my second lecture on the topic at hand. Quizzes in Connect are used more traditionally, as a measure that they studied what I covered in class.”

As well, she finds the SmartBook reports highly useful in making adjustments in order to achieve a more effective presentation of the material. Says Szablewski, “I use Missed Questions and Most Challenging Learning Objectives [reports] to guide many classes and what topics I should cover.”

Results Achieved

Professor Szablewski has found that student performance in the course has improved — particularly quiz scores, administered in Connect, which were up over 5 points (Figure 1).

The impact for Szablewski as an instructor has been huge. She has found that it has given her more flexibility while being a useful organizational tool. “I spend less time grading using Connect than I did before. It is very dependable and it gives me reports in many different and useful forms,” she says.

Connect has also given her critical insight as an instructor, which enables her to better address student needs. Szablewski states, “Connect has made me better prepared for class in [terms of] necessitating what I should cover in class and what my students can handle themselves. SmartBook in particular guides many lectures in that it identifies those topics my students need help with.”

This gives her important data that she can use to shape her presentation of course curriculum. She adds, “I spend more time on the tough topics and less time on the basics. I also have more time for showing applicable videos or going to websites and showing students local and personal examples.”

“Connect has allowed me to deliver better quality quizzes and homework to large sections that are easy for me to assign and have more complete reporting.”


For Szablewski, Connect is an invaluable tool. “Students really like using Connect. They like how SmartBook helps them learn and not just being static text. SmartBook allows my students to be more engaged in topics they might not have been interested in.”