Case Study: Connect® History - Kapiolani Community College

Digital Product in Use:

McGraw-Hill Connect® History

Course Name:

History 151–World History to 1500

Course Type:

Online and Lecture

Credit Hours:


Program in Use:

Traditions and Encounters Brief Global History by Jerry Bentley, Herbert Ziegler and Heather Streets Salter

Instructor Name:

Kelli Nakamura, Ph.D.


3 sections: 35 students/section, 400 college-wide annual enrollment

Case Study Term:

Spring 2013; Fall 2013

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Finding an online program that would engage online students

  • Grades and passing rates more consistent to face-to-face sections

  • Increase student retention rates

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Poor retention and pass rates

  • Not enough interactivity or critical thinking in online sections

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Student retention rate is more than double the rate it was before Connect

  • Exam scores improved

Online Students’ Pass Rates, Retention Rates, Exams Scores and Critical Thinking Improve with Connect and SmartBook

Since Dr. Kelli Nakamura started requiring Connect and SmartBook in her online sections, student retention rates have rocketed from 34 percent to 74 percent, pass rates increased by six percent, and exam scores improved. “My grade distribution is now more consistent with my face to face classes,” she says. “I have more activities than before, but increased student retention and satisfaction with my course.” Nakamura assigns her students writing exercises they would not have been able to undertake without Connect. “Requiring Connect and SmartBook allows me to review and cover topics and start engaging in activities that test a student’s critical thinking,” she says.

Kelli Nakamura

““Student short answer and essay quality has increased, as has [student] participation in weekly activities that help them prepare for the exam. This all contributes to increased retention rates and better grades.””

– Dr. Kelli Nakamura


Course grade is determined by the following:
17% – Connect Homework
17% – SmartBook Assignments
35% – Essay Exams
21% – SoftChalk Modules
10% – Writing Workshops/Intro Activities

History 151 is an online class that traditionally consisted of web-based lectures and outside text reading relevant to those lectures. When Nakamura began seeking a digital learning tool for students in her world history class, she looked for something that would help them engage with the class content and become active learners. She needed an interactive, adaptive digital resource that would encourage student learning and critical thinking while being flexible enough to meet the individualneeds of students.

She found her solution in Connect and the personalized reading experience of SmartBook. Nakamura requires her students to use Connect and SmartBook for the course, accounting for 34% of the grade. Her goal is to provide an unpressured, interactive learning environment so the weekly homework is untimed with unlimited attempts. With SmartBook, they always have the ability to reach 100% mastery. “This set up has dramatically increased student satisfaction with the course as students feel more in control of their grades,” she says.

Each week the class covers two chapters in the Connect and SmartBook assignments. The number of topics assigned in SmartBook can vary from one assignment to another. “I base the number of topics on the time that is estimated for completion. Students should be spending the same amount of time on SmartBook as they would do so for a face-to-face class,” she says, “essentially two hours and thirty minutes for class time.”

In general, Nakamura finds, the more time students spend on the material--whether it be via lecture or activities in a face to face class OR in an online setting--the better they do in the course. “I appreciate the SmartBook customizable assignment time aspect as I found that increased usage, and engagement with SmartBook has helped to increase retention rates and student success.”

Nakamura utilizes the Connect Assignment Results report and Student Performance report to see how students are performing each week in real-time so she can provide help when it’s needed. And after a class is over, she says “If there is a grade dispute for individual students, I can investigate their progress in the course and identify trends (for example, they tend to wait till the very last moment to do assignments; they need multiple tries to get an assignment correct) that can help me address potential problems.” She also uses the SmartBook Student Details report to track student progress. “I use this for grade entry and student progress reports throughout the semester.”

Her advice to others: “Require Connect and schedule the assignments on a weekly basis. The quicker students work with Connect the better as they can find out if an online course is right for them (if they can handle the personal responsibilities of taking an online course) or if they are technologically savvy enough to take an online course.”

Results Achieved

Since Connect was implemented, Nakamura has seen students drop her online classes at a lower rate and pass more often; and grades, on average, are in keeping with the grades of students in live lecture style classes. Prior to Connect, students in the online sections historically scored lower than students in the face-to-face sections.

When comparing the pre and post-Connect performance, Nakamura found that student pass rates increased by about six percent once Connect was implemented (Figure 1).

In addition, the retention rate for online students using Connect more than doubled (Figure 2). “The first semester (Spring 2013), that I started teaching without Connect, I had 35 students officially registered at the beginning. There were 18 at the end as the attrition and retention rate was terrible,” Nakamura says. The next semester, Fall 2013, she implemented Connect and had three sections each starting out with 35 students. “At the end there were 21, 28 and 30 students respectively in the sections and my student evaluations dramatically improved whereby it was much nearer to my face to face classes.”

The percentage of students passing their final exam has risen as well. Without Connect 42 percent passed the final exam, while with Connect the percentage rose to 55 percent (Figure 3).

Nakamura finds that Connect also saves her time with grading. “Connect and SmartBook truly has helped facilitate grading assignments as the majority is graded for you.” One of the Connect features which also saves her time is the ‘challenge’ button for students whereby, if they disagree with the information, they can submit a challenge. This feature, she says, “has cut down on the ridiculous questions students ask for the sake of trying to question the instructor’s credibility and expertise.” Since the challenges are being sent straight to the content developers at McGraw-Hill Education, students instead are forced to ask truly meaningful and important questions as the responsibility for asking the question and responding to the answer falls on them.

Connect has also given Nakamura some flexibility in scheduling as well—this is particularly important now, she says, as she is going on maternity leave, and only teaching online. “Having worked with Connect already, I don’t feel that teaching online is as daunting!”

Course Description:

History 151 explores historical narratives and global perspectives on human societies and cross cultural interactions up to 1500. It examines the events, personalities, institutions and ideas that shaped the major world societies.

Institution Profile:

Kapiolani Community College, formerly Kapiolani Technical School, is a public, co-educational commuter college in Honolulu. It is one of the University of Hawaii’s ten branches. Kapiolani is the state of Hawaii’s largest comprehensive community college with technical, occupational and professional programs in business education, food service and hospitality education and nursing. It has the University of Hawaii system’s largest liberal arts student body, with more than 5,000 students enrolled annually. It attracts students from more than 100 nations.

“Connect and SmartBook ensures that the homework I assign is consistent with the credit hours of the course and encourages the development of critical thinking skills by engaging the students in a number of different ways.”


Connect helps Nakamura meet her course objectives for her online class: to encourage the development of critical thinking skills by engaging the students in different ways with the material. Connect has enabled her online students to perform at a level consistent with face-to-face students by offering the online students assignments in Connect and SmartBook which they can complete as many times as they need to fully grasp the material and achieve the grade they are striving for.

With Connect, she says, “I have more activities than before but increased student retention and satisfaction with my course.” Nakamura plans to continue using Connect and to encourage other faculty to do so, based on her positive student outcomes. Nakamura also appreciates the cost-savings effect of requiring Connect and being able to reach more students. She says, “We have the ability to offer more sections and serve more students as we are a ‘commuter campus’ that serves students from different islands.”