Smith College

Students Arrive to Class Ready to Apply What They Have Learned in Connect

Professor Bruno Grazioli wanted his students to come to class prepared. In order to participate in task-based activities, they needed to practice Italian grammar and vocabulary outside of class. By assigning preparatory assignments outside of class through Connect, Grazioli has increased student engagement in class and his students are performing better in the course. While he previously required about one-third of his class time to review homework and material from previous classes, with Connect Granzioli can spend his class time more effectively. He finds that review is no longer necessary since students are prepared and engaged when they arrive.

Students in the Beginning Italian course often remark on how they find Connect useful and reliable, which is exactly one of my aims for this course, that is, to encourage students to work independently so that they may come to class prepared and ready to engage in speaking activities.
Professor Bruno Grazioli


Course grade is determined by the following:
30% – Midterm and final exams
20% – Quizzes
15% – Connect homework assignments
15% – Guided composition
10% – Conversation meetings
10% – Participation

The Beginning Italian class at Smith College has been using Avanti! as its Introductory Italian program for more than 10 years, and before using Connect, students used the QUIA online workbook. Despite work done online, many students struggled with the material. There were times, Grazioli recalls, when he dedicated the entire class time to explaining or reviewing grammar that they hadn't understood in their work outside of class. With Connect he hoped to make the material more accessible.

"In my language classes, I want to foster students' autonomy by means of exposure to authentic and original material in the target language and, as a result, I hope to support their interaction in a stress-reduced class environment," states Grazioli. The flexibility of Connect allows him to do just that by providing students with a greater variety of exercises and activities that complement Avanti!. Students review the material, complete assignments, and then come to class prepared to engage in communicative activities and complete writing tasks. At the same time, students' regular use of Connect outside of class fosters their independent learning and problem solving abilities.

Since he was already using the digital tool QUIA, Grazioli says he adopted Connect quite naturally to expand on the options available for students. The Connect exercises and activities he built into the course syllabus enable him to tailor online content to meet students' individual needs. Today the Connect assignments represent 15 percent of the final grade.

The class meets three times a week for 70 minutes and generally covers one chapter of Avanti! per week. Grazioli assigns fifteen Connect assignments each week, an average of five assignments prior to each class meeting, all pertaining to a single Avanti! chapter. The assignments consist of multiple choice, matching, fill in the blanks, true/false and sentence completion tasks. "I want students to be able to submit their answers and obtain instant feedback so that they may retake the exercise once more if they are not satisfied with their performance," he says. Students are required to complete these assignments before class, so they gain basic competence in the topic and, in class, take part in activities to reinforce that learning.

At the beginning of each class Grazioli encourages students to share any concerns, questions or doubts they may have about the assigned exercises. While he must rely on the students' actually doing the work assigned to them, he says, "This is generally not a matter of concern on my part: students enjoy working on online exercises and are generally satisfied with the type and amount of feedback they received from Connect."

Grazioli also makes use of the helpful reporting options available within Connect. The Connect reports he prefers are Assignment Results and Student Performance. In the Assignment Results report he can easily spot who's working and who isn't. He uses the Student Performance report to watch a student's progression over time and compare scores with time spent working on the activities. "Based on this analysis, I can provide students with rather detailed information of their class performance and offer them suggestions about how to improve." The LearnSmart report he finds most useful is Progress Overview, which contains at a glance information about your students progress on all chapters.

Grazioli suggests to instructors who have not used Connect before to be realistic about their expectations. Start by assigning only a couple of types of activities, he recommends, and by integrating them in the syllabus. "Ensure that students can easily access and complete those activities before adding more variety to the mix." In general, he says of Connect, "It's extremely rich and reliable."

Results Achieved

Connect has made it possible to truly practice Italian at the start of class, because it has cut the time Grazioli spends on reviewing and explaining grammar. He now feels comfortable introducing activities that will have students actually use what they have learned to interact in the classroom "This very often involves role playing or group work, and students benefit positively from this kind of learning because it adds an element of fun to the whole class."

Students are generally happy with the work they do in Connect, Grazioli says, and he has proof: they come to class prepared knowing what will be covered and have a fairly good idea of how the grammar being introduced works, "and they do not have an endless list of questions and doubts for me," he adds.

By assigning LearnSmart for students outside of class, Grazioli was able to reinforce what he was teaching in class, and help students gain the skills needed to score well on exams. The results were evident in test scores, as Grazioli saw a noticeable change when comparing grades for quizzes and midterm exam between Spring 2010 and Spring and Fall 2013-2014. For example, comparing midterm results for the Spring semester 2010 (without Connect) with those from 2013-2014 (with Connect) shows that the grades overall have increased by at least three percent.

The comparison between these quiz and midterm exam grades shows that without Connect, students received fewer A's and B's than when Connect was implemented (Figure 1).

Smith Figure 1

Generally, all the students in the class pass the course. This is because Grazioli dedicates considerable time to the students and their performance. "In the case of students underperforming o Smith Figure 2

Time spent on lecture preparation has dropped as well, as he relies more on the material available in Connect (Figure 3). "Before I used Connect, I spent more time researching material to use in class like extra exercises and activities."

Smith Figure 3

Grazioli spends considerably less time grading homework since Connect was implemented (Figure 4). Since he only assigns exercises in Connect, grading only happens for quizzes he assigns in class, and midterm and final exams.

Smith Figure 4
The consistent use of resources available in Connect enables students to adequately follow the course program, be prepared to engage in communicative activities and complete writing tasks.


The bottom line, says Grazioli, is that Connect helps his students meet class expectations. In the Beginning Italian course expectations are twofold: to acquire a good knowledge of basic Italian grammar and vocabulary (measured by means of quizzes) and to actively use the language learned to comment, describe, or simply interact with others (this is generally measured by means of short compositions or class discussions on movies or readings). "With Connect, these objectives are generally positively met and students feel they can juggle between the theory and the practice."

Bruno Grazioli

A native of northern Italy, Bruno Grazioli has been a faculty member at Smith College since 2007, where he has taught a wide range of courses: from Italian language classes at the beginner's level to advanced conversation and writing, Introduction to Italian Culture and Survey of Italian Literature until the most recent course on Italian Design.

Grazioli directed the Junior Year Abroad program in Florence during the 2011–12 academic year and currently serves as the faculty liaison for the Smith College Italian club.

Digital Product in Use: McGraw-Hill Connect® Italian
LMS Integration: Moodle
Course Name: Beginning Italian
Course Type: Hybrid
Credit Hours: Five
Program in Use: Avanti! 3rd edition, Aski & Musumeci
Instructor Name: Bruno Grazioli, M.A.
Enrollment: 2 sections; 15 students/section
Case Study Terms: Spring 2010; Fall 2010; Spring 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

Instructor's implementation goals:

  • Finding a digital tool that helped students learn to work independently.
  • Enable students to learn the basic grammar lessons for that week so that they come to class ready to practice what they learned.
  • Make the process of learning a foreign language more fun for students.

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Percentage of A's has increased
  • Instructor spends most of class on activities and discussion rather than review.
  • C's and D's have been eliminated in the classes thus far using Connect

Course Description:

Beginning Italian is a full year course that covers the basics of Italian language and culture, and allows students to enroll in higher level Italian language courses. The course focuses on developing effective Italian speaking and communication skills as well as basic grammar.

Institution Profile:

Smith College is a private liberal arts college for women. It is a highly selective institution ranked by U.S. News & WorldReport in 2016 as tied for 14th among best U.S. liberal arts colleges. Smith is the largest of the Seven Sisters colleges. It also offers coed graduate degrees in teaching, fine arts, and a Ph.D in social work, among other diplomas.