Case Study: Music - Central Piedmont Community College

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Music

Course Name:

MUS 110 Music Appreciation

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Music: An Appreciation, Brief Edition, by Roger Kamien, 8e

Instructor Name:

Kristin Clark Randles


25 students per section

3 sections/terms

2,000-2,200/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2013 (without SmartBook)

Spring 2014 (with SmartBook)

“Students have found that Connect/SmartBook helped them better prepare for their tests.”

-Kristin Clark Randles

Connect/Smartbook Motivates Students Through Customized Learning Experience

Professor Randles structured her course around Connect/SmartBook because she could get so much course planning work done in advance that she was able to spend the semester “actually teaching the course and not building her course.” To her satisfaction, since implementing Connect/SmartBook in her online sections, students’ grades, pass rates, and retention rates have improved. Students earning As have increased by 13% while collectively student pass rates have climbed by 10% and retention rates have increased by 7%.

Randles concludes: “SmartBook facilitates student engagement and therefore learning, and allows the instructor more time to teach and pinpoint students who are falling behind.”

Institution Profile

Central Piedmont Community College educates over 75,000 students on six campuses located throughout Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. CPCC offers over 285 degree, diploma, and certificate programs in various areas including technical/vocational, health, culinary, hospitality, STEM-S, and professional careers as well as a comprehensive college transfer program. CPCC also provides distance learning options.


Course Description:

The course is a basic survey of the music of the western world. Emphasis is placed on the elements of music, terminology, composers, form, and style within a historical perspective. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate skills in basic listening and understanding of the art of music.

Course Grade:

The course grade is determined by: Assignments – most are in Connect, but other discussions are required (45%); Concert attendance and report (15%); Tests (30%); and an Exam (10%).

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect Music

Previously, Professor Randles had been using online assignments she had created through Blackboard. Some of these assignments were based on the testbank from the Kamien text and others were completely her own. Because instructors at CPCC were already using the Kamien text, the next logical step was adding in Connect. She’s been very pleased with the initial content as well as the new additions to the text over the last few years.

Connect is easy to add into the course, “There are no more CDs to deal with, and the interactive questions on assignments are very engaging. Connect lends itself very well to a music course, especially when it is being taught exclusively online. There are some concepts in music that are harder to understand from just a definition. The interactive quality allows the student a more hands-on experience with the material.”

Listening Guides

Randles says, “It was very hard for students to understand the concept of following an outline while they listened to the musical examples. With Connect, the outline scrolls while the music is playing and allows the students to read what they should be hearing at the exact point it is being played.”

Randles is excited that she is able to go deeper into the musical concepts with her students. Before Connect she would receive e-mails from students asking for the definition of a term; now, with Connect, students are asking questions such as “where should I be listening for `this term’ in the music.”


Randles uses SmartBook to help the students help themselves earn better grades. “Now that there is the prerequisite feature in Connect, I require students to earn a 100% on the SmartBook assignment before moving on to the other assignments. This gives the students the best advantage because they are not attempting the assignments without having the knowledge to complete them. So many students would attempt the assignments without reading the text and would not score well. Students must gain mastery before moving to the assignments.”

Learning Management Integration and Reporting

Randles assigns two to three assignments per week. Most of her assignments are located in Connect; some of the assignments are discussions and some are assignments that she created. Randles notes: “The Blackboard integration has been very helpful. Students no longer have to navigate between two websites and logins. The assignments that require Connect take you there.”

The assignments cover a few sections with the unit (or a few chapters in the Part section), and the assignments contain every listening outline for the section covered as well as any activities available for the sections. Randles tries to divide up the material so the assignments cover a similar amount of material.

In Connect, Randles uses the Student Performance report to see how a student is doing in the course; she uses the Assignment Statistics report to see where many students could be struggling with the material.

Results Achieved

Since implementing Connect/SmartBook, students who have earned As improved from 20% to 33% – an increase of 13%. Collectively, students earning As, Bs, and Cs improved by 4% while 10% fewer students failed the course (Figure 1).

Randles believes grades have improved because Connect/SmartBook allows students to use the listening portions more outside of class. “Once we go over it in class, the students have the opportunity to practice with the material and better prepare for tests.”

Further, Randles says, “I have had more time to dig a little deeper into the material. I have used practice quizzes where students are given a random selection of questions from the Unit. They can take this quiz an unlimited number of times and will see different questions. This helps students prepare for tests so there is less review required in class. Since the students can see their scores immediately, they are able to ask me about any questions they have before we move on to new material.”

The extra time students get to spend with the materials does not require extra time from Randles. She says, “I am able to assign more practice material and more assignments that help the student gain further understanding of the material because most of the assignments are automatically graded. These assignments have great content in a variety of formats, and there is no more time required for grading tests if they are in Connect.”

Consequently, the pass rate for Randles’ course has also improved (Figure 2). Prior to using Connect/SmartBook, 74% of the students passed the course. Since implementing Connect/SmartBook, 84% of the students pass the course. Connect/SmartBook helped improve the students’ pass rate by 10%!

Further, retention rates were 80% prior to using Connect/Smartbook for Randles’ online courses. With Connect/SmartBook, the retention rate for students has climbed to 87%. Seven percent (7%) more students stay in Randles’ courses than previously (Figure 3).

Randles comments, “Teaching in an online environment has some challenges. One of those is that students will attempt to complete the work without doing the reading. While this is not unique to online courses, it poses a more significant problem for learning and retention because the student cannot rely on the instructor’s lectures to fill in the gaps.”

To address that concern, Randles requires students earn a 100% on the SmartBook module before being allowed to move on to the other assignments: “This score tells me and the students that they have grasped enough of the material to move on. And, as a result, I have seen students spend more time with the reading material and those students have a better chance of succeeding with future assignments.”

“Some students really thrive in the interactive environment in SmartBook and look forward to the fact that the assignments will be easier if they complete the module. Those students also use it to review before a test.”


Connect/Smartbook helped Randles’ students improve their grades and pass rates. The number of students earning As increased by 13%, while the pass rate improved by 10%, and the retention rate climbed by 7%. Randles appreciated that she was able to assign activities that engaged the students in listening activities: “With the Interactive Listening Outlines, students are able to come away with a greater understanding of the musical elements.”

Randles believes grades, pass rates, and retention rates improved because SmartBook required the students to master concepts before they could move on to the next assignment. “Some students really thrive in the interactive environment in SmartBook and look forward to the fact that the assignments will be easier if they complete the module. Those students also use SmartBook to review before a test.” Overall, Randles is pleased with Connect/SmartBook and plans to use more features each semester.