Boise State University | Boise, ID

Students Come to Class Prepared with Direct Feedback from Connect and SmartBook®

Tracie Lee has a long history leveraging Connect for her Operations Management class. She first tried the learning tool for one semester in 2009, and then started using it again in 2011; she's employed it ever since. Before she introduced Connect, the homework and grading system was manual. She assigned her students written homework problems out of the textbook, and manually graded them. "Sometimes I allowed students to use Excel to solve the problems; other times I required handwritten solutions, and always they had to show their work."

Numerous potential benefits brought her to Connect. For one thing, she wanted students to have faster grade feedback. "It took me 7 to 10 days to grade student work and give feedback when I had to manually grade." Lee also wanted each student to be able to do their own work without feeling pressured to share their responses with other students. In a paper-based assignment, she points out, 'group homework' often resulted in students asking each other, 'Did you finish the homework? Can I see what you did?'

Additionally, she wanted students to have the opportunity to make multiple attempts to solve a question correctly. With the manual method of grading, she says, "It's not feasible for me to give feedback on what was done wrong and give them another chance." With Connect, students would be able to practice and that, she says, is critical to learn formulas and processes.

Lee wanted more flexibility in her assignments. With Connect she is able to assign more problems within a specific set of questions to better challenge students in areas where they need it. Lee aimed to enable her students to click a link that would show them either hints, or where to find the information they need, in the textbook. That function would make it as easy as possible for a student to push through the assignment on their own.

Finally, she wanted a system that would bring students to her classroom better prepared. Only a small fraction of students read the textbook before class, she points out, "so I felt limited in what I could cover in class. If they don't have any exposure to the material, it's hard to have a meaningful discussion."

"SmartBook was a brilliant solution," she says. "Assigning points for reading the textbook and answering questions about it is an absolute no-brainer."


Course grade is determined by the following:
18% – SmartBook
12% – Connect chapter assignments
10% – In-class quizzes
60% – Exams

For each class semester, Lee assigns eleven chapters from SmartBook. All reading assignments are due before the chapter is covered in class. She tailors the chapter coverage based on what will be featured in exams, so she doesn't assign all sections. At the end of the semester, Lee drops each student's two lowest SmartBook scores. She finds that 95 percent of students earn full credit for SmartBook, meaning they fully complete at least nine of the eleven chapter assignments. Additionally, she assigns eight Connect homework assignments.

These Connect assignments are due after students go over the material in class (typically a week later, but sometimes just the next class period). With the flexibility built into Connect and SmartBook, she is able to assign a mix of algorithmic problems, multiple choice, and static problems.

Students are allowed to check their work once per question; they are also allowed two attempts on their work. Their highest score on the assignment is the one that's recorded. They can rework the assignment after the due date as a study attempt, too, although, she says, most don't use this feature. "The few who do, really appreciate it."

At times Lee uses web activity assignments in Connect to assign videos for students to watch, or articles to read, which are then discussed in class. These aren't assigned for points, however. The web activity assignment feature allows Lee to link an article or video through Connect and have it show up in Blackboard, just as any other assignment would.

The single sign-on feature is critical to the success of using Connect, she says. This feature provides a seamless experience for students to simply click a link in Blackboard and go right to their Connect homework or SmartBook chapter. "Grades flow straight into my gradebook in Blackboard. This seamless integration is the only way to go."

Lee typically sets SmartBook assignments at between 15 and 25 questions (depending on how much of the chapter is covered in the assignment). For a Connect assignment, she adds, she typically assigns between three questions (if they're all multi-part algorithmic questions) and ten questions (consisting of a mix of multiple choice and problems). "That can really vary. If there's a good interactive activity in a chapter, my Connect assignment might have fifteen questions."

With the use of Connect and SmartBook, students are coming to class prepared to discuss that week's chapter. If Lee hasn't assigned SmartBook, however, she says, "then I have to dial it back to a 'this is the definition of the term' level. I can skip that when SmartBook has been assigned."

Based on student understanding for each course, Lee modifies the homework assignments in Connect each semester, tweaking them to add questions where she thinks students need more practice. She can also eliminate a question that didn't help student understanding. Lee tailors her lectures to teach accordingly, and students see a consistent approach to solving the problems, which ultimately cuts down on confusion.

Using Connect and SmartBook also has changed Lee's classroom preparation, she finds, since students bring an understanding of the material into the classroom. She can then focus on finding examples of real-life situations to deepen their knowledge. For example, in an assigned chapter, rather than defining the terms, mission, strategy, goal, and explaining what a strategic business unit is, "I let SmartBook take care of that. I get to talk about what's going on with self-driving cars and how Fiat's partnership with BMW and Intel will enable them to compete in production of cars as product designs change."

Since her first use of Connect eight years ago, Lee has experimented and learned what works and what doesn't. For instance, she found that if she created homework assignments that were listed as optional, "then maybe 1 percent of students did them." She also learned, she recalled, that without single sign-on, students are far less likely to get the work done.

In Spring 2017, Lee asked students to share feedback about their experience with SmartBook. A few responses illustrate just how favorable their experiences were:

  • 'SmartBook has really helped me this semester because it gives me a chance to familiarize myself with concepts before the class discussion.'
  • 'Overall, SmartBook was a fantastic learning device and helped me a lot with the class, as well as motivated me to stay on top of my homework.'
  • 'I think the SmartBook is like any text that is read. It gives you a baseline idea, then later in class the subject is more defined and the idea sticks.'
  • 'I generally click practice first and more or less work backwards from there. I found it very useful. Helped speed up a process that is generally slow and boring.'
  • 'I generally follow the procedure (read, then practice) at first, but if I'm crunched for time, I just use my text and look for the answers for the practice. I think that it is useful because I actually take time to stop and actually read.'
  • 'I personally have liked using SmartBook as we are asked questions after we read, which helps on understanding what you know and don't.'

Ultimately, she says, her initial goals of reducing the turn around time and time spent on manually grading homework required to grade homework and giving students real time feedback have been fully met.

Going forward, Lee adds, she always checks out changes in Connect, such as the latest feature in which an entire section of the book is displayed on a single SmartBook page, "so it's easier to see all the highlighting for a single section in one place."


"I plan to continue using Connect in my Introduction to Operations Management sections at Boise State. I've pretty much got a workable formula in place." Lee says that not only are students gaining the immediate feedback she had aimed for, it has addressed another issue: "It's much less common for my students to share their answers from Connect," Lee found.

Plus, negative student evaluation comments about being required to read a textbook have gone away. With SmartBook, she says, "I never see those comments anymore."

Since launching the system first in 2008, she says, "I've been really excited to see how many improvements have been made in Connect over the years, and how far SmartBook has come."

Tracie Lee

Tracie Lee is a lecturer at Boise State University, teaching supply chain and business statistics courses. Before joining Boise State's College of Business and Economics, she taught business courses at the University of Idaho from 2007 to 2015. Tracie also serves as a Digital Faculty Consultant and Subject Matter Expert for McGraw-Hill Education in Operations Management, Business Statistics, and Project Management. Prior workplace adventures include ten years in Hewlett-Packard Company's supply chain organization; a year with the IT division of an aerospace company; and three years in Operations with a telecom. At various times, she has earned an undergraduate in Russian Studies from Amherst College, an MBA from Arizona State, and a Master of International Management from Thunderbird.

Students are more likely to be familiar with concepts by the time they come to class....I start my lecture preparation for most chapters assuming they already have familiarity with basic concepts because of the SmartBook assignment.
Tracie Lee, Instructor

Digital Product in Use: Connect® Operations Management
Course Name: Principles of Macroeconomics
LMS: Blackboard
Course Type: Introduction to Operations Management
Credit Hours: Three
Program in Use: Operations Management 13e, by William Stevenson
Instructor Name: Tracie Lee
Enrollment: 2 sections; 40 students/section, 550-600 students/year (college total)

Instructor's implementation goals:

  • Provide immediate homework feedback to students
  • Reduce labor of grading papers
  • Eliminate the tendency for students to share their homework answers with their peers

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Students are coming to class with an understanding of the material.
  • Students are gaining the immediate feedback they need to practice and improve their work.
  • Lee is spending less time grading and teaching rote concepts while spending more time discussing current events.

Course Description:

This course is a survey of the fundamental concepts and basic tools related to operations and supply chain management. In addition to discussing the strategic role of operations management in an organization, the course covers specific techniques for managing the operations function. Students who complete this course are able to explain how operations management can provide a company with a competitive advantage, and are able to apply selected techniques to the management of a firm's operations function.

Institution Profile:

Boise State University (BSU) is a four-year public college in Boise, Idaho. The college was founded by the Episcopal church in 1932 and became an independent junior college in 1934. By 1965 the college was providing bachelors and master's degrees. BSU has nearly 24,000 students, about 75 percent of whom are Idaho residents. It also has the largest graduate enrollment in the state of Idaho. The college offers more than 190 fields of study including arts and sciences, business and economics, education, engineering, health sciences, public service, and innovation and design.