Case Study: Psychology - University of Colorado - Denver

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Psychology

Course Name:

Introduction to Psychology I

Course Type:

Hybrid (3 hours/week lecture & online)

Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Understanding Psychology by Feldman, 9e

Instructor Name:

Joy Berrenberg


200/year (instructor total)

1,000/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2010 and Fall 2010

“First and foremost, I loved the adaptive testing nature of LearnSmart. I have always had problems getting the majority of students to read the text... this system helps with that tremendously.

Secondly, I like providing students with optional films and exercises to help them master difficult concepts.”

-Professor Joy Berrenberg

Digital Course Solution Improves Student Success and Increases Engagement

Professor Berrenberg needed a way to ensure that her students were familiar with the material in the textbook before they attended her lectures. Requiring students to complete Connect Psychology assignments before class solved this problem, allowing her to spend class time expanding on concepts and topics rather than repeating them. She will not only continue to use Connect Psychology, but will also increase the number of required assignments in upcoming terms.

Institution Profile

The University of Colorado - Denver is a public institution located on two campuses in the greater metropolitan Denver area. Serving 29,000 students annually on campus and online, the University offers 39 bachelor’s, 65 master’s, and 37 doctoral degrees as well as 33 certificate programs. UC Denver awards more graduate degrees than any other Colorado institution.


Course Description:

Introduction to Psychology I introduces the scientific study of behavior, including an overview of the biological basis of behavior, sensation and perception, states of consciousness, learning and memory, thinking and language, intelligence, motivation, and emotion.

Course Grade:

  • 65% of the final grade based on three exams
  • 22% of the final grade based on modules in McGraw-Hill LearnSmart™, the adaptive assessment tool within Connect Psychology
  • 5% of the final grade based on one paper
  • 5% of the final grade based on in-class assignments
  • 3% of the final grade based on extra credit

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Professor Berrenberg added Connect Psychology to her syllabus in Spring 2010 in order to ensure that students became familiar with the textbook material before coming to class. She required students to complete the LearnSmart adaptive study modules prior to class as part of their grade, which motivated them to spend time learning the core chapter concepts specific to her lecture material. Students found this learning method engaging and rewarding, which resulted in a high participation rate, allowing Professor Berrenberg to modify her lecture to focus on more advanced topics and class interaction. She was so pleased with the positive impact of Connect Psychology on student performance that she then required completion of assignments for all chapters in Fall 2010.

Results Achieved

Professor Berrenberg says, “The average performance on exams has increased since I’ve been using McGraw-Hill LearnSmart.” Students using Connect Psychology in the Spring 2010 term scored as many as 5.76 points higher than students in Fall 2009 who did not use the solution. The following semester, students using Connect Psychology scored as many as 6.41 points higher (see Figure 1).

Not only are students more successful in Professor Berrenberg’s classes, but she has also found that students using Connect Psychology are more engaged in the coursework. “Connect Psychology (especially the adaptive testing of LearnSmart) is a highly effective and innovative way to get students more engaged with the text and course material. Students ask more interesting questions in class because they seem to have already grasped the most basic principles before they arrive,” she says.

Professor Berrenberg’s students like Connect Psychology and often mention that it helps them to understand the material and prepare for exams. “Several have mentioned that they return to LearnSmart items to prepare for exams even after they’ve completed the LearnSmart assignment,” she says. “On end-of–the-semester course evaluations, a very large number of students specifically mentioned how useful they found LearnSmart.”

Student Comments from Spring 2010 End-of-Course Evaluations

LearnSmart! Awesome tool, do not lose it.”

“I liked the McGraw-Hill interactive study program with the book. I thought it was very effective.”

“Doing LearnSmart before lecture really helped to solidify the information.”

“I thought the LearnSmart assignments were very helpful!”

“I think that LearnSmart was a good way to introduce a subject because I felt I had an idea what Professor Berrenberg was talking about in lecture.”

LearnSmart was great. I wish all classes had online material.”

LearnSmart was very helpful as a study tool and homework.”

LearnSmart is an amazing study tool.”

LearnSmart was interesting and effective.”

“Connect Psychology enabled me to spend more lecture time on more advanced material and examples rather than spending so much time on getting through basic concepts.”

“The time I’ve spent getting up to speed on how to use Connect Psychology has paid off in improved student performance and satisfaction, so it’s been worth it.”

- Professor Joy Berrenberg


Professor Berrenberg is pleased with the increase in student academic success and student engagement in her courses. She says, “I plan to continue to use Connect Psychology and LearnSmart, and I may explore using more of the Connect Psychology options for credit.”