Case Study: Writing - Dixie State College

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Writing

Course Name:

Beginning Writing

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Exploring Writing: Paragraphs to Essays by Langan, 2e

Instructor Name:

Candace Mesa


200/year (instructor total)

1,120/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Fall 2010 and Spring 2011

“We chose Connect Writing because we felt that our students could benefit from extra practice and that they would enjoy working online. Both of these have proven to be correct assumptions.

Connect Writing provides reinforcement of basic skills covered by lecture and the text. It is a valuable asset to our curriculum.”

-Professor Candace Mesa

Digital Course Solution Improves Student Success and Instructor Efficiency

Professor Candace Mesa wanted to reinforce the developmental writing concepts she was teaching in her Beginning Writing course, and to give students experience with working in an online environment, which is required in the follow-up Developmental Writing course. Connect Writing gave students the opportunity to practice key course concepts, increasing pass rates by 5% and engaging students, who often completed unassigned sections to clarify challenging content that was covered in class.

Institution Profile

Dixie State College of Utah, located in Saint George, Utah, offers baccalaureate degrees, associate degrees and certificates in sixteen areas of study. The College enrolls about 8,000 students annually.


Course Description:

Beginning Writing was designed for students whose English placement exam score is 18 or lower. The course teaches the basics of paragraph and essay organization and development, as well as critical thinking skills. Successful students are able to write structured, developed, and coherent paragraphs and essays that are relatively free of mechanical errors. They can also edit and proofread their work, as well as analyze the work of others in small and large groups. The course does not count toward overall credits earned for graduation, nor does it fill general education requirements; however, the final grade does contribute to the student’s cumulative GPA. Students in this class must earn a C (75%) or better in order to enroll in Developmental Writing.

Course Grade:

  • 55% of the final grade based on homework assignments (5% within Connect Writing)
  • 45% of the final grade based on in-class writing exams

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Professor Mesa assigns biweekly homework assignments that involve reading and completing approximately 90 pages from Exploring Writing: Paragraphs to Essays (13-14 of which are template pages). The Connect Writing assignments usually involve two required units and three to five suggested units, all designed to reinforce and supplement writing concepts taught in class. She initially assigned one per week, but soon found that by combining units and assigning them every other week, she gave students the opportunity to spend alternate weeks on their writing assignments.

Results Achieved

Professor Mesa reports that Connect Writing provides reinforcement of the basic composition skills covered in both the textbook and in-class lectures. She is pleased to note a 5% improvement in the pass rate between Fall 2009 and Fall 2010, when she implemented Connect Writing in her course.

Mesa also administers a grammar pre-test at the beginning of the semester and a grammar post-test taken along with the final exam. She is happy to report that “students using Connect Writing showed remarkable improvement! The improvement scores were significantly better when Connect Writing was used, and that was the only component of the course that changed.” Specifically, students who took the course without Connect (in Fall 2009 and Spring 2010) only improved their scores by 8.22 and 7.59 points. Students who used Connect in Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 improved their scores by 14.53 and 14.28 points!

Not only has Connect Writing helped to improve student performance, but Professor Mesa’s students tell her that they enjoy using it. “Students share experiences with each other,” she says. “We have three clusters of computers where we offer developmental English help, and we often find students asking each other questions and referring to the textbook while doing their Connect Writing assignments. As supplemental instruction, Connect Writing is invaluable to our students.”


Connect Writing helped Professor Mesa to reinforce key course concepts for her students outside of class, leading to improved pass rates and learning outcomes. She says, “Connect Writing is effective supplemental instruction for developmental students, most of whom find it engaging and fun. Students will even go to Connect Writing and do unassigned sections when they are confused by the written homework from our textbook or by the class lecture! Connect Writing is a valuable tool for developmental students who want to learn.”