Chattahoochee Technical College | Acworth, Ga.

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More Hands-on Application and Immediate Feedback for Students along with Higher Pass and Retention Rates with Connect and SmartBook.

Student retention rates have risen 12% since Instructor Nathan Akins implemented Connect and SmartBook in his Financial Accounting I class. Akins reports that Connect has increased students' ability to work with accounting forms and learn accounting concepts in and out of the classroom. While Connect is helping students stay in class and pass their coursework, students are reporting increased satisfaction with their learning experience.

For Akins, Connect has reduced the amount of time he spends on lecture, grading and preparation. Beyond that, Akins says, the system allows him to focus the material specifically to the needs of his accounting students. "Through Connect, I am able to tailor the course to place emphasis on the topics required by the Technical College System of Georgia Curriculum Standards."


Course grade is determined by:
40% – Connect Homework and SmartBook
40% – Exams (administered within Connect)
10% – Course Discussion Questions
5% – Class Project
5% – Proctored Event

Prior to implementing Connect two years ago, Akins spent hours manually grading work turned in by students. Akins was seeking a more real-world and hands-on application of the material. He wanted students to complete tasks on a computer to simulate an office environment, while at the same time providing students immediate feedback while working through exercises to keep their learning momentum going.

Prior to each class, Akins puts together a classroom demo to demonstrate the material in the appropriate chapter. In his Connect course he maintains a section he calls "classroom demos." Each demo—with its own class date assigned to it is composed of quick studies and exercises from the end of chapter materials. During the class, he projects the Connect classroom demo for that date for his students to work through problems together. For the basics, "I use the SmartBook projected onto a screen to explain the concepts," Akins says.

Akins uses Connect assignments for all of their coursework including reading, concept introductions, end of chapter problems, exam study, exams, and the course final. For each chapter, a student must complete:

  • Interactive Presentations, which cover each chapter's learning objectives with narrated, animated presentations, allowing students to learn, study, and practice at their own pace, with instant feedback.
  • Need to Know Videos, which supplement the Need to Know demonstrations in the text. These demonstrations, with full solutions, pose questions about the material just presented.
  • SmartBook reading assignments; and end of chapter questions.

In addition, Connect enables him to offer:

  • General Ledger problems that enable students to see how transactions proceed through the accounting cycle and conclude with financial statements.
  • Simulated Excel exercises which allow students to practice their Excel skills, including formulas and formatting—within the context of accounting assignments, for extra credit assignments.

Students must complete four assignments each week. In the case of Interactive Presentations, students must play all videos in their entirety to receive credit and Akins requires students to achieve 100 percent on the SmartBook assignments. On the end of chapter work, they are allowed three attempts for each one, with no time limit, and can use the hints and resources provided. Akins accepts the highest grade of the three attempts. For exams, on the other hand, students are limited to one attempt within 130 minutes and the work is password protected.

One of the Connect reports Akins finds most useful is the Assignment results report to track assignment completion and assess performance of students. Assignment results also serves as a tool, he says, "to provide feedback to students on what they did incorrectly." He uses the Student Performance report to assess how each student is doing individually. In the case of SmartBook , Akins says, Student Details also has provided him the ability to assess how students are progressing and if they are staying engaged.

For the past two years, Connect has been incorporated into the school's LMS Blackboard. By incorporating Connect with Blackboard, Akins says he is able to easily sync grades, and students only have to go to one website to access all of their course content.

The feedback from students has been overwhelmingly favorable:

  • "So far, Connect has made me super happy. I enjoy the interactive lectures that are now a must-do and the SmartBook questions. It sure does make it easier to learn and grasp the material. Also, the drop-down menu option for journal entries is a big hit with me."
  • "In comparison to a platform I use in a different course, I find that McGraw Hill Connect is more user friendly. The layout of the homework problems is more streamlined. Using a drop down box versus having to type or copy and paste answers cuts down on how long it takes for me to complete the assignment. I hated having to switch between tabs/windows to get to one part of the problem to another."
  • "I like having the practice questions in the ebook and the interactive lectures because that helps me to understand the material even better. There isn't anything I would change about Connect because it's a major improvement from other programs."

Results Achieved

The retention rate with Connect increased by 12 percent versus without Connect. Pass rates grew from 62 percent to 65 percent over the same class and time period (Figure 1).

Final exam scores were up with the implementation of Connect, from 46.42 to 72.7 percent (Figure 2).

Akins' time spent on lecture prep dropped four hours a month. Time spent grading similarly dropped from eight hours a month to less than four hours a month (Figure 3).


Connect has reduced the time needed to prepare for each lecture and time spent grading, and for students the program has provided actual hands-on application. That he says "has increased their ability to work with accounting forms and concepts." "Students really appreciate the user friendliness of Connect over the other programs we have used," Akins says. The system improves student ability to apply learned concepts during times of class demonstrations and outside of class. In other words, he says, "Connect does not create a technology barrier to learning." He adds that they are able to access and complete the work. "Students like as few clicks as possible when using a system," he points out.

Nathan "Nate" Akins has been educating students in Accounting since 2007. Nathan’s academic credentials include the current pursuit of a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree from Walden University, A Master of Business Administration degree with an Accounting concentration from Keller Graduation School on Management, a Master of Business Administration in Global Management from the University of Phoenix, and an Associate of Applied Technology degree from Chattahoochee Technical College. In addition to education, Akins has worked in management for a major financial institution and for an accounting firm.

For accounting majors, Connect has increased student completion rates, grades, and retention in most areas.
[With Connect, my] time is reduced. I do review grades to see if there are any content problems with the questions. I used to spend hours grading and now that has been almost eliminated.
Nathan Akins, Instructor

Digital Product in Use: Connect® Accounting
LMS Integration: Blackboard
Course Name: Financial Accounting I
Course Type: Lecture and Lab
Credit Hours: Four
Program in Use: Principles of Financial Accounting by John Wild, Ken Shaw and Barbara Chiappetta Instructor Name: Nathan Akins, MBA
Enrollment: 3 sections; 18 students/section, 1000 students/year (college total)
Implementation Study Term: Fall 2015 (without Connect), Spring 2016 (with Connect)

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Make learning computerbased in a “hands on” environment.
  • Have immediate access to student performance data.

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Couldn’t see the results of student work on homework assignments quickly.
  • Students were dropping or failing class at a higher rate than he would like.

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Pass and retention rates have increased with the use of Connect.
  • Students are able to take a hands-on approach to learning that’s similar to accounting work in the real world.
  • Akins is spending less time preparing for lectures, lecturing and grading.

Course Description:

Financial Accounting I introduces the basic financial accounting concepts of the complete accounting cycle and provides students with necessary skills to maintain a set of books for a sole proprietorship. Topics include accounting vocabulary and concepts, the accounting cycle for a personal service business, the accounting cycle for a merchandising business, inventory, cash control and receivables.

Institution Profile:

Chattahoochee Technical College is a two-year institution in Georgia, with eight campus locations north and northwest of Atlanta. The college was formed in 2009 from a merger of Appalchian Technical College, Chattahoochee Technical College and North Metro Technical College. It serves more than 14,000 students and offers associate of applied science degrees as well as technical certificates of credit.