Case Study: Connect® Accounting - Pima Community College

Having immediate feedback on homework questions in Connect is invaluable to the student. Not spending time grading is invaluable to the instructor.

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Digital Product in Use:

McGraw-Hill Connect® Accounting

LMS Integration:

Desire 2 Learn

Course Name:

ACC 211 - Financial Accounting

Course Type:

Face-to-Face Flipped Lecture

Credit Hours:


Program in Use:

Financial Accounting by J. David Spiceland, Wayne Thomas, and Don Herrmann, 3e

Instructor Name:

Renee Richard, C.P.A


5 sections; 30 students/section, 400 students/year (college total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2014 (without Connect)
Fall 2015 (with Connect)

“The use of SmartBook has had the greatest impact bringing the C students up to the B level. SmartBook helps students retain and understand the information rather than just memorize it long enough to take a test on it. Connect is one of the best tools I’ve used.”

—Renee Richard

22% More Students Earned A’s and B’s with Connect and SmartBook While Reducing Instructor Grading Time

Instructor Renee Richard implemented Connect with the goal of improving student grades and clearing up the misconception that this accounting course was a "weed out" class. She says, "With Connect, we were able to meet this goal. In fact, 22% more students earned A’s and B’s with Connect and SmartBook."

Before implementing Connect, Richard and her colleagues had identified an issue with the students’ preparation for class. Students were assigned to read course material before coming to class, but students were unprepared and did not understand concepts discussed and demonstrated in class.

After implementing Connect, 68% of her students earned A’s and B’s, 89% of her students passed, and 100% of her students stayed in the course. Because students are completing the SmartBook assignments before coming to class, students are better prepared to participate in class discussions. Additionally, Richard’s weekly hours spent giving quizzes and grading has been reduced from 30 minutes and 75 minutes per week respectively to zero. Richard says, "I am able to use my time to research what resources I can use in the classroom rather than spend time on the mechanics of presenting material and grading."


Course grade is determined by the following:
20% – Connect homework
15% – SmartBook
14% – Quizzes administered with Connect
35% – Exams administered with Connect
16% – In-class exercises and projects

After implementing Connect, class is structured the following way: Richard provides an overview and examples from each chapter and the students are assigned homework in Connect. Students read the chapter content in SmartBook, complete the SmartBook assignment and Brief Exercises. In the next class, students complete the inclass exercises with assistance from the instructor. Students then complete the balance of the homework, which includes the Exercises and Problems section and complete a short, timed quiz on the chapter’s learning objectives all prior to the next class.

Students are usually assigned four assignments in Connect per week. An average assignment is:

  • Before First Class: Homework – 5 questions, Brief Exercises only and SmartBook

  • Classwork – 6-8 questions, Exercises and Problems

  • Prior to Second Class: Homework – 6-8 questions, Exercises and Problems

  • Quiz (5 questions, 10 minutes only)

Richard integrates Connect with the school learning management system Desire 2 Learn. Richard says, "This has been great because students can easily access Connect the first time without a web address. Students can also find the site easily again by logging into the school system." The grade integration between Connect and Desire 2 Learn helps keep students current on their status in the course. She says, "Students can always tell what their total grade is without additional calculations."

Richard uses the reports available in Connect and SmartBook to more effectively manage her course and support student success. In Connect, the Insight Dashboard report allows Richard to take a look at how students are progressing in comparison to the amount of time students spend doing the homework. Richard also uses the Student Performance report to see how much time a student has spent on the material, and Richard is able to see what answer the student submitted and what the correct answer is. She notes, "This ability is especially important for algorithmic problems."

Reports available in SmartBook, such as Student Details also help Richard see how much time a student has spent on the assignments, and the Missed Questions report helps Richard zero in on areas where students may be having comprehension issues so she can spend more time practicing those problems in class

Richard has been especially delighted with the Category Analysis report in Connect because this data provides critical Learning Objective reporting for her college. Richard says, "I did not know that I would be able to pull reports on the learning objectives so easily. Other course management systems claim this ability, but Connect actually delivers on it."

Results Achieved

Richard’s goals in implementing Connect and SmartBook were to encourage students to read the course material before coming to class and to see an improvement in student grades. After implementing Connect, 68% of Richard’s students earned A’s and B’s compared to 46% of students who had earned A’s and B’s without Connect – an increase of 22% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Percentage of Course Grades

Student pass rates have also increased from 87% without Connect to 89% with Connect, a 2% improvement (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Student Pass Rate

Retention rates improved 9% with Connect (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Student Retention Rate

Without Connect, students scored 68%, 63%, and 67% on Exams 1, 2, and 3. With Connect, students’ scores increased as high as 80%, 72%, and 78% on exams (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Exam Score Averages

When averaged together, exam scores increased by 11% overall (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Average Exam Scores

Richard appreciates that she spends less time giving quizzes and grading (Figure 6). "There are not adequate words to describe how valuable a time-saver Connect is! I would be grading for a great deal of my time outside the classroom if I did not use Connect."

Figure 6: Minutes Saved Per Week

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Encourage students to read the chapter prior to class

  • Improve students’ grades

  • Deepen students’ understanding of the course content rather than test students on their memorization of the material

  • Find ways to save time on tasks like giving quizzes and grading

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Students were not reading assigned chapter material

  • Course was rumored to be a “weed out” class

  • Students were not engaged in the course material in a meaningful way

  • Instructor needed a better way to manage quizzing and grading tasks

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Participation in class discussion improved

  • Reduced hours spent on quizzing and grading tasks

  • Easily pull reports on the learning objectives for reporting purposes

Benefits to student after using Connect:

  • More students are reading the course content prior to attending class

  • Participation in class discussion improved

  • More students are earning A’s and B’s

  • Digital book costs less money

  • Convenience for students to access their work wherever they might be

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to accounting and students will learn: financial statements and the accounting profession, recording accounting and transactional data, merchandising operations, internal control and ethical issues, asset reporting, reporting and analytical liabilities and stockholders’ equity, statements of cash flow, and performance measurement.

Institution Profile:

Founded in 1966, Pima Community College is a two-year college that has six locations throughout Pima County and the greater Tucson metropolitan area. Pima Community College offers opportunities for associate’s degrees, workforce development, career training programs, continuing education, and adult education.

“Having immediate feedback on homework questions in Connect is invaluable to the student. Not spending time grading is invaluable to the instructor.”


Before Instructor Richard implemented Connect, her goal was to improve students’ grades. Since her students have had an opportunity to study using Connect, 68% earn A’s and B’s, 89% pass the course, 100% stay in the course, and exam scores have improved by an average of 11% overall.

Students are now reading the course materials before they attend class, ensuring they come to class prepared with course knowledge so more time in class is spent working problems and less time lecturing. Richard says, "Connect and SmartBook are very useful in a flipped classroom model!"