Case Study: Biology - Broward College

Published August 17, 2015


Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Biology

Course Name:

General Biology (Non-Majors)

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Biology: Concepts and Investigation by M. Hoefnagels (2015, 3e)

Instructor Name:

Dr. Vanessa Hörmann


105/term (instructor total)

2,500/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Winter 2013 and Fall 2014

“Connect allows me to increase student engagement, it presents the topics in various teaching techniques. Broward College has a very diverse student body so Connect increases the variety of methods I can utilize…I truly enjoy using Connect in my classes.”

-Vanessa Hörmann

Connect Decreases Grading Time and Improves Exam Scores and Student Engagement

Connect has been an effective tool in both streamlining the course and achieving positive student outcomes. Connect reports gives Dr. Vanessa Hörmann data regarding her students’ challenges with course material, which she can then use to make adjustments to her lectures. Connect has doubled the time she has free to engage with her students by cutting the amount of time she is grading in half. Furthermore, Hörmann has been able to quantify positive outcomes in improved exam scores and course grades. She has also observed that her students are engaged in class at a higher level. Says Hörmann, “Students’ comprehension is not always reflected by how they perform on their exams or homework, [but] when my students participate in class and lively discussions, I witness their level of understanding.” For Dr. Hörmann, Connect has been a valuable tool that enables her to teach students in a more effective way, by pinpointing the areas on which she needs to focus in order to meet her students’ needs.

Results Achieved

Since she began implementing Connect and assigning SmartBook in Fall 2014, Hörmann reports students are performing significantly better on exams (Figure 1). She says, “Exam grades in lecture classes using Connect are higher, especially on exams covering more detailed aspects, such as transcription and translation. In general, exam scores are higher after students complete SmartBook modules.”



Additionally, Hörmann feels Connect has boosted students’ overall course grades (Figure 2). She adds, “With the use of Connect, I see fewer F’s in my class and the majority of students finish the term with a B. I credit this to the reporting options, which identifies at-risk students to me and helps students identify their trouble topics.” The pass rates are considerably higher as well. Her General Biology students saw pass rates improve an average of 16% after the implementation of Connect (Figure 3).


The amount of time Hörmann spends reviewing and grading her students’ work has decreased dramatically. Since implementing Connect, she now spends half the time she previously did grading (one hour per week vs. two hours per week), and the time she spends reviewing homework has dropped from an hour per week to 10 minutes per week (Figure 4). She explains, “Grading time has decreased since the homework is automatically graded, as well as [the fact that] the SmartBook scores are easily displayed.”


Course Description:

General Biology is a course for non-science majors. The course gives students a fundamental understanding of biological principles, with a focus on nature and the behavior of living organisms.

Institution Profile:

Broward College is a state community college located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The college is part of the Florida State College system and offers two-year degrees, four-year degrees, certificates and diplomas. Broward College has an annual enrollment of approximately 67,000 students.

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect Biology

Course Grade is determined by the following:

  • 41% Connect Assignments (Homework = 29%; SmartBook = 12%)
  • 47% Exams administered in Connect
  • 12% In-Class Quizzes

Because this is a hybrid course, half of students’ engagement with the course material happens online. Dr. Hörmann implements Connect heavily in this aspect of the course. She requires students to complete SmartBook modules for every chapter presented before lecture, as well as twice weekly assigning Connect homework, which is due one day prior to chapter exams.

Hörmann sees the benefits of the SmartBook modules throughout the term and notes that students can list the phases of the cell cycle even before they start the lecture on mitosis and meiosis.

Hörmann says, “Student attendance has increased; I think this might be because students complete SmartBook before attending lectures and have a better grasp of the material so class discussions are not as intimidating.”

The source material for the Connect homework assignments include a combination of different question types found in the Connect question bank including interactive drag and drop, videos/animations, fill-in-the blank, etc. Says Hörmann, “….homework assignments cover two to four chapters with 6 to 10 questions (depending on question type and level of difficulty), with a time limit of 90 minutes.” For selected topics, such as photosynthesis, she assigns the interactive drag/drop worksheets in Connect to cover the complex material.

Hörmann analyzes the Connect reports to see where students are scoring the lowest, which is helpful when doing reviews or simply reiterating important topics in class. She then customizes her lecture time around the more challenging topics and missed questions data from the SmartBook reports. Hörmann says, “Overall, Connect has allowed me to fine-tune my lecture. I am able to go into detail quicker in the lecture period since the students have completed their SmartBook modules and have an understanding of chapter topics…. Students tend to generate more detailed questions now, specific to the topics discussed.”

Dr. Hörmann finds that Connect creates a bridge that allows her teaching process to continue once students have left the classroom. She says “Using Connect allows me to engage students outside of the classroom; if I run out of time discussing certain topics, I can quickly create an assignment for the students…” As well, she finds that students are more actively involved with material outside of classroom hours thanks to Connect. Hörmann adds, “Student engagement has increased outside the classroom, and they tend to log on over the weekends to complete the assignments and access the SmartBook.”

“I truly enjoy using Connect in my classes and it has benefits for both the instructors and students including an easy set-up and an increase in student engagement and overall class averages.”


Since implementing Connect, Dr. Hörmann has seen improved retention and performance in General Biology, in addition to witnessing an elevation in the quality of their engagement with the material. For Hörmann, Connect is a valuable asset in the teaching process. She plans to use Connect for all her General Biology sections, and she will continue to recommend Connect to new faculty members in her department.