Case Study: Chemistry - Bethel University

Published Mon Aug 17 00:00:00 EDT 2015


Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Chemistry

Course Name:

General Chemistry

Course Type:

Lecture and Lab

Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Chemistry: Atoms First by Julia Burdge and Jason Overby

Instructor Name:

Dr. Brandon Winters


2 sections

80 students

160 students/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Fall 2013 and Fall 2014

“I was most impressed with the adaptive portion of SmartBook. In my opinion, it is no longer the text itself that is the most critical element of any particular text adoption, but rather the quality of the online materials including online homework and the e-book features.”

-Dr. Brandon Winters

Connect Enables Instructor to Focus on Tailoring Curriculum to Changing Student Needs

For Professor Winters, the online component of the educational process is most critical for students’ mastery of the course content. He has found Connect and SmartBook to be effective online tools and instrumental in his ability to teach the material more effectively. Since implementing Connect and SmartBook, he has more ti me to devote to teaching instead of grading. With the reporting data, he now has complete insight into how his students are performing and what they are struggling with in real ti me, which he can then use to address their challenges by adjusting his coverage of the material.

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Course Grade is determined by the following:

  • 40% - Exams
  • 20% - Connect (Problems and Smartbook)
  • 20% - Laboratory
  • 15% - Final Exam
  • 5% - Quizzes (In Class)

Dr. Winters assigns the SmartBook content incrementally in sections rather than by chapter. He says, “I have made the SmartBook due on a section by section basis so that students are completing the SmartBook for chapter sections the night prior to attending lecture where we cover that same material in class.” Dr. Winters breaks down each SmartBook chapter in two to four assignments each worth 100 points.

For each chapter, he also assigns in Connect two types of problems (conceptual and mathematical) due 48 hours aft er lecturing on the chapter in class. He typically assigns all of the available conceptual problems for that chapter. Aft er those are added to the assignment, he looks over the end of chapter problems and selects one or two for each section of the chapter that highlight the most essential types of problems students should master. He says, “These mathematical problems will range in difficulty and scope so that I feel students see a wide range of problems.”

Finally, he creates a third Connect assignment called Exam Prep, which is optional, but includes many similar problems to the required Connect problem assignment. The Exam Prep assignment problems are available with all of the guided solutions and hints where the required assignment does not include these and are limited to three attempts before a five percent deduction is made to any incorrect problems.

He says, “I have found that the name Exam Prep helps convince students these are important problems, which I further reinforce by selecting a couple of these problems as the basis for exam questions.”

As a result of implementing Connect, Winters is able to mold his teaching style to one that emphasizes group learning, an approach he values. He explains, “The use of Connect is allowing me to adapt my lecture style to include more group learning activities without having to formally flip the classroom. I am able to incorporate one lecture a week out of three that focuses exclusively on group problem solving and discussion-based learning. I plan to increase this further next year to approximately 50% group learning.”

SmartBook is also very valuable in tailoring his teaching of material to his students’ needs, because it gives him real-time feedback on where students are facing challenges with the material. He says, “I use the SmartBook reports to see how the class is progressing on specific objectives and see if there are any problems the entire class is struggling with. It is invaluable for real-time information that helps guide lecture focus.”

Results Achieved

Dr. Winters’ primary means of evaluating students’ success with course material is to assess their ability to correctly utilize technical terminology along with their ability to solve mathematical problems derived from the material. Based on his observations, Winters has concluded that SmartBook has been important to students’ absorption of material; as well, he finds that the SmartBook format seems to foster more effective learning because students are prompted to solve problems on their own. He says, “SmartBook is the most significant way students engage in reading about and learning new vocabulary in the proper context, and I think this has helped quite a bit. As for solving related mathematical problems in the Connect assignments, I think the ability to show hints, answers, and guided solutions has been invaluable in helping students solve problems and answer their own questions at the moment they have them.”

Another indication of Connect and SmartBook’s influence may be found in class attendance. Winters does not formally require attendance but says, “….. I would say anecdotally attendance has improved since I switched to Connect. I find students more engaged and more willing to attend class when they have already previewed the material.”

Since his implementation of Connect, test scores have improved for Winters’ students (Figure 1). However, for Winters, perhaps the most compelling evidence of Connect’s value for his students is the significant improvement in students’ grades after the introduction of Connect into the course (Figure 2). Says Winters, “In the first year after switching to Connect, I observed the same basic improvements in student grades that were advertised when I began investigating Connect and McGraw-Hill. I had many more A’s and B’s and very few D’s and F’s. I can’t argue with the improved grades.”

Course Description:

General Chemistry provides comprehensive coverage of the properties and principles of chemistry, including states of matter, atomic theory and thermodynamics. The concurrent lab provides an exploration of applications of the chemistry principles covered in class. This course is required for Chemistry majors.

Institution Profile:

Bethel University is a Christian university located in St. Paul, MN. Bethel serves 6,500 students from over 20 countries and offers associate and Bachelor’s degrees, as well as certificate programs and graduate-level degrees and certificates. The institution is a member of the Christian College Consortium. Bethel offers 88 majors, 43 minors and 11 pre-professional programs, including Seminary programs.



“Connect is a powerful online homework solution that incorporates a convenient e-book with adaptive problems and robust computational problems.”


Connect and SmartBook have enabled Dr. Winters to focus on his students needs and spend time developing more effective teaching approaches. “Connect is useful in my courses for two primary reasons. First, it frees me of the time I would otherwise be spending grading and looking over student assignments. This time can then be used for preparing in-class activities, which in turn result in better student performance. Second, the real-time feedback students get on the assignments allows them to both struggle with difficult problems on their own and get help solving them when things simply aren’t falling into place. In my opinion, it is important to be able to address student questions in the moment they arrive and Connect helps do that without me being present.”