More General Chemistry Students Earn A's and B's with Connect



Columbus State Community College Logo

Digital Product in Use:

McGraw-Hill Connect® Chemistry


LMS Integration:

Blackboard


Course Name:

General Chemistry I


Course Type:

Lecture and Lab


Credit Hours:

Five


Program in Use:

Chemistry by Chang and Goldsby, 11e


Instructor Name:

Maia Randle, PhD


Enrollment:

1 section; 24 students/section; 750 college-wide annual enrollment


Case Study Term:

Fall 2013; Fall 2014; Fall 2015



“Connect and SmartBook help my students with reading and comprehension of course concepts as well as problem solving and critical thinking.”

– Dr. Maia Randle

More A’s and B’s, Improved Exam Scores and Higher Level Learning in the Classroom with Connect

Dr. Maia Randle implemented Connect to give students more opportunities to apply the concepts they learned in lectures as well as to help them become more independent learners in the process. Students in her General Chemistry 1 class are now earning A’s and B’s at a higher rate and receiving fewer D’s and F’s. Final exam scores increased from an average of 67 to 78 percent. She attributes these improvements to better understanding of the material by students who complete the SmartBook assignments ahead of each lecture. For Randle, students’ improved understanding frees up lecture time for interactive activities leading to higher level learning.

Implementation

Course grade is determined by the following:

55% – Exams
24% – Labs
11% – Quizzes
5% – LearnSmart Prep and SmartBook Assignments
5% – Active learning activities

Randle’s approach included early preparation to ensure students had the prerequisite knowledge to be successful from the beginning of the semester. She assigned LearnSmart Prep ten days before the semester officially started as a review of the first three chapters in the text. The assignments covered unit conversions, significant figures, names and formulas of ionic and covalent compounds, as well as balancing chemical equations, stoichiometry, and limiting reactants.

“It gave students the opportunity to review these concepts before formally covering the material, and therefore; fewer excuses (for example: I haven’t had chemistry since the 10th grade)”, Randle says. Now students who may have normally struggled and fallen behind in the first few weeks have an equal opportunity to succeed in the course by remediating on forgotten knowledge.

Once class started, she assigned a SmartBook assignment for that week’s chapter due before lecture. “I typically select maximum coverage of each chapter with very few exceptions”, she says. By doing so, she required students to read and comprehend the concepts each week to stay current in the course and ready to engage in deeper learning

Her preparation for lecture now includes reviewing the SmartBook reports to gauge student activity and comprehension. She reports, “I spend less time talking about some topics because I expect students to be applying concepts with SmartBook.”

The SmartBook reports she finds most helpful are the Practice Quiz and Missed Questions reports. “I encourage students to do practice quizzes for each chapter as an exam review. My exams always consist of multiple choice questions and write-out questions.” SmartBook assignments and Practice Quizzes help students prepare for the multiple choice part of the exams. For Missed Questions she encourages students to revisit their own missed questions for each SmartBook assignment so they can better learn the content and review it in preparation for their exams. “Students who struggled with multiple choice questions really benefit from doing the practice quizzes before an upcoming exam. Students become more independent in their learning. SmartBook gives them a method for learning how to study,” she says.

Post-lecture Randle assigns weekly homework in Connect. “These chapter assignments are designed to complement the end of the chapter homework assignments by providing guided solutions,” she says. “Students are expected to work on homework problems primarily out of class and now they have an online solutions manual to help them when they need it.” She adds, “Connect and SmartBook helps students with reading and comprehension of course concepts as well as problem solving and critical thinking.”

Columbus State Community College uses Blackboard as its learning management system. Randle integrates her Connect sections with Blackboard by creating a content areas titled ‘SmartBook Assignments’ and ‘Homework’ to house each chapter’s assignment. “I also keep a course calendar which displays the due date for each assignment. When a student completes an assignment, the grade is instantly posted in the Blackboard grade book.”

Results Achieved

By eliminating the need to explain basic concepts covered in the SmartBook reading assignments, Randle has regained at least an hour per week in lecture time (Figure 1). During this extra time, she now gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the concepts by undertaking group problem presentations or other interactive projects. “I really love this aspect,” Randle says, “because I get to lecture less and students get more opportunities to learn by interacting with their classmates.”

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Finding a digital tool that helped students become more independent learners

  • A solution that would allow students to apply concepts presented in lectures

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Students did not have prerequisite chemistry knowledge coming into the course

  • Not enough time for active learning in the classroom due to students’ lack of preparedness

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Students are more prepared for lecture

  • More free time in class for interactive activities

  • Final exam scores have risen

  • Students are earning more A’s and B’s and fewer D’s and F’s

By eliminating the need to explain basic concepts covered in the SmartBook reading assignments, Randle has regained at least an hour per week in lecture time (Figure 1). During this extra time, she now gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the concepts by undertaking group problem presentations or other interactive projects. “I really love this aspect,” Randle says, “because I get to lecture less and students get more opportunities to learn by interacting with their classmates.”

Figure 1: Lecture Time Spent Weekly in Active Learning

Figure 2: Grade Distribution With and Without Connect

Figure 3: Average Final Exam Score

Course Description:

This is a course in fundamental chemical principles. Topics include measurements and significant figures, atomic structure, the mole concept, stoichiometry, fundamentals of acid-base and redox chemistry, the behavior of gases and gas laws, thermochemistry, introduction to quantum mechanics, properties of waves and electromagnetic radiation, atomic orbitals and electron configuration, periodic classification, chemical bonding, Lewis structures, molecular geometry, polarity of molecules, valence bond theory, and molecular orbital theory. This is the first of a two-semester sequence designed for students entering a scientific field. The course requires four lecture hours and three lab hours per week.

Institution Profile:

Columbus State Community College is a two-year college for Central Ohio residents that provides associate degrees in career and technical fields as well as associate of arts or associate of sciences degrees. The school also offers a variety of short-term training opportunities and continuing education through its Community Education and Workforce Development division.



“With Connect, students become more independent in their learning. Connect gives them a method for learning how to study.”

Conclusion

Because students are coming to lectures with a better understanding of the course material for that week, Randle is able to engage in more interactive activities such as group discussions and presentations. The use of Connect, Randle adds, has helped hone students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.