Case Study: Connect® Finance - Ozarks Technical Community College

Ozarks Technical Community College

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Finance

LMS Integration:


Program in Use:

Focus on Personal Finance by Kapoor, Dlabay, Hughes, Hart 5e

Course Name:

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Instructor Name:

Dianna Parker


5 sections, average 24 students/section, with annual enrollment of 500 (university total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2011 (without Connect/SmartBook) and Spring 2015 (with Connect/SmartBook)

“With SmartBook, students are much more likely to come to class prepared to discuss the subject matter. It saves me time in preparation because students are more engaged and able to make meaningful contributions to classroom discussions.”

– Dianna Parker

Connect Boosts Test Scores and Pass Rates in Finance Course

Professor Dianna Parker needed a system that would be easy for her students and herself to use while also enabling her to ensure students stayed on target with their assignments. Connect proved easy to use, and she has been able to implement a “class cash” reward system, tracking the Connect assignments students completed and rewarding them with “cash” accordingly.

Since Parker implemented Connect she has found that when students come to class they’re ready to engage with the subject matter at hand. That not only means they provide meaningful contributions to class discussions, it also saves her time preparing for a class when she knows they won’t need to brush up on earlier material.

Implementation of McGraw-Hill Connect

Course grade is determined by the following:

70% – Connect homework and SmartBook assignments

30% – Exams administered within Connect

Parker assigns SmartBook and homework problems for each chapter due before lecture. “My desire is for student to complete the assignment before we discuss that particular chapter in class.” For each chapter she assigns SmartBook to be completed in an average of 20-25 minutes, and also assigns between 10-15 algorithmic problems. “I still like to go over some of the problems (they’ve already encountered with their homework assignment) in class for the teachable moments they provide,” she says. “I don’t need to spend nearly as much time on how to do the problems, but I like to use them to explain why we take particular approaches to problem solving and apply it to real world situations.”

Parker has taken the program one step further to ensure those assignments are getting done. “To encourage this, I have a class cash system,” she explains. Each student who completes the SmartBook and homework problems before the chapter is discussed earns $1 of “class cash”. The students can then use the class cash for extra credit ($1 equals 1 point), or they may use the class cash to buy out of an assignment. This buy-out can be done through a straight buy or through an auction.

Parker says, “I receive far fewer questions from students by ensuring the assignments are done before class. SmartBook and Connect are very beneficial in student engagement. Students come to class prepared for discussion and are much more engaged.” If students don’t complete the SmartBook and homework problems prior to the class discussion, Parker still allows students the opportunity to complete them until the day of the unit test.

Parker utilizes SmartBook reports to custom tailor her lectures. For example, before class she reviews the Missed Questions report to zero-in on the topics she needs to emphasize in class. The Most Challenging Learning Objectives report allows her to focus on specific learning objectives and make sure those objectives are being met. The real-time student data allows her to identify areas of concern and adapt teaching strategies to meet the needs of each class.

The most useful Connect reports have been the Connect Insight dashboard, Student Performance, Assignment Statistics and the At-Risk Report. “I would have a very difficult time using my class cash incentive without the Assignment Statistics reporting capability,” she says, which provides her with a view into the assignments throughout the course and scores for completed assignments, identifying who’s eligible for class cash. “The At-Risk report allows me to identify students who are falling behind. I am able to communicate with students who are struggling and hopefully get them back on track.”

Parker integrates Connect with Blackboard. “The integration is flawless”, she says. “All of my Connect and SmartBook assignments are available to students in Blackboard. They only have one login and they can easily access all of their assignments.” Parker organizes the assignments in dated folders so there is no question about the homework requirements, or their due dates. And in addition, she says, “it is a great time saver to me since the grades are automatically transferred to the Blackboard grade book.”

Results Achieved

One of the key benefits for Parker is in time savings. “Using Connect saves me mountains of grading time. Without it, my students would not have the same learning opportunities and I wouldn’t have nearly much time to spend with my family.”

Figure 1 - Hours Per Week Grading

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Find a program that has a low learning curve.

  • Find a program that is easy to use.

  • Ensure students complete assignments.

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Too much time grading.

  • Students not coming to class prepared.

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Test scores and pass rates increased by four percent.

  • Grading time has dramatically decreased, saving her time for student education and free time with her family.

  • With Connect she has been able to implement a “class cash” rewards system that rewards students for completing their homework with cash that can be used to buy out of an assignment or earn extra credit points.

Since implementing Connect, average overall test scores have improved from 69.8 percent to 74.8 percent. (Figure 2)

The standard deviation of final grades has decreased from 14.8 to 11.4. (Figure 3)

Figure 2 - Overall Test Score Percent / Figure 3 - Final Grades Standard Deviation

The passing rate of students completing the course has improved by four percent, from 94 percent to 98 percent. (Figure 4)

Figure 4 - Student Passing Rate

Course Description:

The course is a survey of personal financial planning. Topics covered include: personal budgeting, investments, insurance, credit, housing, and retirement planning. The goals are for students to learn the fundamentals of financial planning so they can make informed choices related to spending, saving, borrowing, and investing that lead to long-term financial security

Institution Profile:

Ozarks Technical Community College is a two-year college in Springfield, Mo. with a focus on technical education. Students can earn an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts degree or a one-year certificate. The college has 15,000 students, on average, enrolled.

“Connect is easy to use and is a valuable learning tool.”


Parker needed a new program that was easy to learn and implement. Connect surpassed her expectations. “There is always a learning curve associated with the implementation of a new system, but Connect is very intuitive, easy to use and easy to navigate,” she says. Since Parker implemented Connect and SmartBook she has found that students come to class more prepared and ready to engage in class discussions. This has not only saved her time preparing for class but has also contributed to higher test scores and pass rates.