Georgia Gwinnett College

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Test Scores, Grade Averages, and Student Pass Rates Improve when Combining Connect and SIMnet

Dr. Kamal Kakish implemented Connect and SIMnet to offer students adaptive learning tools that would increase student retention levels and that could save time for both students and faculty. The Introduction to Computing class consists of a combination of conceptual topics and Microsoft Office skills, and Connect and SIMnet have enabled him, and more than fifty other faculty for the popular class, to provide an integrated learning experience that students can access from a single point of entry making it easy for students to use.

As a result of switching to SIMnet and Connect, our fifty-plus faculty teaching the Intro to Computing course have had more flexibility in scheduling, less lecture time, more active learning and face-to-face classroom time, and contented students.
Dr. Kamal Kakish


Course grade is determined by the following:
40% – SIMnet
20% – SmartBook
15% – Quizzes administered with Connect
15% – Midterm and final exams
10% – Class attendance and/or participation

SIMnet, a learning and assessment tool for Microsoft Office skills, helps Kakish monitor student progress on learning outcomes in a virtual Microsoft Office environment. He employs the adaptive learning feature, SIMpaths in SIMnet, for applications and the adaptive interactive reading experience, SmartBook in Connect, for concepts. "Both programs helped in reducing lecture and grading, and the students love this method of learning," he says. "As a result, I can cover much more in a shorter time, and the students appreciate not having to relearn what they already knew."

Assignments vary each week based on what is being covered. A typical week includes a SmartBook assignment covering one chapter from Technology: At Your Service due before class, completing a SIMPath (pre-test, lesson, post-test) or completing a SIMnet Project working live in a Microsoft Office application. Requiring SmartBook due before class allowed Kakish to focus on learning topics that most students struggled with. Kakish reviews the Connect Student Performance report along with the SmartBook Practice Quiz report and Missed Questions report before class starts. "The reports enable me to spend more time focusing on what students do NOT know and less time on what they do know," says Kaskish.

The weekly SIMpath assignments consists of a pre-test in the Microsoft Office simulated environment, an adaptive customized lesson based on the pre-test results, and then a post-test, also simulated, which has the option to be adaptive as well. The customized lesson includes the reading from Microsoft Office 2016: In Practice, a video, and the opportunity to practice in the simulated Microsoft Office environment.

Kakish advises others to allocate adequate time to train faculty on the numerous capabilities within Connect and SIMnet that could otherwise be under-utilized. "Connect and SIMnet are very powerful and feature-rich products. Invest time in learning these capabilities (beyond the basic use) to benefit from all of the features," he says.

Kakish creates a simple learning experience for his students by providing a single access point with D2L using the McGraw-Hill Campus API.

Results Achieved

Connect and SIMnet have saved Kakish significant time grading. And, as a result of launching these digital tools for his course, he has been able to consolidate conceptual topics and Microsoft Office applications.

Kakish first began using SIMnet in 2014 and then added Connect in 2015. Based on a comparison of before Connect and after Connect exam scores, Kakish found that scores rose about 10 percentage points across eight exams (including midterm and final), in all three sections that were evaluated (Figure 1).

Georgia Gwinnett College Figure 1

Student pass rates also rose significantly with Connect by almost 10 percentage points (Figure 2).

Georgia Gwinnett College Figure 2

The rate of A’s and B’s increased with the use of Connect, while D’s and F’s declined (Figure 3).

Georgia Gwinnett College Figure 3

Time spent giving quizzes, prepping for lecture and grading have all decreased with the use of Connect and SIMnet (Figure 4). "Now with adaptive learning students retain more and instructors save time," says Kakish.

Georgia Gwinnett College Figure 4

Student Feedback

Georgia Gwinnett Updated Student Survey Results From Fall 2017 with Connect Master: Investigating Technology

Georgia Gwinnett College Figure 5
It makes teaching and learning massive amounts of content manageable within limited time and resources.


For Kakish, Connect and SIMnet provide an effective way to quickly view assignment results before class, and tailor his lectures accordingly, saving both him and his students from wasting time covering material they already understand, while drilling into the material where they are still challenged. By implementing Connect for Computer Concepts and SIMnet for Microsoft Office skills, Kakish has boosted student performance while also improving his own efficiency.

Students report that SIMnet is the best simulation tool they have experienced. Since Connect and SIMnet was implemented, Kakish says he has learned that adaptive learning, when implemented correctly, could yield efficiency improvements that benefit both students and faculty and maximize the most efficient use of time. In addition, he says, adopting Connect and SIMnet helped faculty define specific metrics that they plan to work toward achieving in the future.

Dr. Kamal Kakish

Dr. Kamal Kakish is a chief technologist with more than 25 years of experience in IT strategic planning and leadership, IT architectures and infrastructures, with a specialized focus in global supply chain security. He’s been a senior executive at Fortune 100 and other entrepreneurial technology organizations. Over the past 10 years, Kakish has taught online and traditional IT and management courses in the United States and abroad. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and his doctorate degree in management of information technology form Lawrence Technological University

Digital Product in Use: McGraw-Hill Connect® and SIMnet
LMS Integration: D2L
Course Name: Introduction to Computing
Course Type: Hybrid
Credit Hours: Four
Program in Use: At Your Service by Ralph De Arazoza; Microsoft Office 2016: In Practice by Randy Nordell
Instructor Name: Kamal Kakish, DMIT
Enrollment: 3 sections; 26 students/section, 5000-6000 students/year (college total)
Case Study Terms: 2014-2015 (without Connect); 2015-2016 (with Connect)

Instructor's implementation goals:

  • Reduce time spent preparing for lectures
  • Better identify areas where students need more work
  • Increase retention levels

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Dr. Kakish was sometimes covering material students may already firmly grasp, while not knowing areas where they needed more help.
  • Time wasn’t being spent efficiently by either faculty or students

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Overall test scores are higher
  • The rate of A’s and B’s is up while the rate of D’s and F’s have dropped
  • Created metrics faculty can use to improve the course in the future
  • About 10 percent more students are passing the course

Course Description:

Introduction to Computing provides an introduction to computers and application software. It focuses on hardware; system software; application software; problem solving; networking and security; and application packages such as word processing, spread sheets, database and presentation software.

Institution Profile:

Georgia Gwinnett College is a four-year public college that opened in 2006. The Lawrenceville, Ga., based school is a member of the University System of Georgia. The college has about 11,000 students representing 91 nations. It offers 42 concentrations in 15 majors.