Case Study: Connect® Political Science - Irvine Valley College

Irvine Valley College Logo

Digital Product in Use:

McGraw-Hill Connect® Political Science

LMS Integration:


Course Name:

American Government

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Program in Use:

We the People by Thomas Patterson, 10e

Instructor Name:

Joon S. Kil, Ph.D


4 sections; 45 students/section, 1600-1800 students/year (college total)

American Government Students’ Exam Scores and Grades Improve, while Fewer Students Fail with Connect

Since using Connect, Dr. Joon Kil finds that students’ scores on quizzes and exams are improved, grades are up, and students are more engaged in the material. “I’ve noticed that students are asking more informed questions since Connect was implemented”, he says. In addition, “Some students have told me that SmartBook assignments are making them read the book,” something that was not always happening prior to using Connect.

With Connect, Kil has seen his students’ performance improve by at least a half a grade on average. The passing rate, in the meantime, has risen an average of 10 percent points across his classes.

Joon Kil

Connect is a superb program that aids in students comprehension of assigned reading.”

– Dr. Joon Kil


Course grade is determined by the following:
43% – Exams
21% – Essays
20% – SmartBook
9% – Class Participation
7% – Quizzes administered within Connect

Before Connect was implemented four years ago, students of American Government weren’t achieving at the level Dr. Kil wanted them to. What he found, he recalls, was that test scores were low and overall grades were disappointing.

The content Kil covers in the course is the same since he implemented Connect four years ago, but the way the students cover the work now, with Connect and SmartBook, ensures that they are reading and engaging in the course content.

Connect course work consists of one to three assignments each week consisting of SmartBook and quizzes.

SmartBook creates a personalized reading experience by highlighting the most impactful concepts a student needs to learn at that moment in time and then reinforces the concepts through questions that adapt based upon how the students answers them. As a student engages with SmartBook, the reading and learning experience continuously adapts by focusing the student on content they need to learn based on what the student knows and doesn’t know.

Each SmartBook assignment corresponds with a chapter from Patterson’s, We the People and takes students an average of 30 minutes to complete. Kil reports that students who consistently complete weekly SmartBook assignments do better in their course work and on exams. These assignments are important for the students’ grades; they account for about 20 percent of the total grade. "Requiring SmartBook ensures that students are reading and engaging in the chapter content," Kil says.

Kil also assigns weekly quizzes in Connect. Each chapter quiz has 15 multiple-choice questions. There is an optional study guide included in each chapter folder as well which Kill encourages students to use to study for quizzes.

The reports in Connect and SmartBook assist Kil in managing his sections. Kil uses the Assignment Results report to monitor how students are performing on their assignments and Student Performance report to check on individual student progress. The Assignment Statistics report gives Kil an overall view into class-wide performance. The SmartBook report he finds most useful is Student Details – this tool helps him track how students are doing with their SmartBook assignments.

Kil uses Connect in conjunction with Blackboard which enables single sign on for students. As a result, they only have to log-in to Blackboard to access their Connect assignments and quizzes. Kil includes a PowerPoint titled "Using Connect" in his Blackboard course.

Results Achieved

More students are earning A’s, B’s and C’s as a result of using Connect, and more students are passing the course. “Student pass rate increased after using Connect,” he says. For one section, he reports, passing rates increased from 69 to 80 percent. The exam scores have improved by between a half a grade to a full grade. “One thing that was noticeable was that the average for both midterm and the final was above 70 percent with Connect,” he says.

The retention rate for two of his three sections, Kil noticed, dropped with the use of Connect which he attributes attributes to the increased accountability of students with the Connect system. “I suspect that students who did not want to do the extra work dropped the course,” he says.

Once using Connect, he says, he found that the final grade of his students improved about half a grade. In all three sections of the American Government class, the pass rate increased, on average 10 percent or more with the use of Connect (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Pass Rate

After Connect was implemented, the average exam scores increased in all three sections. Noticeably, the average of both midterms and final was above 70 percent with Connect (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Average Exam Scores

The percentage of students earning A’s has increased by 9%, while 3% fewer students are not passing the class (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Grade Distribution

Instructor’s implementation goals:

  • Students earn higher grades

  • Increase pass rates

  • Increase student reading prior to class

Issues for instructor before using Connect:

  • Students’ scores were disappointing

  • Failure rates were higher than Kil wanted

  • Students weren’t always doing the required reading

Benefits to instructor after using Connect:

  • Overall class grades were up by a half a grade, on average

  • The pass rate increased, on average 10 percent or more

  • More students reading the material

Course Description:

American Government is a political science course that provides a survey of the principles, personalities, problems and issues of government at the national, state and local levels. Topics including the U.S. Constitution, federalism and state constitutions, with a special emphasis on the State of California, and political ideologies, political parties, interest groups and elections as well as the legislature, the presidency and the federal bureaucracy, the judiciary and domestic and foreign policy making.

Institution Profile:

Irvine Valley College is a two-year institution in the city of Irvine, California. It is part of the California Community Colleges system. The school opened in 1979 under the name Saddleback College North Campus, then gained its independent status as well as its current name in 1985. The college offers associate of art and science degrees as well as certificates of achievement, and lower-division transferable courses to colleges and universities. It has a population of more than 14,000 students.

"I plan on using Connect in my American Government course for the foreseeable future."


Since Connect, was implemented, students are completing their reading each week and coming to lectures with a better understanding of the material. The proof is in the scores – final grades are up by an average of half a grade, and students report that they are more likely to complete their reading assignments as a result of using SmartBook with Connect.