I am debating if I should adopt the McGraw-Hill Connect system for my course next semester. On one hand, I am worried about the students' backslash because of the cost. On the other hand, after the pandemic teaching experience this fall semester, I want to utilize every opportunity to improve the students' grasp of the material.

The course in question is a quantitative one, taught to business students. It requires a lot of practice with problems, but in the current situation I cannot simply give a problem and circulate among the desks, helping to those who struggle. Another important feature: I have three sections for this course, each having about 50 students, so individual approach is problematic.

I have already coded quite a few "instant feedback" assignments in Blackboard LMS, but I feel that's not enough. Besides, even just importing and aligning them in LMS takes more time than I would spend lecturing in the classroom. Also, Connect allows me to monitor if the students actually read the textbook, and I expect that it would encourage them to actually read it. There is also an automatic text-to-speech narration, which is bad, but better than nothing -- they can listen to it while commuting, hopefully something sticks.

I will highly appreciate if someone shares their experience with me. Does Connect really improve student performance? If it does, how do you communicate to them that the hefty price is worth it?

Update: I saw some commenters concerned about the ethics of making the students pay for it, so I have changed the thread name to make my question more clear. More context: I work in a private US university, where the tuition is about $50,000 per year. Hence, the students are paying roughly $5000 to take this class. The publisher price for one semester access to Connect is over $100, which is outrageous, but if this allows the students to make the most of their tuition, I believe the right thing for me to do will be to adopt the system.

Of course, there are long-term consequences of this decision. A significant part of that ever-increasing tuition is what the universities have to pay to LMS and database providers: once their product gets adopted, they keep raising the prices, because switching to another textbook/system is very costly for the university. But I believe my responsibility is to do what is best for my students.

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    On the opposite, if more courses adopt it, it becomes, a standard, and the publisher gets a leverage to raise the price, and this is my other concern. In fact, right how I managed to negotiate a discount for my students, but I am far from sure they will give it to me in the future. – aehie Nov 14 '20 at 19:54
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    I find the point "Connect allows me to monitor if the students actually read the textbook" particularly disturbing. When I was a student, I seldom studied in any suggested book, but I used my notes (well, someone else's, I skipped most of the lectures too :-p) or books that I chose according to my learning preferences. And now I wouldn't want to impose any specific textbook to my students. So, don't monitor which book students use, just monitor that they are learning what needs to be learned. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 14 '20 at 20:12
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    It is not ethical to require your students to pay money to a private company. Using open educational resources is ethical. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 15 '20 at 1:47
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    It is not ethical to require your students to pay money to a private company — I'm a huge fan of open educational resources—I've produced a fair amount myself—but even I find this position is a little extreme. So it's unethical to require students to purchase printed textbooks? Lab kits? A computer? A calculator? Their own paper? – JeffE Nov 16 '20 at 4:01
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    On the other hand, I find the argument "I already pay $50,000 to be a student here; shouldn't that already cover stuff like this?" completely persuasive. – JeffE Nov 16 '20 at 4:03

I use Connect for one semester. Some comments

  • About the cost: what is the alternative if you don't use Connect? Probably a printed textbook. Connect is probably cheaper than a printed textbook, at least it was for my class. I did not have any students complain about the cost (out of about 80)

  • "Also, Connect allows me to monitor if the students actually read the textbook". Yes, but it doesn't monitor if they understand the textbook. I had many students asking questions during class that made it obvious that they had not understood the content from the book, even though nearly everyone had done the reading assignment.

  • The instant feedback feature is very nice. I personally gave students several attempts at the problem. i.e. if they got it wrong they had a chance to correct it. At least for me, this ended up driving a large number of students to attend office hours. i.e. without instant feedback, they assume they have done it right, turn it in, and a week or two later I grade it and they see they're done it wrong, but by that time we are already onto another topic. With instant feedback they know immediately that they are wrong, and then come to office hours to ask questions. I think this is a plus for student learning. You can, as you mentioned, code this into Blackboard or Canvas yourself, but have pre-coded questions will save you a lot of time.

I do plan to use it again.

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