MyITLab educator study analyzes simulation and grader project scores at Piedmont Technical College

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MyITLab educator study analyzes simulation and grader project scores at Piedmont Technical College

Key Findings

  • Data for this course show a very strong positive correlation of average MyITLab Simulation scores and average MyITLab Grader Project scores for both online and lecture sections.
  • Data indicate that students who earned higher final exam scores, showing mastery of course material by earning an A/B/C average, had average MyITLab Grader Project scores 17 percentage points higher than students who earned a D or F on the final exam.
  • Integration of MyITLab with the Piedmont Technical College Learning Management System—Desire2Learn—enabled Wilson to easily transfer student grades and allowed students to log in to MyITLab simply and quickly with just a single sign on.

School name
Piedmont Technical College, Greenwood, SC

Course name
Introduction to Computers

Course formats
Online; lecture, lab-based

Course materials
MyITLab®; Skills for Success with Microsoft Office 2013, Volume 1, Townsend, Hain, Murre Wolf

Fall 2015

Submitted by
MaryLou Wilson, Instructor


  • Locale: two-year, medium-sized, small-town community college serving seven counties in the Lakelands region of South Carolina
  • Enrollment: approximately 6,000 students
  • Full-time: 42 percent
  • Student-faculty ratio: 20:1
  • Average classroom size: 19 students
  • Full-time retention rate: 59 percent
  • Graduation rate: 13 percent
  • First time, full-time: 14 percent
  • Age: 43 percent over age of 24
  • Ethnicity/Race: 40 percent African American, 50 percent total minority

About the Course

Instructor MaryLou Wilson has been at Piedmont Technical College since 2001, teaching full-time for the past ten years, and teaching the Introduction to Computers course for 15 years. Introduction to Computers is a three-credit, one-semester course offered face-to-face and online, enrolling over 800 students each year. Classes are offered in 10-, 12-, 15- and 16-week terms, with face-to-face classes meeting twice a week for 2.5 hours, and hybrid classes meeting once each week for 2.5 hours. The remaining credit hours are accomplished through online work. The course is open to all students in all programs, with 75 percent of the students pursuing an associate degree. Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Recognize various components of computer hardware and software as well as input and output capabilities.
  • Create an organized filing system using the operating system, and use it throughout the course.
  • Access various sites on the internet to create content.
  • Format business reports, perform numerical analysis of data to include the creation of graphs and charts, store and manage large amounts of data, and create slides for message communication to an audience.

Challenges and Goals

About eight years ago, Wilson and her colleagues were using a competitor’s digital product for their Introduction to Computers course. The product experienced a complete failure, forcing the instructors at PTC to abandon the program mid-semester and complete the remainder of the year without a homework or assessment platform. Instructors were obligated to hand-grade homework, quizzes, and tests for the final eight weeks of the semester. Desiring consistency of content across all sections in an attempt to give every student a similar course experience, Wilson and colleagues reviewed MyITLab as a replacement for the problematic program they had been using. The option to create a coordinator course in MyITLab—allowing every instructor to use the same content around the same learning objectives and outcomes, with the same assignments, schedule, and assessments—was an advantage that Wilson, as the new lead instructor, found important while making their decision. Being able to manage the many sections and instructors allowed Wilson to define a course where grade consistency could be achieved regardless of format or instructor.


Wilson’s use of MyITLab is required. The program is used both at home on a personal computer (all students) and in a lab setting (face-to-face lecture students). Students use the program for reviewing new concepts and content understanding, homework assignments, practice, exam preparation, quizzing, and all course assessments. Wilson’s goals for assigning homework in MyITLab are to get students engaged with the textbook and using the various multimedia assets available to them, for practice with key concepts, and to help students assess their own understanding of the course material, as well as to track their progress.

In both online and face-to-face lecture sections, Wilson urges students to follow a standard weekly format:

  • Read the assigned textbook chapters as well as view the MyITLab videos and audio PowerPoint presentation for the material being covered that day in class.
  • Complete the MyITLab Training Simulation.
  • Complete the MyITLab Grader Homework Project, followed by the MyITLab Grader Assessment Project.
  • Take the Hands-on quiz, which is a Training Simulation Assessment.
  • Complete the End-of-chapter quiz on the Computer Concepts portion of the course.

All assignments in MyITLab are open on day one of the course; students can, and do, work ahead, allowing students who are familiar with a particular Office application to move quickly through the material and devote the additional time to other applications in the course. Due dates are weekly—by chapter—completing one chapter each week or two.

Students complete the training simulations first and have unlimited attempts at completion. Wilson wants her students to practice in the application itself, learning multiple methods for executing a command before taking the chapter assessments. In fact, 96 percent of Wilson’s students responding to an end-of-semester survey in Fall 2015 (95 percent response rate) said they agree or strongly agree that the training simulations helped them get familiar with and practice skills for each of the Office applications before taking the Grader Project assessments. Additionally, the three learning aids are turned on during the simulation work: students can read from the eText, watch a demonstration video, or practice in the Office application for hints on completing the skill. One student in the survey commented on why they used the learning aids: “The learning aids really help when you are stuck on a process.” The learning aids are an integral part of student learning, as confirmed in the survey:

  • 73 percent of students strongly agree that they used the available learning aids when unable to complete an action in the training simulation.
  • 20 percent of students agree that they used the available learning aids when unable to complete an action in the training simulation.

After working through the training simulation, students complete the Grader Project for homework. They may complete each task on the assignment as many times as they’d like, then submit the project for scoring. Scoring is done immediately, and students are provided with a personalized and detailed Review Summary Report (view from minute 4:00 until end) which Wilson has them use to correct their errors. The report gives each student a marked-up version of their submission—using a red X to identify an area where students did not earn all possible points—and also includes a description of their specific error so they can make corrections. Once students are comfortable with their success on the Grader Project homework assignment, they are then able to complete the Grader Project Assessment. They have three attempts at completion and may use the Review Summary Report again as a guide for corrections prior to final submission for reported grading. The highest score of the three attempts is recorded in the gradebook.

Students also complete a Training Simulation Assessment exercise, which Wilson refers to as the hands-on quiz. Students have three attempts at completion, and the highest score is recorded in the gradebook. Similarly, students take a weekly 15 question end-of-chapter quiz for each chapter in the Concepts text. They have three attempts at completion of this quiz and the highest score is recorded as final in the gradebook.

The final exam is on site and proctored. Students must take the exam at a PTC-approved facility under the supervision of a PTC-approved proctor. The exam is a 35-question simulation with ten questions taken from the quizzes of each of three Office applications—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—and five questions taken from the Access quizzes. It is un-timed and open book, open notes. Students have two attempts at completion, and their highest score is recorded as the final grade.

In face-to-face classes, lecture is spent working through the textbook walkthrough on the smartboard. Students do the activity on their computer along with Wilson as she moves through the chapter material. She finds this to be an organized way to cover the content as it ensures that all key topics are covered before students begin the assignments. She is able to move quickly through less complex material while devoting more time to the challenging topics.

Wilson expects her students will spend at least 3-5 hours per week working in MyITLab. Some students will spend more time working through practice simulations as needed, and others will use the eText, video lectures, or other features in the program as part of their practice and assessment preparation—so usage can vary greatly. On the end-of-semester survey, 49 percent of students said they spent more than four hours working in MyITLab each week, with another 40 percent of students reporting that they spent at least 2-4 hours working in the program.

Learning Management System (LMS) Integration
Required to use the school LMS gradebook, Wilson was intrigued by the ability to integrate MyITLab with Desire2Learn (D2L), the system used at Piedmont. Ultimately, she opted to integrate MyITLab and D2L in Summer 2015 for following reasons:

  • Grade transfer – easily able to transfer grades from MyITLab to D2L
  • Single sign-on – students are ready to work in MyITLab on the first day of class
  • Content linking – ability to link to MyITLab from within D2L

Before integrating with her LMS, Wilson had to manually move student grades from MyITLab to D2L, an onerous and time-consuming task. The availability of grade syncing made the decision to integrate the two platforms quite simple. Additionally, students now have just one access code and a single sign-on instead of the need to log into D2L, followed by a separate login to MyITLab. Confusion was common during the beginning of the semester, with students using the wrong login for the wrong platform, resulting in questions, emails, complaints and turmoil that Wilson had little time to manage. As one student on the end-of-semester survey said: “What I liked most is that MyITLab was in D2L, I didn’t have to worry about hunting for a different website or having to remember a separate username and password.” The single sign-on has resulted in a much quieter semester start, also confirmed by the survey:

  • 97 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to access MyITLab through D2L and appreciated not needing a second, separate login for MyITLab.
  • 95 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the login and registration process for MyITLab was simple and fast through D2L.


  • 35% MyITLab Grader Project Assessments
  • 25% MyITLab quizzes
  • 25% Final exam
  • 15%  MyITLab Training Simulations and Grader Project homework assignments

Results and Data

Figures 1, 2, and 3 are correlation graphs; correlations do not imply causation but instead measure the strength of a relationship between two variables, where r is the correlation coefficient. The closer the r value is to 1.0, the stronger the correlation. The corresponding p-value measures the statistical significance/strength of this evidence (the correlation or r), where a p-value <.01 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables:

  • A strong positive correlation exists between average MyITLab Simulation grades and the average MyITLab Grader Project grade, where r=.67 and p<.01 (Wilson’s face-to-face section only).
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between average MyITLab Simulation grades and the average MyITLab Grader Project grade, where r=.89 and p<.01 (Wilson’s online section only).
  • A strong positive correlation exists between average MyITLab Simulation grades and the average MyITLab Grader Project grade, where r=.6 and p<.01 (all sections).

Data for Figures 1 and 2 reflect the sections taught by Wilson in Fall 2015 only; data for Figure 3 includes all sections of Introduction to Computing offered at Piedmont in Fall 2015. For students, the formative MyITLab Training Simulations are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the more summative Grader Projects. It appears that performance on these assignments could be a leading indicator of course success (additional research is needed to develop and test this concept further).

Figure 4 identifies MyITLab Grader Project completion rates for all face-to-face lecture sections. Completion rates were analyzed to determine if a relationship exists between assignment completion and final exam grades. Students were placed into two groups based on the average number of Grader Project assignments they completed. Students who completed more than the average number of skipped assignments earned higher average final exam grades than students who skipped more than the average number of assignments:

  • Average number of Grader Project assignments skipped: .8
  • Students who completed all MyITLab Grader Project assignments had average final exam grades 9 percentage points higher than students who skipped one or more assignments.
  • 63 percent of students (n=243) completed all MyITLab Grader Project assignments.
  • 51 percent of students earning an A as their final exam grade completed all Grader Project assignments.

Figure 5 shows a strong linear relationship of the final course grade distribution per average MyITLab Grader Project score for all sections of online students. Students who earned higher average MyITLab Grader Project scores also earned higher final course grades. It should be noted that the Grader Project scores are 35 percent of the final course grade, influencing this relationship.

  • Students earning a final course grade of A scored an average of 97 percent on the Grader Projects in MyITLab.
  • Students earning a final course grade of D or F scored an average of 42 percent on the Grader Projects in MyITLab.

104 students neither completed the course nor officially withdrew and were not included in the analysis above. None of these students took the final exam and also completed less than 50 percent of the course assignments.

Correlation between average MyITLab simulation grade and average MyITLab Grader project grade


Figure 1. Correlation between Average MyITLab Simulation Grade and Average MyITLab Grader Project Grade, Fall 2015, Lecture Section (n=20)

Correlation between average MyITLab simulation grade and average MyITLab Grader project grade


Figure 2. Correlation between Average MyITLab Simulation Grade and Average MyITLab Grader Project Grade, Fall 2015, Online Section (n=25)

Correlation between average MyITLab simulation grade and average MyITLab Grader project grade


Figure 3. Correlation between Average MyITLab Simulation Grade and Average MyITLab Grader Project Grade, Fall 2015, All Sections (n=383)

Relationship between MyITLab Grader project completion and average final exam grade


Figure 4. Relationship between MyITLab Grader Project Completion and Average Final Exam Grade, Fall 2015, All Sections, Students Completed All Grader Projects (n=243); Students Skipped One or More Grader Projects (n=140)

Relationship between average MyITLab Grader project score and final course letter grades


Figure 5. Relationship between Average MyITLab Grader Project Score and Final Course Letter Grades, Fall 2015, All Online Sections (n=243)

The Student Experience

Responses from a Fall 2015 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Wilson’s students (95 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyITLab:

  • 98 percent of students agree or strongly agree that the use of MyITLab positively impacted their quiz and exam scores.
  • 96 percent of students agree or strongly agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyITLab.
  • 96 percent of students agree or strongly agree that they would recommend use of MyITLab to other students.

Student survey comments to the question “What did you like most about MyITLab?” include:

  • “I like the hands-on training mostly because I learn well seeing how to complete an assignment rather than just reading how.”
  • “I loved the fact that it allowed me multiple attempts to get an answer correct. I feel as though when we are working with software on a daily basis, we may not know how to get to something the first time. By giving attempts it makes MyITLab more personable.”
  • “It had everything that I needed to learn and pass quizzes and tests. This helped tremendously in having a one stop shop for everything. It was very convenient.”
  • “I would have failed the course without the training simulations.”
  • “What I like the most about MyITLab is the practicing, from reading, watching videos and doing hands-on practices, it helped out a lot.”
  • “The tutorials after wrong answers were helpful, that way I didn’t continue to do the wrong thing.”
  • “The practice and numerous ways to learn information other than a book because different people learn different ways.”


Offering their students a common experience across sections and instructors was important to Wilson and her colleagues as they chose a new digital companion for their Introduction to Computers class; similarly, the MyITLab coordinator course gave them the ability to manage assignments, due dates, and course content regardless of course format or instructor. Being able to integrate with their campus LMS made the grade transfer process between MyITLab and their required D2L gradebook simple and quick, while also creating a straightforward environment for students to register and login, without the need for multiple access codes, usernames, and passwords. The simplicity of the process enables her students to immediately start working on course requirements the first week of class.


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