MyLab Accounting educator study evaluates use of the Study Plan with quiz and exam scores at Harford Community College



MyLab Accounting educator study evaluates use of the Study Plan with quiz and exam scores at Harford Community College


Key Findings

  • Students who completed the MyLab Study Plan had higher average exam and final course grades than students who did not complete the Study Plan.
  • Data indicate strong correlations exist between MyLab Study Plan scores and homework, quiz, and final course scores.
  • 81 percent of students responding to an end-of-semester survey agreed that the use of the MyLab Study Plan positively impacted their quiz and exam grades.

School name
Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD

Course name
Accounting Principles I

Course format
Face to face

Course materials
MyLab Accounting with Horngren’s Accounting by Miller-Nobles, Mattison, and Matsumura

Fall 2016

L.J. Baker, Assistant Professor

Results reported by
Candace Cooney, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager



  • Locale: two-year, suburban, public institution located in northeast Maryland
  • Enrollment: more than 9,000 for-credit students, more than 11,000 non-credit students
  • Full-time: 18 percent
  • First-time students: 26 percent
  • Graduation rate: 20 percent
  • Average age: 25
  • Gender: 59 percent female
  • Ethnicity/race: 27.5 percent identify as minority

About the Course

L.J. Baker has been teaching full-time for 11 years at Harford Community College where he has been teaching the Accounting Principles I course. Accounting Principles I is a one-semester, three-credit course which is part of a two-semester sequence, enrolling approximately 375 students per year, both online and face-to-face. It is required of all business administration majors. The course is an introduction to accounting theory and practice with an emphasis on accounting for assets. The complete accounting cycle is presented and end-of-period financial reports are prepared. Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • apply basic financial, managerial, cost and tax accounting principles;
  • develop and employ problem-solving skills related to accounting issues;
  • analyze and discuss transactions and related financial statements; and
  • recognize ethical accounting behavior.

Challenges and Goals

Baker believes accounting is mastered by repetitive working of homework problems, but teaching large sections without graduate assistants did not allow him to monitor, collect, and grade homework. In 2009, he sought a digital course companion that would require students to complete homework assignments weekly, but that would also grade the homework for them. The immediate feedback and learning aids in MyLab were advantages that made the program even more uniquely qualified to help his students while they were practicing and completing homework assignments. Baker adopted MyLab as a course component beginning in fall 2009 (see Baker’s initial Harford CC MyLab educator study).

In Fall 2016, Baker set out to discern if the Study Plan in MyLab would provide a further opportunity for students to engage with the course material outside of class, leading to learning gains validated by course assessments. As he was teaching two sections of Accounting Principles I, he required one section to complete the MyLab Study Plan as a prerequisite to the MyLab quiz, confirming that they have an understanding of the learning objectives tested on the quiz. The remaining MyLab assignments and quizzes, as well as course exams and other projects, were standardized across both sections.


MyLab Accounting is required; the program is used predominantly by students at home on a personal computer. Students use MyLab for practice and homework assignments as well as quizzes. Baker’s goals for assigning work in MyLab are to get students to read the textbook, practice problems that address key Accounting concepts, and help students assess their own understanding of the course material and track their progress. As the course instructor, Baker’s role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MyLab, introduce new content in lecture, and provide support and remote monitoring to students taking the course online. He anticipates that students will spend approximately 3 hours per week working in MyLab, which may include reading the eText and completing assignments. Based on results of a voluntary, end-of-semester survey (57 percent response rate), 31 percent of students said they spent 2–3 hours per week using MyLab, while 50 percent of students indicated they spent more than three hours in the program each week.

Baker urges his students to read the appropriate textbook chapters before attending class, paying particular attention to illustrations and demonstration problems. He finds that the most effective use of classroom time focuses on reinforcing and clarifying what students have attempted to learn on their own. Due to the volume of material that must be covered, it is impossible to lecture on all the content presented in the textbook in just one semester. For this reason, lecture covers the most important points in each chapter, and students are responsible individually for questioning that content which they don’t understand. After new content is covered, students will work in pairs with iPads received through a grant, completing the Dynamic Study Modules in MyLab. Their responses to these questions help Baker identify what content students understand completely and what topics he may need to refocus on.Students are assigned end-of-chapter homework problems in MyLab; approximately one textbook chapter is covered each week with a companion homework assignment. Baker creates a weekly assignment that consists of short exercises, more complex exercises, and longer, multi-step problems. Only the multi-step problems are required and graded, while the exercises are recommended and then usually reviewed in lecture. Three required comprehensive problems are assigned each week and are due prior to the exam day. Students are given three attempts at each homework problem and all learning aids are turned on. Learning aids provide tutorial help at the point-of-use; 63 percent of students on the end-of-semester survey said they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ use the learning aids when unable to start or complete a homework problem. A student on the survey commented on the importance of the learning aids: “I liked the ‘Help Me Solve This’ feature that provided me with practical examples to follow in order to solve the problems.”

Baker required just one section of students in Fall 2016 to complete the MyLab Study Plan, while the other section had the Study Plan available to them as an optional study aid. All other MyLab and other course assignments were standardized. The Study Plan uses adaptive learning technology to assess student performance and activity in real time and, using data and analytics, personalizes the content to reinforce concepts that target a student’s personal strengths and weaknesses. The Study Plan is intended to make studying more efficient and effective for every student, and Baker hoped to learn how this specific MyLab feature might help his students’ understanding of chapter content and ultimately, impact their assessment scores. For students in the pilot section, the Study Plan was set up as a prerequisite assignment for the MyLab quizzes; students could not open the quiz until they had completed the Study Plan. The actual Study Plan score was recorded in the MyLab gradebook. However, for final course grade calculations, Baker simply assigned a participation grade for the Study Plan.

Students in the Study Plan pilot section participating in the end-of-semester survey shared the following:

  • 82 percent of students agreed that use of the Study Plan helped them identify the chapter concepts that they needed to review and focus on.
  • 81 percent of students agreed that use of the Study Plan positively impacted their quiz and exam scores.

Additionally, the following comments about the Study Plan were included on the fall survey:

  • “The Study Plan allowed me to test what I knew out of the chapter and allowed me to focus on the areas of the chapter that I may have had trouble understanding.”
  • “The Study Plan helped me comprehend the accounting concepts by allowing me to practice with feedback.”
  • “[Study Plans] covered all the material that was needed to study for the exams.”

Quizzes in MyLab are assigned after each chapter. They consist of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short answer questions, and cover accounting concepts. Students have just one attempt at quiz completion and have two minutes per question before the quiz times out. The lowest quiz grade is dropped when recording the final grade. Exams are given every two chapters; they are paper and pencil and consist of five major problems. Students have 60 minutes for completion.

Two group projects complete the student’s grade. One project is an application of basic accounting principles from the first five chapters of the textbook; students are tasked with writing a professional business communication explaining the financial position of a real company. This project models a real-world accounting department where different group members have different responsibilities. The second group project is an annual report project, where students work in pairs to evaluate a company based on the various financial ratios they have learned about during the semester.


  • 40% Exams (five)
  • 27% Group Projects (two)
  • 13% MyLab homework assignments (10)
  • 13% MyLab quizzes (10)
  • 7% MyLab Study Plan

Data and Results

Table 1 shows correlations between the MyLab assignments and Study Plan to MyLab homework, quizzes, exams and final course grades. 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 positive r value is to 1.0, the stronger the correlation. The corresponding p-value measures the statistical significance/strength of this evidence (the correlation), where a p-value <.05 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables.

  • A strong positive correlation exists between the average MyLab Study Plan scores and average MyLab homework scores where r=.68 and p<.05.
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between the average MyLab Study Plan scores and average MyLab quiz scores where r=.93 and p<.05.

For students, the formative MyLab homework is intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the summative assessments; 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).

Correlation between study plan and course assessments

Table 1. Correlation between Study Plan and Course Assessments, Fall 2016 (n=28)

Figure 1 compares the average MyLab homework, average MyLab quiz, average exam, and average final course grades of the two sections. Scores from students required to complete the Study Plan show MyLab homework scores remained constant and average quiz scores declined four percentage points, but average exam scores, which are summative course assessments worth 40 percent of the final grade, improved seven percentage points while final course grades improved three percentage points. It’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions from this small sample but the data supports continued use of the Study Plan for further monitoring and analysis.

Relationship between study plan completion and homework, quiz, exam, and final course scores

Figure 1. Relationship between Study Plan Completion and Average Homework, Quiz, Exam, and Final Course Scores, Fall 2016, Did Not Complete Study Plan (n=24) and Completed Study Plan (n=28)

In Baker’s section where the Study Plan was required, students were divided into two groups based on the median Study Plan score. Students who scored higher than the median earned higher quiz, exam, and final course scores than students who scored below the Study Plan median score (figure 2). This analysis was based on actual Study Plan scores recorded in the gradebook, not the participation scores Baker used for final grade calculation.

  • Students who earned Study Plan scores above the median earned average MyLab quiz scores 34 percentage points higher than students who had Study Plan scores below the median.
  • Students who earned Study Plan scores above the median earned average exam scores seven percentage points higher than students who had Study Plan scores below the median.
  • Students who earned Study Plan scores above the median earned average final course grades 14 percentage points higher than students who had Study Plan scores below the median.
  • 46 percent of students earned Study Plan scores above the median (n=13)

Relationship between study plan score and quiz, exam, and final course score

Figure 2. Relationship between Study Plan Score and Average Quiz, Exam, and Final Course Scores, Fall 2016 (n=28)

The Student Experience

Responses from the Fall 2016 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Baker’s students required to complete the Study Plan indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyLab Accounting.

  • 81 percent of respondents strongly agree or agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyLab.
  • 82 percent of respondents strongly agree or agree that use of MyLab positively impacted their exam scores.
  • 70 percent of respondents strongly agree or agree that they would recommend MyLab to another student.
  • 69 percent of respondents strongly agree or agree that the use of MyLab provided additional resources that helped them learn more than they would have from traditional paper-and-pencil homework.

Student survey responses to the question, “What did you like most about MyLab?” include:

  • “I liked the fact that MyLab would let me check my answer before submitting the questions on the Study Plan because it let me figure out what I was doing wrong.”
  • “Help Me Solve This – it provided direction in a different ‘voice’ and manner.”
  • “The learning aids while doing the homework allowed you to understand how things were done if you got the answer wrong.”
  • “The MyLab homework assignments prepared me for the exams.”
  • “I liked how MyLab gave you feedback about anything you did wrong.”


Baker piloted required use of the Study Plan to see if there would be a difference in summative assessment scores once implemented. Data show that students in the pilot section with required Study Plan assignments earned substantially higher exam scores than students who were not assigned the Study Plan. Additionally, data indicate that students earning higher Study Plan scores also earned higher quiz, exam and final course grades. While further research will allow for additional testing of this concept, both the quantitative and qualitative results suggest that students who used the Study Plan benefitted from its required implementation. The Study Plan’s ability to help students identify, revise, and understand the reason behind their errors was referenced by students often on the end-of-semester survey, “I really liked when I got an answer wrong the program would let me know immediately and it let me know what I did wrong.” Requiring the Study Plan for all sections in Fall 2017 is currently under consideration.