MyLab Business Communications educator study evaluates Dynamic Study Module and quiz scores at Elgin Community College



MyLab Business Communications educator study evaluates Dynamic Study Module and quiz scores at Elgin Community College


Key Findings

  • Students who earned Dynamic Study Module (DSM) scores above the median earned significantly higher quiz scores than students who scored below the median on the DSM.
  • Data indicate a very strong correlation between both DSM scores and quiz scores, and MyLab homework scores and quiz scores.
  • 87 percent of students responding to an end-of-semester survey agreed that the test-learn-retest pattern of the Dynamic Study Modules helped them retain information about important chapter content.

School name
Elgin Community College, Elgin, IL

Course name
Business Communications

Course format
Face to face

Course materials
MyLab Business Communications with Business Communications Essentials by Bovee and Thill

Spring 2017

Linda Conniff, Associate Professor

Results reported by
Candace Cooney, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager


  • Locale: large, urban, two-year public community college located in northeastern Illinois, approximately one hour from Chicago
  • Enrollment: more than 16,000 students
  • Full-time students: 22 percent
  • First-time, full-time students: 36 percent
  • Full-time retention rate: 77 percent
  • Three-year graduation rate: 30 percent completed degree or certificate
  • Student-faculty ratio: 20:1
  • Age 23 and under: 53 percent
  • Gender: 54 percent female
  • Minority: 40 percent Hispanic, 56 percent total minority

About the Course

Linda Conniff has been teaching since 1980 and started teaching at Elgin Community College, as well as other local colleges, in 1990. She teaches a variety of business courses in the Office Administration Technology program, including Business Communications which has an annual enrollment of approximately 400 students. This one-semester, three-credit course is open to all students. There are no prerequisites, so students from many programs and majors take the course. The course generally is non-transferrable, so most students take the course as an elective, looking to improve their business writing skills. Business Communications introduces correct structure and writing technique for a variety of business documents including electronic and oral communication in today’s business world. It is a study of workplace communications including techniques in listening, speaking, writing, critical thinking, working in teams, understanding multicultural communication, and applying the job search process.

This course is designed to develop the following professional skills:

  • Write paragraphs with effective complex and compound sentences in active and passive voice that are coherent and concise;
  • Demonstrate editing skills for literate writing that includes comma splices, run-on sentences, and fragment sentences;
  • Correctly and effectively write, proofread, and edit all types of business documents and electronic communication; and
  • Develop oral communication skills in a business context.

Challenges and Goals

Several years ago, Conniff and her colleagues were using a different textbook and online support program. When reviewing books and digital companion products, she was encouraged by the many options for homework assignments and quizzing in MyLab Business Communications. Conniff hoped that pre-class homework assigned in MyLab would compel students to read the textbook and understand the basics so she could focus on more challenging content in lecture. Having access to textbook material in class, too, was important to her, so a digital program that provided an eText was essential. Believing that today’s students are proficient at using digital content, she hoped to offer students learning in all formats a wide-ranging, all-encompassing course experience, so she adopted MyLab Business Communications in 2015 along with her colleagues.

Additionally, Pearson worked with the department and the Elgin bookstore to create a Inclusive Access (IA) program that would digitally deliver the required MyLab program and e-Text to all students on the first day of class, immediately ensuring 100 percent student compliance, as well as offering student cost savings.


Inclusive Access
Many educators agree that students who do not have access to required course materials on the first day of class may be at a disadvantage, which may have serious consequences for students’ academic performance. Innovative institutions nationally are transitioning to digital delivery of course materials to ensure every student has access to essential course materials from the first day of class at an affordable price. Through careful planning, implementation, and on-going refinement of their strategies, schools are growing their campus’ digital footprint, reducing textbook costs, improving student access to course materials, and gaining deeper insights into student performance and needs for early intervention through data analysis. The Elgin bookstore partnered with faculty to create a Inclusive Access program that includes eText and MyLab costs in the course fee, ensuring that all students have immediate access to necessary course materials.

MyLab Business Communication
MyLab is required; the program is used by students working at home on a personal computer as well as in class. Students use MyLab for understanding content, homework assignments, additional practice, and assessments. Conniff’s goals for assigning work in MyLab are to ensure that students are reading the textbook, introduce new concepts, provide homework and practice opportunities, and help students assess their own understanding of the course material. Conniff anticipates that students will spend at least 1–2 hours per week working in MyLab, which should include reading the eText, simulations, and completing assignments. Based on results of an end-of-semester survey (58 percent response rate), 34 percent of students said they spent 1–2 hours using MyLab, 34 percent of students indicated they spent 2–3 hours using MyLab, and an additional 32 percent of students indicated they spent three or more hours per week working in the program.

Conniff also integrates the MyLab course with Desire2Learn (D2L) the Learning Management system used at Elgin, to make things easier for both she and her students, including:

  • Grade transfer: grades are easily transferable from MyLab to D2L and there is one single gradebook for the course;
  • Single sign-in process: students are ready to work in MyLab on the first day of class; and
  • Content linking: ability to link to MyLab directly from D2L.

Conniff’s students now have a single sign-in process in lieu of separate usernames and passwords for both D2L and MyLab. On the end-of-semester survey:

  • 100 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they were able to access MyLab through D2L and appreciated not needing a second, separate login for MyLab (74 percent strongly agreed).

Conniff covers one chapter every two weeks, so MyLab homework is opened on Monday and due every other Sunday by 11 p.m. No late assignments are accepted. Use of the eText prior to lecture and during class is an important component of the MyLab plan, and access flexibility was key. As a student stated on the end-of-semester survey, “The ease of use and getting the eText on my phone so I could read it whenever I wanted made a huge difference.” Additional responses on the survey regarding the eText include:

  • 61 percent of respondents agreed that they read the assigned chapter in the eText in MyLab prior to attending lecture.
  • 79 percent of respondents agreed that they like the flexibility of the eText and not having to carry a print text.
  • 50 percent of respondents found the eText easy to use and navigate.
  • 76 percent of respondents liked that the eText was part of MyLab and did not incur an additional cost.
  • 37 percent of respondents said they always or usually clicked on the embedded videos and animations that illustrate key concepts.

Conniff creates her MyLab course using a variety of assignments to foster learning outside the classroom. Bi-weekly MyLab assignments consist of:

Chapter Warm ups: completed before lecture, these quizzes allow Conniff to see if students are reading the material in the textbook and understanding the concepts. As a result, students come to class familiar with basic content, allowing Conniff to focus on more challenging topics.

Dynamic Study Modules: these questions continuously assess student performance and activity, using data and analytics to provide personalized feedback in real-time to reinforce chapter concepts. The Dynamic Study Modules give Conniff’s students additional practice in the content areas where they struggle the most. As a student stated on the end-of-semester survey, “The DSM really helped me understand what we were learning in class.” The DSM are mastery based and required, so students generally complete them all. For additional information on how to assign Dynamic Study Modules and use the reporting feature, see Module 7 of the MyLab Implementation Guide.

Decision-making Mini Simulations: Simulations put Conniff’s students in the role of manager as they make a series of decisions based on a realistic business challenge. The simulations change and branch based on their decisions, creating various scenario paths and strengthening critical thinking skills. Each simulation takes about 15–20 minutes to complete and students have two attempts.

Video assignments: ‘Watch It’ and ‘Think Like a Manager’ videos explore a variety of business topics related to the theories students are learning and assess students’ comprehension of the concepts covered in each video. Videos are less than ten minutes in length, and students have two attempts at completing a five-question, multiple-choice quiz that follows.

Document makeovers: Conniff gives her students the opportunity to understand the why and how of polished communication in these exercises. Students review a sample document, analyze and revise an interactive document and receive feedback, and finally prove their comprehension on a brief document makeover quiz.

Grammar improvement exercises are an additional key and required component of the MyLab that Conniff assigns.. These practice exercises provide a grammar refresher, assessing student understanding of basic grammar concepts, and include short media lessons followed by practice QuickChecks and objective-based homework questions. Students also complete a 25-question, multiple-choice quiz in MyLab for each chapter. Quizzes are not timed and students have one attempt at completion.

On the end-of-semester survey, students reported the following about MyLab assignments:

  • 92 percent of respondents agreed that completing warm up exercises before class helped them understand key basic concepts prior to learning about them more in depth in lecture.
  • 97 percent of respondents agreed that the grammar improvement exercises helped them identify and focus on mistakes they were making to improve their writing.
  • 87 percent of respondents agreed that the Dynamic Study Modules pattern of test-learn-retest helped them retain information about important chapter topics.
  • 79 percent of respondents agreed that the use of confidence levels (‘I am sure’, ‘I am partially sure’, ‘I don’t know yet’) helped them identify chapter content they needed to work on.
  • 81 percent of respondents agreed that the video exercises in MyLab helped them visualize the chapter contents in action.
  • 81 percent of respondents agreed that the simulations in MyLab helped them practice decision making and apply the chapter content to a real-world business challenge.
  • 86 percent of respondents agreed that the detailed report of their choices at the end of the simulation exercises allowed them to see the consequences of the business decisions they made.
  • 89 percent of respondents agreed that document makeover exercises helped them learn how to communicate in a professional setting and refine their business writing skills.

Prior to lecture, Conniff consults the MyLab gradebook to identify areas where students are struggling, reviewing all assignments including the document makeovers, grammar improvement exercises, and the DSM. Review of challenging topics takes place prior to beginning a new chapter. Additional course assessments include a variety of in-class activities, a country snapshot project that introduces students to the business characteristics of a self-chosen country, and a job search assignment where students create a resume and cover letter, and review help wanted ads and job applications.


  • 19%     MyLab homework (chapter warm ups, video exercises, simulations, document makeovers)
  • 19%     MyLab grammar improvement exercises
  • 17%     MyLab quizzes
  • 15%     Country snapshot project
  • 15%     Job search project
  • 9%       In-class activities
  • 6%       MyLab Dynamic Study Modules

Results and Data

Figures 1 and 2 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 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 very strong positive correlation exists between average MyLab Dynamic Study Module scores and average quiz scores where r=.82 and p<.05.
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between average MyLab homework scores and average quiz scores where r=.87 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). Empirically, Conniff indicates that the MyLab assignments add to the student learning experience and ultimately increase their level of understanding.

Correlation between average DSM scores and average quiz scores

Figure 1. Correlation between Average DSM Scores and Average Quiz Scores, Spring 2017 (n=45)

Correlation between average MyLab homework score and average quiz score

Figure 2. Correlation between Average MyLab Homework Scores and Average Quiz Scores, Spring 2017 (n=45)

Students were divided into two groups based on the median of the average DSM score. Students who earned DSM scores above the median earned higher average quiz grades (figure 3), and the difference is statistically significant.

  • Median DSM Score: 89 percent
  • Students who scored equal to or above the median average DSM score earned quiz scores 22 percentage points higher than students who earned an average DSM score below the median.
  • Results of a t-Test show that students with a DSM score above the median (median = 89 percent) scored higher on average quiz grades than students with a DSM score below the median, where t(85)=2.14 and p<.05, indicating that this difference is statistically significant.

Relationship between median DSM score and average quiz score

Figure 3. Relationship between Median DSM Score and Average Quiz Score, Spring 2017 (n=45)

The Student Experience

Responses from the Spring 2017 end-of-semester survey of Conniff’s students indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyLab Business Communication.

  • 100 percent of students strongly agree or agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyLab.
  • 97 percent of students strongly agree or agree that they would recommend MyLab to another student.

Student survey responses to the question, “What are the benefits of MyLab for you as a student?” include:

  • I liked doing actual practice exercises; the warm-ups, DSM and chapter quizzes are great learning tools.”
  • MyLab was easy to use and I really felt that it helped me learn and understand the course material.”
  • “[MyLab] gives you feedback and explains incorrect answers in depth so you actually learn more.”
  • “The benefits are that everything is in one place and having the e-Text easily accessible is awesome. You learn at your own pace.”


As Conniff sought to offer her students a more digitally-enriched course, she identified the MyLab program as an opportunity to also provide the textbook in digital format for flexibility and ease of use, and the Inclusive Access option as a way to ensure 100 percent compliance and access to all students on the first day of class. The MyLab assignments enabled her to assign pre-lecture work that encouraged reading the textbook, an additional goal of Conniff’s when adopting the program. Her students found the eText to be convenient, given that it was part of the MyLab experience. As a student on the survey said, “Everything is in one place, and having the eText easily accessible is awesome.” The combination of pre-lecture assignments to encourage reading and a variety of assignable options helped Conniff create a top quality learning experience for students regardless of the course format.