Revel educator study examines impact on course pass rates and student performance in Intro to Psychology course at University of Nebraska Lincoln


Revel educator study examines impact and student performance in Intro to Psychology Course at University of Nebraska Lincoln

Key Findings

  • Success rates (grades of A, B, or C) increased from 55.4 percent prior to the implementation of Revel to 84.3 percent after Revel was implemented.
  • Students who earned a higher percentage of total Revel points earned higher average exam scores.
  • Students who earned higher overall Revel scores also earned higher course grades.

School name
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

Course name
Introduction to Psychology

Course format

Course materials
Revel for Psychology by Marin and Hock

Fall 2016

Manda Williamson, Assistant Professor of Practice

Results reported by
Stephanie Fritson, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager


The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is a land-grant university that serves as a public research institution in the Big 10 Conference. UNL is Nebraska’s oldest university and the largest in the University of Nebraska system. Nearly 26,000 students were enrolled at UNL during the 20152016 academic year, with 20,833 of those enrolled in undergraduate programs. Eighty-five percent of students attended UNL full time, and 48 percent of those students were female. Students who identified themselves as Caucasian comprised 74 percent of the student population. Sixty-five percent of students enrolled at UNL were residents of the state of Nebraska, and the average age of undergraduate students was 20.4 years. The six-year retention rate for the Fall 2010 freshman class was 82 percent with 67 percent of those students graduating within six years of enrolling at UNL.

About the Course

Manda Williamson is an Assistant Professor of Practice at UNL, teaching online and face-to-face sections of Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 181). PSYC 181 online is a four-credit hour course that provides an overview of most of the major areas in the field of psychology. The overall goal of the course is to depict how scientific questions within these areas have been formulated, researched, and challenged. Topics include the steps involved in conducting scientific research, the biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, learning, memory, thinking, language, motivation and emotion, stress and health, psychological disorders and social influences on behavior. Course assignments are delivered through Blackboard, and Revel is integrated with Blackboard for seamless access to course materials. All course exams are also administered online in a proctored environment.

Challenges and Goals

PSYC 181 online at UNL was formerly offered as PSYC 181 Keller, a self-paced version of Introduction to Psychology. Beginning in Fall 2014, the Keller sections were re-categorized as online courses and restructured. Pass rate data for the course from Spring 2010 through Spring 2015 indicated students who earned above a D (success rate) in the course dropped from an average of 77.9 percent to 55.4 percent when the course moved from the Keller format to online. When Williamson began teaching the course in Fall 2016 she aimed to redesign the online offering to improve course pass rates and student performance. Williamson elected to implement Revel because she was seeking a product that offered eBook access with online integration so students could complete assignments directly within the reading, while building their understanding of the material and confidence in the course. Williamson believed completing the module and chapter quizzes in Revel would better prepare students for the unit exams and improve overall performance. She also found Revel’s seamless Learning Management System Integration appealing.

The Pearson Learning Management System (LMS) integration service gives students and instructors easy access to their MyLab from their existing school LMS. Williamson chose to integrate Revel with Blackboard for the following reasons:

  • Grade transfergrades are easily transferable from Revel to Blackboard and there is one single gradebook for the course;
  • Single sign-in processstudents are ready to work in Revel on the first day of class; and
  • Content linkingability to link to Revel directly from Blackboard.

Williamson’s students now have just one access code and a single sign-on process instead of the need to log in to Blackboard and additionally sign in to Revel. This results in a simple way for students to start their Revel assignments, ensuring that they are ready to work from the first day of class.


Prof. Williamson’s Fall 2016 PSYC 181-900 section enrolled 233 students in an online format. Williamson structured the course specifically around the needs of working and distance students. She created a detailed course assignment schedule with the goals of enabling students to spend the least amount of time per day on the class as possible and ensuring students spent time wisely, from a biological standpoint, by providing the brain with the maximum chance of learning as much of the material as possible without experiencing cognitive overload.

Prior to beginning the course, students were required to attend an in-person or view a recorded course orientation session where Williamson covered the details of the course and acclimated students to the Revel materials. Additionally, the orientation detailed how to master reading course material as quickly as possible, how to read deeply (for comprehension), how to take notes, and how to study for the class.

The course assessments included four multiple choice unit exams worth 75 points each that were administered in a proctored setting. Students were allowed 75 minutes to complete each exam and provided two attempts. A 125 point comprehensive multiple choice final was also included in the course grade. Students were only allowed one attempt to complete the final exam.

The course grade also included a 120 point research component. The research component consisted of participation in research studies being conducted by the UNL Psychology Department or writing research reports on published articles. Participation in each study or each research report was worth 10 points and students could opt to complete any combination of research participation or research points to earn the 120 total points for the research component.

Revel module and chapter quizzes were assigned to expose students to the types of questions on the exam and prepare them for success on the higher stakes unit and final exams. Students were allowed three attempts on each quiz. Students who earned a minimum of 80 percent of the total Revel points available were allowed to replace their lowest unit exam score with their highest unit exam score. Revel assignments were worth 100 course points. A total of 1105 points were assigned in Revel and course points for Revel were awarded on the following scale:

Revel Point Total Revel Average Revel Course Points Earned
884–1105 80%–100% 100
773–883 70%–79% 90
663–772 60%–69% 80
552–662 50%–59% 70
442–551 40%–49% 60
331–441 30%–39% 50
Less than 331 0–29% 0


  • 46.5% Unit exams (4)
  • 19.4% Comprehensive final exam
  • 18.6% Research component
  • 15.5% Revel assignments

Results and Data

Williamson aimed to improve course success rates (students earning a C or above in the course) by redesigning the course and implementing Revel. Success rates had dropped considerably when the course transitioned from the Keller self-paced model to the online offering. Upon the online course redesign and implementation of Revel, academic success rates increased from an average of 55.4 percent in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 to 84.3 percent in Fall 2016 (figure 1). Course success rates for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 were not available for inclusion in this study.

Course success rates Spring 2010Spring 2014, Fall 2014Spring 2015, Fall 2016

Figure 1. Course Success Rates without REVEL, Spring 2010–Spring 2015 (n=4,597); Fall 2014–Spring 2015 (n=430) vs. with REVEL, Fall 2016 (n=233)

Another goal of Revel implementation was to utilize Revel quizzes to improve student preparedness and performance on the multiple choice unit and final exams. The correlation between the average exam score and percentage of total quiz points earned in Revel was strong (r(233)=.6, p<.001 [figure 2]).

Correlation between average exam score and percentage of total quiz points earned in Revel

Figure 2. Correlation between Average Exam Score and Percentage of Total Quiz Points Earned in Revel, Fall 2016 (n=233)

In addition, a strong correlation was found between the percentage of total points earned in Revel and final course grade (r(233)=.61, p<.001 [figure 3]). It should be noted that Revel assignments made up 15.5 percent of the final course grade, thereby influencing this relationship.

Correlation between final course grade and percentage of total quiz points earned in Revel

Figure 3. Correlation between Final Course Grade and Percentage of Total Points Earned in Revel, Fall 2016 (n=233)

A t-test, which measures whether the means of two groups are statistically different was used to compare the average number of incomplete Revel assignments between students who earned a C or above in the course and students who earned a D or F. Results indicate that students who earned a C or above in the course had a significantly lower number of incomplete Revel assignments (.44) than students who earned a D or F in the course (3 .46), indicating that this difference was statistically significant (t(233) = 2.49, p<0.001, [figure 4]).

Average number of incomplete Revel assignments for students earning a C or above and students earning a D or F

Figure 4. Average Number of Incomplete Revel Assignments for Students Earning a C or Above and Students Earning a D or F, Fall 2016 (n=233)

The Student Experience

In Spring 2017, Williamson’s students completed a voluntary, end-of-semester survey (21 percent response rate) providing valuable insight on their experience using Revel.

  • On a rating scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being extremely helpful and 0 being not at all helpful toward the final grade, student respondents rated the Revel quizzes an average score of 79.
  • On a rating scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being extremely helpful and 0 being not at all helpful toward the final grade, student respondents rated the Revel homework and readings an average score of 69.
  • On a rating scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being extremely confident and 0 being not at all confident, student respondents rated their ability to understand the textbook in all courses an average score of 72 and the ability to understand the textbook in PSYC 181 online an average score of 80.

Student survey comments regarding the course include:

  • We were engaged with the material and the real world examples.
  • I have really enjoyed this course, so much so that I switched my major to psychology!!


Williamson implemented Revel in her PSYC 181 online course with the goal of improving course pass rates and performance. She believed completing the module and chapter quizzes in Revel would better prepare students for the unit exams and improve overall performance. Course success rates improved from 55.4 percent to 84.3 percent after the course redesign and Revel implementation. A strong correlation was found between the percent of total Revel quiz points earned and average unit exam score, indicating students who performed better on Revel quizzes also had higher scores on the course exams. A strong correlation was also found between the percent of total Revel quiz points earned and the final course grade. Student survey responses indicated students were more confident in their ability to understand the Revel textbook in their PSYC 181 course than in other courses. Williamson plans to continue using Revel, collecting data, and making course adjustments as necessary.