CASE STUDY
FOCUS: DECREASE ATTRITION BY IMPROVING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

THE UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG

THE CHALLENGE: Decrease Attrition By Improving Student Engagement

The University of Winnipeg is a CPA accredited university, focusing its Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Accounting Concentration curriculum on helping students prepare for the CPA Professional Education Program and Common Final Exam (CFE). As part of that journey, Introduction to Financial Accounting is the first accounting course, providing students a foundation for the entire degree curriculum.

In 2008, Rosalie Harms, then instructor and current department chair, witnessed a 55% attrition rate in Introduction to Financial Accounting. Such high attrition rates result in students repeating this course multiple times.

“High attrition rates result in numerous costs to the university and the CPA profession. Scarce resources are consumed in offering multiple sections of courses for students repeating their studies. Additionally, students who are intellectually capable are dropping out of the discipline because they lack the study skills required to be successful. This contributes to the national shortage of students entering and completing the CPA professional program,” stated Rosalie.

As Rosalie searched for answers, she reviewed open educational resources (OER), but found them poorly written, too general, and unsuitable for a university level accounting course. She continued her search for ways to engage her students.

THE STRATEGY: Engage Students Via WileyPLUS Assignment

Rosalie realized that stakes were high when a student’s grade depended largely on two semester tests and a final exam as the only assessment mechanisms. Students are unmotivated to learn the material; they simply cram for the exams. Rosalie attempted to engage students using online learning resources.

2009: WileyPLUS With Timed Assignments

The department adopted WileyPLUS to see if timed assignments worth 10% of the final grade would engage students outside the classroom. After implementation, only 20% of the students completed or attempted the online assignments, and the average mid-term grade was 60.5%. Since students lacked experience with online learning systems, Rosalie spent more time on technology questions rather than the course content. She eliminated the assignments and returned to her original course structure. Challenges persisted with only 15-20 students (out of 60) achieving a C+ grade or higher, the minimum requirement to advance to the next accounting course.

2018: The Next Generation of WileyPLUS With Recommended Assignments

When Kimmel’s Financial Accounting 7ce was released in the next generation of WileyPLUS, Rosalie incorporated the Recommended Assignments into her course: weighted at 20% of the student’s overall grade. Recommended Assignments are constructed from the most commonly assigned questions by WileyPLUS users. They are pre-created and include a blend of brief exercises and more in-depth exercises as well as problem questions. Because the Recommended Assignments span the learning objectives equally, Rosalie’s students started getting a diverse range of practice.

2016: WileyPLUS With Reading-Based Questions

Facing the same attrition rates and challenges, Rosalie tried WileyPLUS again, only this time assigning reading-based, multiple-choice questions. The semester started strong, but as the course progressed, students became busier and stopped completing the questions. Students started disengaging and coming to class unprepared.

THE RESULTS: Reduced Course Failure and Attrition Rates

In Fall 2018, with the aid of the next generation of WileyPLUS, Rosalie has:

Reduced attrition from 55% to 13% (76% improvement rate) at midterm

Reduced course failure from 20% to 10% (50% improvement rate)

Improved the percentage of students engaged in homework by 300%

Increased the average mid-term grades to 71% (18% growth rate)

Now that 80% of the students are engaged in the assigned homework, Rosalie challenged them with a more difficult midterm than those used in the past. Even with this increased level of difficulty the grades were still HIGHER. Although, some students are still failing, course failure rate is now down to 15%.

The best part is that students are coming to class more prepared, asking better questions, and developing foundation knowledge.

“The next generation of WileyPLUS is easy for students to use Average final grades rose 6% between Fall 2017 (78%) and Spring 2018 (84%) it provides students with flexibility and encourages them to complete the practice problems. They can start a quiz and go back later to finish it. With these resources my students are being encouraged to develop comprehensive study and critical thinking skills that will support them through their entire accounting education,” says Rosalie.

As a long-standing Wiley customer, the University of Winnipeg values the resources provided by WileyPLUS, such as their assigned Customer Success Specialist, Learning Solutions Manager, and Account Manager. With this team behind her, Rosalie Harms made amazing strides in her goal to reduce attrition and engage her students through good study habits.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

“The next generation of WileyPLUS is easy for students to use Average final grades rose 6% between Fall 2017 (78%) and Spring 2018 (84%) it provides students with flexibility and encourages them to complete the practice problems. They can start a quiz and go back later to finish it. With these resources my students are being encouraged to develop comprehensive study and critical thinking skills that will support them through their entire accounting education,” says Rosalie.

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