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McHenry County College - Revel

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REVEL educator study looks at exam scores and course performance at McHenry County College

Key Findings

  • Average student exam scores and overall course grades were higher when REVEL was used in the course.
  • The correlation between student performance on REVEL assignments and student performance in the course was very strong.
  • Students with higher REVEL assignment scores also had higher exam scores.

School name: McHenry County College, Crystal Lake, IL Course name: Introduction to Psychology Course format: Face-to-face Course materials: REVEL for Psychology by Ciccarelli and White Timeframe: Spring 2010–Spring 2013 and Spring 2016 Submitted by: Christine Grela, Instructor


  • Locale: McHenry County college is located in the small city of Crystal Lake, IL and serves McHenry County, the seventh most rapidly growing county in Illinois
  • Enrollment: approximately 6,750
  • Full-time students: 34 percent
  • Median age of enrolled students: 21 years
  • In-state students: 99 percent
  • Full-time retention rate: 65 percent
  • Gender: 55 percent female
  • Ethnicity/race: 35 percent minority
  • Overall graduation rate: 29 percent
  • Overall transfer rate: 24 percent

About the Course

MindSpeak: Researching and Revealing the Mysteries of the Mind is offered as a Learning Community course at McHenry County College. Learning Community courses are either fully integrated or linked classes that integrate two separate courses into one learning experience. MindSpeak combines Psychology 151 (Introduction to Psychology) and English 152 (Composition II). The course focuses primarily on the critical thinking skills and writing skills central to both courses, while examining the science behind human behavior—from learning and brain development to phobias and disorders. Enrollment into Learning Community offerings is open to all students, and advisors often recommend the courses to high-performing students due to the challenging approach to learning in the courses. The courses are team taught with both instructors present at all times. Students receive individual credit and separate grades for each of the two courses comprising the Learning Community offering.

Challenges and Goals

Christine Grela, Psychology Instructor, and Anne Humphrey, English Instructor, have been co-teaching the Mindspeak course for several years and have observed students performing poorly on exams, despite performing well on the course writing assignments. Students performing in the passing range on the course writing assignments would often fail the course exams. These low mid-term and final exam scores significantly negatively impacted students’ overall course performance. As a result, Grela and Humphrey set out to improve course grades through an emphasis on study skills and other class changes. They elected to use REVEL for the Introduction to Psychology course component in an effort to improve student reading, understanding of the course material, and, ultimately, exam scores. They hoped the ability to assign and track the chapter readings would increase student interaction with the course material and lead to improved performance on course assessments. The goal of this study was to measure how the course redesign and overall implementation of REVEL impacted student performance in the course.


Grela and Humphrey have co-taught the Mindspeak course during the spring semester the past several years for a total of seven offerings of the course. From the Spring of 2010 through the Spring of 2013, a print textbook by a different publisher was used for the Introduction to Psychology course material with self-created chapter quizzes and exams for assessment. In the Spring of 2016, Grela elected to use REVEL for Psychology by Ciccarelli and White in an attempt to increase student reading of the course material and improve exam scores. During Spring 2016, Grela replaced self-created chapter quizzes with quizzes created using the exam files for the Ciccarelli and White text. The self-created midterm and final exams remained largely unchanged other than minor adjustments made each semester to ensure the items on the exam were consistent with the material covered in the course that term. In Spring 2016, REVEL assignments accounted for five percent of the overall course grade in Psychology 151. Students were assigned the module reading quizzes within the text, as well as end-of -chapter quizzes and were allowed three attempts per question (default setting) within REVEL. Students were also encouraged to utilize other resources within REVEL such as highlighting, notes, audio, search, etc. to review the chapter material and prepare for exams. The quizzes (both in-chapter and end-of-chapter) were all included in students’ final REVEL grades. In addition to the REVEL assignments, Grela created psychology chapter tests in Canvas, authoring her own questions. Additional homework and in-class work, along with chapter application essays, lab papers, and two research papers were required. Students also completed a midterm and final exam in the course. Grela reviewed the REVEL Performance Dashboard before the midterm and final exams. She noted that fewer students were using REVEL prior to the midterm exam and believes that after receiving low scores on the midterm, many students opted to use REVEL more frequently as they realized it could help improve their scores.


  • 20% Psychology midterm
  • 20% Psychology final exam
  • 15% Research paper #1
  • 15% Research paper #2
  • 10% Lab papers
  • 5% REVEL assignments
  • 5% Psychology chapter tests in Canvas
  • 5% Homework/in-class work
  • 5% Chapter application essays

Results and Data

For the purpose of this study, gradebook data from Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013 and Spring 2016 were analyzed. Data from 2014 and 2015 were not included because the course was not offered during those terms. Enrollments each semester were:

  • Spring 2010: 15 students
  • Spring 2011: 19 students
  • Spring 2012: 20 students
  • Spring 2013: 9 students
  • Spring 2016: 18 students

Student midterm exam, final exam, and overall course grades (excluding students who did not take the midterm or final exam) were higher in Spring 2016 when REVEL was used in the course than in Spring 2013 when REVEL was not used in the course (figure 1). Figures 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), where a p-value <.01 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables:

  • A strong positive correlation exists between overall REVEL score and course test average, where r=.78 and p<.01 (REVEL homework contributes five percent to the final course grade, influencing this relationship)
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between overall REVEL score and average exam grades, where r=.90 and p<.01

For students, the formative REVEL assignment grades are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the more summative midterm and final exams; it appears that performance on these assignments could be a leading indicator of exam success (additional research is needed to develop and test this concept further).

Student exam and course grades with and without REVEL

student-exam-course-grades Figure 1. Student Exam and Course Grades with and without REVEL, Spring 2013 (n=38), Spring 2016 (n=18)

Spring 2016 overall REVEL score correlated with course exam average

spring-2016-overall-revel-score Figure 2. Correlation between REVEL Score and Course Test Average, Spring 2016 (n=18)

Spring 2016 REVEL score correlated with final course grade

spring-2016-revel-score-with-final-course-grade Figure 3. Comparison of REVEL Score vs. Final Course Grade, Spring 2016 (n=18)

The Student Experience

In Spring 2016, students completed a voluntary, end-of-semester survey (61 percent response rate) providing valuable insight into their REVEL experience.

  • 100 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend their instructor use REVEL for other courses.
  • 91 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend REVEL to their friends.
  • 91 percent of students rated their experience with REVEL as good or excellent.
  • 73 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed their experience with REVEL was better than with a printed textbook.

Student survey comments regarding REVEL include:

  • “Most importantly the quizzes really solidified the information into my head. It was a more powerful tool to use in studying and learning material.”
  • “I did prefer using REVEL to a traditional printed textbook because it was more interactive.”
  • “The quizzes have benefited me in preparing me for tests and strengthening my knowledge.”
  • “REVEL gives good information, and the quizzes and tests within it help prepare you.”
  • “The audio helps because I’m a slow reader.”
  • “REVEL allowed me to understand and memorize the concepts in upcoming tests.”


Grela undertook a redesign of the course in order to improve student performance on exams and overall course outcomes. With the implementation of REVEL and redesign of the course, student overall performance and exam grades improved. Strong positive correlations between REVEL performance and overall course grades and REVEL performance and exam scores were noted. Grela also observed student usage of REVEL increased after the midterm exam, possibly as a result of students realizing the value of the REVEL resources. Student feedback surrounding the use of REVEL in the course indicates that all of the students who completed the survey would recommend REVEL for use in additional courses. Many students who completed the survey noted that they used REVEL as a study tool for tests. Data from the survey also suggest that students believed their time spent working in REVEL helped better prepare them for the exams. Students requested offline access to the REVEL materials which will be available through the REVEL app in Fall 2016. Grela is encouraged by the positive impact of the redesign and REVEL implementation and plans to continue to make changes to the course with the goal of continued positive results. Moving forward, Grela aims to improve the redesign further by better connecting the in-class activities with the out-of-class experience and encouraging REVEL use earlier in the term.

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