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UX Case Study

Accounting Tool for McGraw-Hill Connect

Enabling McGraw-Hill students to engage in complex problem solving.



McGraw-Hill’s Connect is a web-based assignment and assessment platform widely used by professors and students for auto-gradable assignments and tests. However, the original accounting tool built for Connect wasn't robust enough to meet the needs of the complex calculations required in Accounting, causing critical errors which continually frustrated students and professors alike. To solve these issues, we architected an innovative algorithmic, authoring application with smart new features and robust functionality to help close the gap between the instructors’ intentions and the students’ experience.


While most apps in Connect successfully reduced instructors’ administrative workload and improved students’ learning outcomes, its Accounting application wasn’t working for anyone. Instructors ended up spending an inordinate amount of time on tasks that could be automated, and students found that the current tool continually produced formatting errors that would inadvertently submit incorrect answers on assessments and tests. Additionally, the old application limited students’ ability to fully engage with the material because it only offered a finite number of practice problems. The application needed an array of sophisticated features to successfully tackle the complex work.

Authoring view: creating a problem



In response to these challenges, we started from the ground up to reinvent the entire experience, architecting a cutting-edge, new authoring tool robust enough to handle even the most elaborate accounting problems. Now the most popular product on McGraw-Hill’s Connect is the Accounting Tool, which uses Intelligent Response Technology (IRT). This technology allows professors to author complex accounting and math assignments, plus its algorithmic capability allows students to practice variations of a problem an unlimited number of times until they master the task. Now, practice problems are always fresh, and students receive immediate scoring and feedback.

Additionally, the Accounting Tool provides separate applications catered to the three major types of accounting problems: 1) Comprehensive, 2) General Journal, and 3) Complex Multi-Part Problems. It also employs auto-correcting features for rounding and formatting to eliminate errors and to improve answer acceptance. The tool also offers automatic formula calculation, multi-dependent dropdowns, and expanded tables to guide students through problem solving.

Our work on this redesign directly resulted in increased product use, higher class attendance, more class time dedicated to instruction, and an increase in the student's pass rate. In addition, the Accounting Tool was so successful, that a number of other disciplines, like economics, math, and statistics, also regularly use it.

Authoring view: creating a multi-part problem

Student view: working on a multi-part problem

Student view: working on a multi-part problem