How McGraw Hill Evolved to Teach Students Where They Learn

Learn how the McGraw Hill symposia team manages dozens of processes and drives decisions through accurate data captured through the Smartsheet platform.


  • Education

Organization Size

  • Large (2000 - 9999)


  • North America

Watch how McGraw Hill evolved to teach students where they learn.

Today’s college students grew up with the internet, and they expect their educational experience to be digital, with course materials, assignments, and tutorials that are easy to access on any device. Publisher McGraw Hill, a leader in learning science, is delivering on these expectations with Connect™ — an online homework and learning management platform that enables students to learn more efficiently and effectively.

“McGraw Hill is a 130-year-old company; the publishing business model traditionally focused on print resources like textbooks,” says Megan Gates, event management consultant at McGraw Hill. “But the way we learn has changed; the way we teach has changed —especially in higher education. Students these days are coming in with more digital tools and technology, so we need to provide them with solutions and services consistent with the way they learn.”

Connect™ features web-based assignments and assessments, automated grading tools, ebooks, and adaptive learning technology that creates personalized learning experiences for students. To promote the platform and help instructors who are not digital natives master the technology, Gates and her team organize symposia events. These events bring together both new and experienced Connect™ users for hands-on workshops, focus groups, and product feedback sessions. To effectively do this, Gates needed a tool that would help her four-person events team organize 120 events a year throughout the U.S. Smartsheet helps them manage all the details, from invitations, to travel reservations, to tracking participant feedback and conversion — even while on the road.

“As a learning science company, we need to use solutions that allow us to be tech-forward,” Gates says. “We have to automate processes in order to be faster and stay competitive in the market.”

"Super Quick and Easy"

McGraw Hill’s invitation-only symposia enable educators to discuss the challenges they’re facing and share ideas for improving student learning. Participants also get to explore new instructional techniques and technologies, including adaptive and game-based learning. Many of the events are tailored to academic disciplines such as mathematics, communication, or biology — providing subject-specific resources and tools educators can immediately integrate into their classrooms.

Smartsheet simplifies the process of organizing symposia, making it easier for Gates and her team to manage dozens of events in process at any given time. When participants sign up for a symposium through a third-party event management platform, their registration information is imported into an event sheet, providing real-time automated alerts when events fill up and when participants return pre-workshop projects or questionnaires. The team’s travel partner, American Express, provides flight or train options in a shared sheet for each symposium, allowing Gates and her team to choose and approve travel reservations without getting buried in email. Dashboards show performance against the overall budget as well as expense tracking for each event.

During a symposium, Gates and her team can access the Smartsheet event sheet on a mobile device instead of hauling heavy printed binders around to track schedules and logistics, as they have in the past. At a recent event, Gates was organizing participants for travel to a restaurant and noticed that one participant was missing; she was able to call his cell phone directly from his contact info on her mobile Smartsheet app to confirm he was skipping dinner, without delaying the rest of the party or accidentally leaving anyone behind.

“When you have 200 people in your care, you have to be able to access contact information at a glance,” Gates says. “What I love about Smartsheet is, I can open the app and search the name, and no matter how many sheets I have — even if I have a hundred sheets for a hundred different events, I can find it. It’s super easy and quick.”

Making Better Decisions

When Gates and her team were reviewing tech solutions for managing symposia, they knew they needed the functionality of a project management tool but the ease of use of a spreadsheet. Measuring data was crucial; in addition to monitoring budget dollars, the team needs to evaluate programs on quantifiable measures such as progress toward deadlines, number of customer leads captured, conversion rate, and more.

“The only way we can make informed decisions is with data,” Gates says. “Data tells us a story in so many ways. It informs our budgets, it informs how many events we’re able to host, how many educators we impact, where they are in the customer journey, and ultimately return on investment. So being able to pull data from many different sheets and put it into a simple graphic or dashboard that can be used by sales, product teams, finance, and our executives is huge. Smartsheet allows us to make more informed decisions — not only around internal operations, but also around the development of our products.”

With Smartsheet, the events team can use red-yellow-green classification to flag problem areas at a glance. Spending categories can be broken down and visually represented via dashboards that show executives an instant view of both current performance and return on investment, without requiring additional steps to crunch the numbers. Given that the information is stored in one central location, users can pull up-to-date reports that show current status, so they can make informed decisions about managing spending for the remainder of the year and planning next year’s events.

“Being able to see up-to-date data every single day gives me a better view of where we are in populating all of our events, which is very important,” Gates says. “Otherwise we’re just throwing money away. It makes me a better leader, because I’m able to see the bottom line every single day and inform the process instantly.”

Smartsheet helps Gates and her team keep their work on time, on budget, and with full transparency to decision-makers throughout the company. It also makes their lives easier as they travel throughout the country.

“This is a team that travels a lot; they need to feel prepared going into an event,” Gates says. “And Smartsheet has definitely helped us stay organized. It also has helped me manage deadlines, tracking timelines, and budget. It helps me keep everybody on track, and when everybody’s on track, we’re successful.”

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