ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

Implementation Strategies

Our success stories encompass a wide variety of implementation models and best practices, from lecture-based to emporium labs to course redesigns. The flexibility of ALEKS made it simple and effective for these schools to improve their student success rates, and they are willing to share their strategies.

DePaul University, IL
4 Year University / Private

Scenario: I use ALEKS in an online course without a textbook.
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences

Pablo Gomez, Assistant Professor
ALEKS has been a great experience overall. The ALEKS detailed progress report is my favorite tool. In the traditional way to teach any math course, the instructor arrives in the classroom, presents a problem, solves it (with varying degrees of interaction with the students) and then assigns similar problems in-class or for homework. This teaching model implicitly relies on three assumptions, including: students are at the same level; students progress at the same pace; and students should learn more advanced topics even if they did not fully master the topics taught before. With ALEKS, these problematic assumptions can be easily tackled.


Scenario

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
All students.

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 25
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 25

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
I give explanations to students at critical points in their progress, or whenever they request assistance.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per week: 10
Hours per term: 70

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
I did not teach such sections, but they were traditional statistics courses with some SPSS component.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Every student's course grade is based directly on her or his mastery of the material. As students advance in ALEKS, I review the number of hours they have spent working in the program and evaluate their assessment results.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
No, I allow students to take a self-paced approach so they can choose topics from their pie that they are ready to learn.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
I do not integrate a textbook but encourage students to obtain an "old edition" of a statistics book that they can reference.

How often do you use the ALEKS Instructor Module?
I use the Instructor Module daily throughout the term.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
The homework assigned to students is to continue advancing on the ALEKS topics.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
I schedule an ALEKS assessment as the final for the course. Otherwise, I just use the automatic ALEKS progress assessments throughout the term.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
Dramatically. With ALEKS, I play more of a tutor role than only a lecturer role.  

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
The ALEKS detailed progress report is my favorite tool. In the traditional way to teach any math course, the instructor arrives in the classroom, presents a problem, solves it (with varying degrees of interaction with the students) and then assigns similar problems in-class or for homework. This teaching model implicitly relies on three assumptions, including: students are at the same level; students progress at the same pace; and students should learn more advanced topics even if they did not fully master the topics taught before. With ALEKS, these problematic assumptions can be easily tackled.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
I use Blackboard to post a link to ALEKS.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
100 percent.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Every student's course grade is based directly on her or his mastery of the material. Final assessments must be taken in my presence. If an ALEKS assessment shows a student's mastery of all topics, the student's final grade will be an A, regardless of how many hours they spend in the program. If students complete all of the topics at least twice, but they do not ace the final assessment, the student will receive an A-, regardless of how many hours they spend in the program. If students do not complete all of the ALEKS topics but spend more than 70 hours in the program, students will be able to take a final exam to determine their grade. A student's final grade will be determined by the exam results using the standard criteria (e.g., 60% correct is a D-, 70% is a C-, 80% is a B-, and so on).  Students fail the course if they do not complete all of the ALEKS topics and spend less than 70 hours in the program, or if they do not complete all of the ALEKS topics and spend more than 70 hours online, but fail the final exam.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is assigned as 100 percent of the students' homework responsibilities.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I have played with this issue over the years. I email students regularly to remind them that I can see everything they do and how long they have worked on ALEKS. So I do not require progress, but I monitor it.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the detailed progress report to track student progress.

Do you notice that students who spend more time in ALEKS perform better in the course than those students who spend less time in ALEKS?
Yes, I noticed that the correlation between a student's final grade and hours spent in ALEKS is .67.  Incidentally, the correlation between a student's initial assessment and his final assessment is only .3.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
ALEKS was the main teaching method that led to student success.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
The department assessed my section compared to other sections and mine performed better. About 70 percent of students complete the pie which translates to an A in my grading system. 

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Overall, students feel positive about using ALEKS to improve their math skills.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Not telling students about an online component before they register for the course can be problematic; the solution is to make it explicit in the registration forms. Also, I used to let students make too many mistakes before intervening; I realized that it is better to explain the problem before students learn through trial and error. Additionally, I used to assume that students could monitor their own progress; they need a lot of feedback on their progress. Finally, in my institution, the customer is always right so you have to sell students on the ALEKS method throughout the quarter.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I want to record videos of explanations to specific problems that can be available on demand.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences, Prep for PreCalculus

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
ALEKS is great at providing explanations for algorithms and operations. But the "why" has to come from the instructor. You have to make sure that you can provide that information in a "just in time" manner.