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.

Carroll University, WI
4 Year Baccalaureate-Granting College / Private

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course without a textbook.
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Intermediate Algebra

Christopher Reis, Adjunct Lecturer
I have been very satisfied with the rigor, spiraling, and assessment flexibility of ALEKS in my Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra courses. Students feel a sense of ownership for their learning, but also a much higher degree of accountability for their work outside of class. I would attribute all of the improved student performance to the accountability and rigor enforced by ALEKS, particularly the demand for accuracy at every step of the learning process.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
We faced a lack of consistency and rigor regarding student skills after leaving the Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra levels.

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: 11
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 11

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
Each week, we have between 4-6 hours of lecture followed by 1-2 hours of ALEKS lab time.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: Daily
Hours per week: 10
Hours per term: 125


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
We separate ALEKS topics into distinct units, then lecture students on the topics in each unit. After lectures, our students then complete those topics in ALEKS. We implement the quiz and scheduled assessment features into our curriculum, as well.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
We work with ALEKS to separate the topics into eight chapters for Intermediate Algebra.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
No.

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS Quizzes into your course?
Our students are required to take one homework quiz per unit.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
We do not use the homework feature of the program, as students' homework assignment is to make sure that they are progressing through the topics at an acceptable rate.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
We give scheduled assessments at two points during the semester. Students are also given a comprehensive assessment to measure progress at the mid-point of the semester which is completed outside of class. Their final examination is also a scheduled assessment, but it is completed in class.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
ALEKS allows me to target students' weak areas that cause confusion and difficulty, and focus my lectures on those topics instead of spending time on topics that are not critical.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I frequently use the report and progress sections of the Advanced Instructor Module to monitor how quickly students are progressing through the topics, how much time students are spending on each topic, and what topics are causing the most difficulty for each student. This influences how I pace lectures, how many examples of which problem types I focus on, and how I work with individual students during their lab periods.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
ALEKS constitutes 97 percent of the student's grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The students' grade is determined by a series of assessments and other components, including: three midterm tests (all of which are ALEKS assessments and count for 18 percent each); a final examination (which is an ALEKS comprehensive assessment that counts for 18 percent); homework (which counts for 20 percent); attendance (which counts for three percent); and number of hours spent in ALEKS (which counts for five percent).

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

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes. We require a minimum of 8-10 hours per week in ALEKS, and have regular checkpoints. This translates to mastering approximately 20 topics per week in ALEKS.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I track student progress using the progress report features in ALEKS. I focus specifically on student progress in completing the current unit objective, total progress towards completing course topics, hours per week, and hours per topic.

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?
Students with the most time spent in ALEKS have the highest grades. Unfortunately, the class size is too small to support any statistical analysis. The one student who is failing the course has the lowest number of hours spent in ALEKS.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
I would attribute all of the improved student performance to the accountability and rigor enforced by the ALEKS system, particularly the demand for accuracy at every step of the learning process. ALEKS does not allow students to move on with an incomplete understanding of a topic as many traditional courses do.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
Students are now much more successful at upper-level courses because of ALEKS. Subjects including Elementary Functions, Introductory Statistics, and Calculus are no longer overwhelming due to our students' increased skills in Algebra.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students feel a sense of ownership for their learning, but also a much higher degree of accountability for their work outside of class. The ability of the instructor to constantly monitor progress, and to confront students who are not spending an adequate amount of time working on their own, encourages students to pace themselves and work harder.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
There is a real need to train instructors adequately. I would suggest that a full week of training be provided to every instructor so that they can understand how automated assessments, the reporting and progress tools, quiz and test administration, and other features of the program are administered.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I will probably rely more on dynamic comprehensive assessments than specific, static assessments for measuring students' intermediate progress.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
I would emphasize that the program seems to work best when the course is structured around ALEKS, rather than when ALEKS is viewed as a supplementary tool. I would also suggest that a textbook is completely unnecessary if the instructor has a comprehensive set of notes and examples for each topic.