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.

East Central University, OK
4 Year Baccalaureate-Granting College / Public

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

Anne Fine, Professor
My ALEKS experience has been quite positive. I appreciate the program's ability to assess a student's current knowledge state and determine what they know and what they are ready to learn. These features, in addition to the program's ability to offer custom instruction, are impossible to accomplish by an individual teacher in a traditional class setting, at least with the speed and accuracy of ALEKS.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
My university experienced numerous challenges prior to implementing ALEKS. First, we had no mechanism in place to assist students that could not complete our Mathematical Concepts course due to time arrangements. Second, some students had sufficient backgrounds in Geometry, and really wanted to work ahead at their own pace. These accelerated students were unable to achieve this goal prior to ALEKS because it just was not possible in a traditional classroom setting. Third, ensuring that our Mathematical Concepts students, all of whom are future elementary teachers, could demonstrate competency in basic mathematical computations and Algebra, even in a Geometry class, was a challenge.

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: 39
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 39

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
All course periods are labs, with one-on-one instruction as needed.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 3
Hours per week: 4
Hours per term: 60


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
I use ALEKS as a core curriculum. My students take their initial assessment and immediately begin working on topics. I tour the classroom during class periods to troubleshoot, answer questions, and provide individual instruction as needed.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
No.

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 scheduled Assessments into your course?
I schedule five assessments for the course where the first two are comprehensive assessments, and the last three are progress assessments. The student's final grade is determined by the number of topics that the students retain on the fifth and final scheduled assessment.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
Since ALEKS is 100 percent of the course curriculum, I no longer give whole-class lectures. Instead, I tour the computer lab while students work in ALEKS and provide one-on-one instruction.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I reference individual student pie charts to monitor the areas where the students need to remediate, and also to learn what topics are available to them. I use this information to help my students decide which topic to work on next whenever they have difficulty deciding for themselves. Also, after each exam, I use the progress bar charts to show students their progress so that even when they are frustrated by losing topics on assessments, they can still see their gains.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The student's grade is determined by the percent of the pie filled in after their last monitored assessment.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
No.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I provide students a chart that illustrates the grading scheme following each assessment. I notify them that this chart will determine their mid-term grades. The chart indicates that by mid-term they should have 34 percent of the pie complete to earn a D, 45 percent for a C, 58 percent for a B, and 70 percent for an A. By midterm, each student should also have at least 30 hours spent on ALEKS.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the class overview to determine time spent in ALEKS as well as progress percentages. I also use individual pie charts to determine which topics need more remediation.

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?
While this seems to be the case in my other courses, it did not seem to be true in this Mathematical Concepts course. I ran a regression on login time versus final assessment performance. I found an r-value of 0.0186; so, the answer here appears to be no.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Most of my students perform at about the same level as students did the previous year in a traditional course. However, in a college setting, there are other important factors aside from improved student performance that should be considered. The ability of students to effectively take a course online is paramount. In addition, offering students the option of taking a course by arrangement is also a major milestone. Using ALEKS fills these needs for our university very well.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
We initially implemented ALEKS in a pilot course to establish benchmarks for a possible online class or independent study course for our university. I believe we have found a viable alternative to the traditional course. After comparing the grade distribution from my previous traditional course (A's=2, B's=5, C's=8, D's=4, F's=0, W's=3) to the ALEKS course (A's=4, B's=8, C's=15, D's=9, F's=0, W's=3), the numbers show somewhat better retention in the ALEKS course. Students demonstrate as much competency in the ALEKS version as they do in a traditional course, but with the distinct advantage of being able to work at their own pace.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
For the most part, students really like using ALEKS, especially the program's self-paced capabilities. While some students take issue with ALEKS requiring them to relearn topics, as an educator, I see the value in review and topic mastery. Generally, the students who do not have good study habits and are not well disciplined are the ones who have the most difficulty with the program. Many of my students are future educators, and are thrilled to know that ALEKS offers modules for elementary school mathematics as they see the program's value as a tutor for children.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
My biggest challenge as an instructor was determining benchmarks for the letter grade, but I ended up developing a scale that was very close to the traditional 90-80-70 scale.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I think I may compile a text of Geometry formulas and terms for quick student reference. Other than that, I don't believe I would change anything.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Beginning Algebra

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
I think it's important to emphasize to the students that they will receive instruction that is custom fit to their needs. Likewise, their assessments will be customized. These are features that are impossible to accomplish, at least with the speed and accuracy of ALEKS, by an individual teacher in a traditional class setting.