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.

Eastern Illinois University, IL
4 Year University / Public

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course with a textbook.
Purpose: Remediation, Preparation
ALEKS Course: Prep for Calculus with Limits

David Boyd, Assistant Professor
ALEKS is a very positive diagnostic tool. I feel confident that the score on an ALEKS Assessment accurately assesses a student's readiness.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
We have a written placement exam, which is necessarily brief and somewhat static. Future performance in the course did not always match the students' performance on the exam.

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: 3
Number of students per ALEKS section: 25
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 75

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
ALEKS is used for placement or remediation, so it is independent from the course work.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 5
Hours per week: 3
Hours per term: 6


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
We set a target exam score at 60 percent. The students can retake the exam over two weeks and some are given access to the ALEKS Learning Mode. We encourage students who cannot pass to move to PreCalculus. We hope to soon have the exam done before the semester, with automatic placement into the appropriate course.

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 periodically throughout the term.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
Students are assigned one scheduled assessment and can retake the assessment as many times as needed.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I am able to skip some remedial material in class and can focus more on the core content of the course.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I am able to use the initial assessment scores and progress in Learning Mode to place some students in the correct course at the beginning of the term. When mid-terms and the drop date approach, I may also use this data to encourage any struggling students to look ahead to next semester.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
Nothing in true conjunction, but we also use WebAssign for homework. There is a similar feel to these for the students.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The score in ALEKS does not contribute to the students' grade because it is used for placement testing. We can't force misplaced students out just yet, so we use the loss of a letter grade to add weight to our placement recommendations.

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?
Students are given two weeks to reach a target score.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I check the ALEKS reports daily at the start of the semester and communicate the results to the other instructors.

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?
The sample size is still small, but we see that students who do well on the first try at ALEKS do well on our exams. The students who never reach our goal are doing poorly. The results for students who need more than one try on the exams are mixed.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Several students who were initially signed up for the Calculus 1 decided, based on ALEKS, to move down to PreCalculus. This caused the performance as a whole to increase due to the poorly prepared students moving down from the course.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
The course is still ongoing, so complete end results are not available yet. But from our first exams, the students who stayed in our Calculus 1 courses showed difficulty only with the new material and not with the PreCalculus concepts tested by ALEKS.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Some students who go through remediation appreciate the way the product is designed. Others resist completing remediation outside of the standard course work.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
We needed to complete the ALEKS assessment much sooner; the start of the semester is a poor choice. For one, students needing a different course may lose something in the transition, or they may feel invested in the current course and resist leaving. Also, with sufficient prep time, the Learning Mode can be used to bring rusty students up to speed.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
We will have the ALEKS assessment available earlier in the semester before the target course. Students will be encouraged to buy the full ALEKS course product if they cannot place appropriately.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Prep for PreCalculus, Prep for Calculus, Prep for Calculus with Limits

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
If at all possible, other instructors should make themselves available to students as they take the assessment. While we want our students to be able to express mathematical quantities correctly, there is a difference between being able to write an expression and type an expression.