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.

Ozarks Technical Community College, MO
2 Year Community College

Scenario: Hybrid
Purpose: Supplement, Remediation, Online Course

Cindy Cummins, Instructor
Since our developmental redesign in the Fall of 2011, the success rate for our Basic Algebra course has increased from 37% to 52%.  Our Pre-Algebra course has also shown an increase in success rates.  Considering this increase in student success, and the fact that we have had students asking if they could use ALEKS in Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra, we decided to implement ALEKS in both Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra.  I have piloted ALEKS as a homework program in my College Algebra courses the last two semesters and I am pleased with the understanding my students are receiving by using ALEKS outside of class.
 
I am very pleased with ALEKS and believe that other instructors will also find it beneficial for their students. 


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
We went through a developmental redesign in the fall of 2011 that included making ALEKS part of our seated courses for Pre-Algebra and Basic Algebra, which at the time had low passing rates.  We were already using ALEKS in our online Algebra course. We decided that our students needed the practice and feedback that was available within ALEKS.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
The courses that use ALEKS at our school are Math 040 Pre-Algebra, Math 050 Basic Algebra. Recently we began using ALEKS in Math 110 Intermediate Algebra and Math 130 College Algebra. 

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of students per ALEKS section: 20-30

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
We are using ALEKS in three-credit hour courses.  The developmental classes meet two days a week, while the college level classes may meet two or three days a week.  All three-credit hour courses meet for two and a half hours per week.

Instructors in our developmental algebra courses teach for about half of the 75 minute class, then the students work on ALEKS the last half of the class.  This allows students to practice the concepts that were just introduced in class, but it also still gives them immediate access to their instructors for questions they might not have asked during the lecture.  The students must still work outside of the classroom to finish the pie topics as well as the assigned ALEKS homework.  I like that the students have resources to use within ALEKS while they are working outside of class.  I am very happy using ALEKS 360 so that the students have access to the textbook and the embedded videos.


How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: We suggest that our students work 6-9 hours per week outside of class.

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
All sections use ALEKS.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
My department was using ALEKS in their online algebra courses when I joined the department.  We went through a developmental redesign in the fall of 2011 that included making ALEKS part of our seated courses for Pre-Algebra and Basic Algebra. We met several times to discuss our redesign and decided that our students needed the practice and feedback that was available within ALEKS. 

Our developmental students started asking if they could also have ALEKS in their college level courses so we implemented ALEKS into our Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra courses in the fall of 2014.

For our developmental classes, the students must earn an 80% to move on to the next course.  For our Math 110 Intermediate Algebra course, the students must earn a 70% to move to the next course.  And a 60% is considered passing for our Math 130 College Algebra course.


Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
Yes. We use the eBook in ALEKS 360. I am very happy using ALEKS 360 so that the students have access to the textbook and the embedded videos. We also suggest a notebook and some instructors do look over the notebooks for a grade.  When a student gets an incorrect answer on ALEKS and asks me a question about the problem, I always ask to first see what they have on their paper (and most keep their work in a notebook with their class notes).

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
I create homework assignments in ALEKS because I like the students to work problems without being able to click on explain so that they can see exactly what they know.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I spend less time grading student papers, but sometimes I spend more time looking at the problems they missed and/or the time they are spending within the course.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I do sometimes look at the ALEKS Pie Report to see what percentage of my students have already mastered a specific topic.  I also look at the time and topics report for the students.  I like being able to see the problems they answered correctly, clicked on explain, or answered incorrectly.  I have found this especially helpful when a student believes that they answered a question correctly, but ALEKS counted it wrong.  And it makes the student feel better when I can explain what they did wrong on the problem. 

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
We are using Blackboard, but don't integrate ALEKS within our Blackboard sites.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
The grade from ALEKS is 20% of the student's overall class grade.


How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Within ALEKS, objectives are weighted at 40%, assignments are weighted at 40% and any external assignments (quizzes or textbook assignments) are weighted at 20%.  The grade from ALEKS is 20% of the student’s overall class grade.  We have 3 unit tests which each weighted at 20% and the Final Exam is weighted at 20%



Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
I am very satisfied with ALEKS.  I feel that my students are more successful with the immediate feedback they receive on ALEKS and the resources they have within ALEKS when they are working outside of class. 


In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
I have seen more students willing to put in the necessary time to learn the material and I have seen greater confidence as they work through ALEKS.  I also like the fact that they don’t get upset with ALEKS when they can’t work an assignment after the due date.  They will argue with an instructor about late assignments, but they won’t argue with ALEKS.


Best Practices

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Don’t be afraid of it.  Work your way through the tabs and the options that are available so that you are comfortable with ALEKS.  You will very quickly see the benefits to your students.

Our students, and I believe most students, need more practice than an instructor can possibly grade.  I tell my students that ALEKS can grade the amount of practice they need in order to learn and retain the concepts, whereas I couldn’t keep up with that much grading.  Most students, when truthful, will admit that they need more practice than just what can be graded by an instructor. 
 


Additional Insights:
Because of the ALEKS reporting, we are able to see on the first day of class now (when the student takes the ALEKS assessment) if the student is possibly misplaced.  We previously had students several weeks into a course that would decide they were in the wrong course and needed to be moved.  If a student needs to be in another class, either higher or lower, it can now happen very early in the semester.