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.

Granite State College, NH
4 Year Baccalaureate-Granting College / Public

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course with a textbook.
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra

Bette J. Papa, Learner Services Assistant
I use ALEKS in remedial level math courses and find the program to be user-friendly to both students and instructors. ALEKS provides a level of practice that a traditional textbook cannot. Students can work at their own pace, get immediate feedback, and practice a concept repeatedly until they have mastered it. As an instructor, I can customize the program for each class and student, and easily recognize where there is a need for more work and where there is mastery of a topic. I have found ALEKS to be an invaluable teaching tool.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
The majority of our students are adults returning to college or attending college for the first time. We found the need to have remedial help in place to assist students with placement in college level course work.

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: 17
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 17

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
Our classes meet one night a week for three and a half hours. I start the class with an ALEKS lab. This gives students the opportunity to ask questions about any topic or difficulty they may have had during the week. It gives me the chance to go over some of the features in ALEKS and to insure that students are using the program to the full extent. Lab is followed by a review of the homework, lecture on new material, and a study group or quiz.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per week: 3
Hours per term: 33


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
The term began with the initial assessment to create the individualized program for each student. Students are required to work in ALEKS at least three hours per week between class meeting; most students work more than required. The sections of the pie in the ALEKS curriculum are the topics I cover in class lectures and supplement with a workbook text for study groups in class.  ALEKS is a source of quizzes and assessments that I can create on a scheduled and a- needed basis.  ALEKS allows me to generate a quiz or assessment for an individual student or a class to complete when necessary. 

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
I progress through topics in the following order: Whole Number Operations Review; Estimation and Rounding; Problem Solving; Numbers Less Than One; Fractions; Decimals; Proportions; Percent; Algebra; Data Analysis; Probability; and Geometry.

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 frequently throughout the term.

How do you incorporate ALEKS Quizzes into your course?
I use quizzes to review topics covered each week. I leave the quizzes available for students to do multiple times as they feel the need to review a topic. I also generate quizzes for individual students as they request additional practice on certain topics.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
ALEKS practice is the majority of the homework that students are assigned. They are required to work in the program a minimum of three hours per week.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
Cumulative assessments are scheduled three times: initial, midterm, and final. Additional progress assessments are scheduled as needed based on student progress.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
It allows me to have less lecture time because ALEKS has explanations that students can reference. I eliminated a major text book and reduced the paper handout material I use. ALEKS gives me a point of reference for planning my course outline.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I examine each student's initial assessment to gain an understanding of their skill level, as well as to monitor their progress at least twice a week. The quiz scores allow me to test their progress on specific concepts, as well as to look at the average standing of the class as a whole. Other scheduled and automatically generated assessments show me how students are progressing and what they are retaining.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Time spent in ALEKS makes up 35 percent of the grade; take home quizzes that are handed in makeup 15 percent of the grade; in-class quizzes makeup 20 percent of the grade; class participation makes up ten percent of the grade; and the midterm and final exam each count for ten percent of the grade.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is 85 percent of the total homework load that the students are required to do.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I require a three hour minimum each week. I allow students to progress at their own rate, however, they must complete at least 90 percent of the pie.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the reports that ALEKS offers, learning time since last assessment, overall learning time spent, progress history, overall progress in assessments, both scheduled and generated, average student report, quiz results, and any individual report I need.

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?
Absolutely. Students who put in three hours or more per week in ALEKS practice passed the course with a score of 90 percent or higher. They also had a higher rate of retention and confidence at the end of the term.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
ALEKS provides continuous practice and feedback to students, which I see as the major factor in learning mathematics. The review, variety, step-by-step explanations and positive feedback that ALEKS provides are all attributes of the program that influence improved student performance.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
Students are able to retain their math skills longer using ALEKS because they are practicing more which leads to improved test scores. The level of student participation and attention to the importance of math skills increased the more the students achieved. As they advanced to college level course work, they had more confidence in their abilities and generally did better in the upper level courses. I also teach the Quantitative Reasoning requirement in math and can see the difference in the students who participated in remedial course work and those who come into College Math without this review.  The students that I have in Pre-Algebra are better equipped for the upper level course and have a better attitude about learning math. The basic skills they learn, review, and practice in ALEKS are essential to their success throughout their college careers.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Overall, students have positive feelings about their progress in ALEKS. Watching their progress in the pie is a positive motivator. For many, the study of mathematics is complicated by anxieties about their ability to learn mathematics and overcoming bad past experiences. As students successfully achieve the goals of pre-algebra skills, they begin to gain confidence in themselves and view math with a more positive attitude.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
I did not spend enough time going through the program as a student before I started using it as a teaching/learning tool.  I would suggest all instructors explore ALEKS from the student's perspective to be well prepared for the questions and difficulties that students may encounter.  Also, becoming familiar with the tools available for instructors is valuable information prior to use with a class.  For example, students would ask me about specific types of problems they encountered in the program and if I hadn't seen the question or how the topic was explained, I was unable to give effective help. 

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I will utilize the assessment tools more efficiently for grading purposes and Intermediate Objectives for individualizing a student's program. As a class, I will have students talk more together about how they use the program to their best advantage. I will be more specific in my expectations of how the students go through the program and set weekly goals with them.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Basic Math, Pre-Algebra

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Utilize the program to its fullest! ALEKS provides a wide variety of tools to assess and help students learn. It allows customization of plans of study for each student, reinforcing their individual needs.