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.

Harrisburg Area Community College, PA
2 Year Community College

Scenario: I use ALEKS in an on-campus, self-paced course.
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Basic Math

Suzanne Rosenberger, Assistant Professor
We are satisfied with our experience with ALEKS and are branching into new uses for ALEKS. All students completed the course successfully; students really enjoy working on ALEKS and take responsibility for their success.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
The pace of the traditional course was too fast; the success rate and retention rate were less than acceptable. Also adult students returning from a long break from math often complete several levels in one semester and we didn't have a tool for that.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
All students. We target students who are fearful or have had many failures with math in the past.

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 20
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 20

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
This is a three credit class that consists of an ALEKS lab that makes up 75 percent of the course and discussion makes up the remaining 25 percent of the course. 

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per week: 4
Hours per term: 56


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
The course centers around the self-paced nature of ALEKS. I target the students who have math anxiety or who have been away from math for so long they feel they need a brush up. I partner ALEKS with a math study skills text which deals with the confidence and how to's of math study.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
The students may choose the order, but I encourage them to cover Whole Numbers, then Fractions, and then Decimals and Percents before going on to Geometry, Measurements, and Equations.  I schedule two tests and a final during the semester based on completed parts of the students' pies, so they must strive to complete sections of their pies.

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?
Students must print a worksheet and complete it in class seven times during the semester. I count these as quizzes with each problem counting as a point.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
I let ALEKS dictate when the assessments are needed for each student.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
Approximately 66 percent.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The number of hours a student completes for each week is multiplied by ten, to a maximum of 40. These 560 points are a significant portion of their 1200 points for the course. The seven worksheets include 16 questions each, which is 112 points. The three exams are worth 50 points each, for a total of 150 points. The ALEKS part of the course is 822 points out of the 1200 points, or approximately 69 percent.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
The total homework load is about six hours per week; ALEKS is four hours of that, or 66 percent.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
No, in this class we push and encourage, but do not require any certain amount of progress, since the course was designed for those terrified of math in the first place.  Many do make significant progress because, for the first time in their math life, they actually see progress!

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the ALEKS reports to check student progress about three times a week. I also use the hours worked on ALEKS for the students' grade and record the topics mastered.

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?
Definitely! This also corresponds to those who want to conquer their fears and weak spots versus those who are just taking the course to satisfy someone else.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
All students completed the course successfully. Of the 11 students, five placed into the same math level as they had before ALEKS, three placed one level higher, and three placed two levels higher.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students really enjoy working on ALEKS and take responsibility for their success.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Getting students to complete the hours I require was a challenge. Also, some of the students do not have access to a computer at home and must complete all of their work on campus. In a community college setting, this is almost always fatal to the student - they have kids, jobs, etcetera and do not stay on campus after class. 

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I will increase the time requirement, and add worksheets and exams.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Encourage students to keep a neat notebook of all of their work and look at the work often. Demand a lot from them and have them rise up to meet the standard you set. Students will learn to love doing math as they see how rewarding the growing pie is.

Additional Insights:
My course is rather unique to the community college setting, created for those students who fall through the cracks because math is too intimidating to allow them to even consider going to college.  It also appeals to those who have been away from math and need that individual refresher that ALEKS provides.