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.

University of Wisconsin Waukesha, WI
2 Year Community College

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

Shubhangi Stalder, Professor
ALEKS is easy-to-use and, after one semester, I began feeling more comfortable with the program. ALEKS allows me to reach students that I could not before. The results of using the ALEKS program with my students are very significant in many ways, such as the type of relationship now established between me and my students. ALEKS allows me to track students' progress regularly and keep them up to date with their progress in the course. The ability to have cumulative testing for every assessment is the strongest feature in the ALEKS program; students are able to retain the material until the final exam. Being able to create a near ideal test-taking environment by removing time pressures is also a powerful ALEKS feature.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
The failure rate in this course is very high.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
Students self-selected the ALEKS course from the college's course schedule. 

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 3
Number of students per ALEKS section: 26
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 79

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
Most classes are lectures and some classes had group work. All  homework, quizzes and assessments use ALEKS.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 7
Hours per week: 6
Hours per term: 80

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
All other sections are encouraged to spend six hours of homework outside of class.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Students are graded in three specific areas of ALEKS including the number of ALEKS topics mastered per class/week (14 percent of overall grade), the number of ALEKS topics retained on each of the four cumulative ALEKS assessments (63 percent of overall grade), and the number of passed ALEKS homework quizzes (14 percent of overall grade). ALEKS is used for basically everything except the attendance quizzes. Regular monitoring of students with regular ALEKS e-mails are used to catch at-risk students early which may help retention and pass rates.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
Yes. We use the content editor to section off the total number of topics per week. This gives the students a steady pace to abide by in their learning process.

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
All students are allowed an unlimited number of tries on the 14 ALEKS homework quizzes assigned. They must achieve a score of 80 percent or higher on each quiz.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
There are four scheduled cumulative ALEKS assessments. The assessments comprise 63 percent of the grade with the following breakdown: the first ALEKS assessment comprises three percent; the second ALEKS assessment comprises ten percent; the third ALEKS assessment comprises 15 percent; and the fourth ALEKS assessment comprises 35 percent.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I use ALEKS reports to see which topics need to be discussed, as well as the ALEKS assessments and homework to ensure that students are completing their work.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
The most useful ALEKS tool is the individual student reports and the class reports. I also use the feature that shows which of the students have mastered a certain topic. I monitor the passing percentage rates and the mistakes on homework quizzes so I can address them in class.


Grading

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

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
Yes, 14 percent for homework quizzes with an unlimited number of tries and 14 percent for Learning Mode progress checks.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes. Every week students are given targets to meet so that the material can be finished in 15 weeks. Students are given a syllabus with the breakdown of topics per week so they have an understanding of how to study at home.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use individual reports, homework quiz results, and assessment results.

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?
Yes. Our courses that use ALEKS have shown that students who complete the ALEKS homework quizzes and spend the required 80 hours or more on ALEKS are most likely to receive a grade of a C or better.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
I would attribute students' improved performance to the amount of ALEKS work they complete. In ALEKS, it is easy to see the amount of effort being given by the student and makes learning easier by showing students the topics they know and topics they need to learn. ALEKS definitely plays a significant role in student success.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
I started the course with 30 students and retained 29 students at the end of the semester; 13 of the 29 students earned a grade of C or better. The students who failed did not spend enough time in ALEKS or did not complete the required homework and quizzes in ALEKS. Each student who completed the required ALEKS work passed the course with a grade of C or better.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Many students take pride in their ALEKS pie pieces. After an exam, I might hear a student say they should have studied more so they did not lose pie pieces. I don't hear these kind of statements after a paper and pencil test in a traditional course. Students are frustrated when they lose pie pieces after a cumulative assessment, but they realize it is necessary for their success.

Published Papers Regarding ALEKS:
I have given talks regarding ALEKS at several math conferences.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Other instructors should take time and patience to become familiar with ALEKS; do not quickly dismiss ALEKS because of an unsuccessful beginning. I think instructors have to be flexible in terms of their lectures and adjust ALEKS to suit their teaching style.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Basic Math, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
I think having a schedule is important for students. I suggest to use the ALEKS homework feature and the cumulative assessments feature for exams.