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.

Washington State University, WA
4 Year University / Public

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

Jeanette Martin, Instructor
My Calculus students struggled so much with Algebra and PreCalculus that I was unable to cover as much of the Calculus material as I wanted to - I had to spend a great deal of time going over Algebra skills with them. My students were much more prepared for Calculus after completing ALEKS Prep for Calculus; I saw noticeably fewer Algebra errors on exams and fewer Algebra-related questions during class. My students were much more prepared for the content of my course because of the time they spent in ALEKS at the beginning of the semester.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
My Calculus students struggled so much with Algebra and PreCalculus that I was unable to cover as much of the Calculus material as I wanted to - I had to spend a great deal of time going over Algebra skills with them.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
I used ALEKS with all of my students.

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 60
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 60

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
My course is lecture and small-group based; the students use ALEKS on their own time.

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

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
There is only one section of this course.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
My students are required to complete 100 percent of the ALEKS Prep for Calculus material within the first five weeks of the course. I have a series of progressive deadlines with point values attached to keep them on track. Their work in ALEKS is worth ten percent of the course grade.

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 a few times throughout the term.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I am able to skip some introductory (PreCalculus review) sections of the Calculus text, and I spend less time demonstrating algebraic steps in my examples.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I look at the areas the students have the most trouble with, such as Trigonometry, to be sure I cover the necessary parts of examples adequately.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
I didn't use any other learning management systems.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Completion of 100 percent of the material is required to earn ten percent of the course grade. If they only complete 80 percent of the material, they receive 8 percent of that part of the grade.

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?
I require students to have 50 percent of the material completed in the first three weeks, then 75 percent after four weeks, and 100 percent at the end of five weeks. I have found that the last 25 percent is the hardest.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the general reports to monitor the percentage of work completed.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
I believe that my students' improved performance in the course was due to the time they were able to spend sharpening their skills in ALEKS.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
My students were much more prepared for Calculus after completing ALEKS Prep for Calculus; I saw noticeably fewer Algebra errors on exams and fewer Algebra-related questions during class.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
My students are positive about their progress in ALEKS, and many have said that the review is helpful for them.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
I wasn't aware of the amount of time it would take to master 100 percent of the material. Since I use ALEKS as a review at the beginning of my course, I wanted the students to cover everything, not just the easiest parts, but they struggled to get it all in. The last 25 percent takes far longer than the first 25 percent!

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I will only have students complete 75 percent of the material. This will allow students the opportunity to "test out" of the material in the assessment. Also, I set my progress deadlines of 50 percent and 60 percent a little earlier to encourage students to get more done before hitting the harder content towards the end.

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