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.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
4 Year University / Public

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

Sonja Schuster, Lecturer
I use ALEKS in remedial Algebra courses. I like the fact that students have to work problems; ALEKS isn't passive learning which is what most lectures are. Students like that they can focus on what is giving them trouble, and that they can work lots of examples and get immediate feedback on whether something is right or wrong.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Students were weak in the fundamentals of Algebra and were not ready to enroll and successfully complete a Pre-Calculus course. 

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: 3
Number of students per ALEKS section: 30
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 98

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
All our Intermediate Algebra courses are set up as labs. We meet 50 minutes three times per week.  There is very little lecture; 15 minutes once a week. Students work on ALEKS during class time.  A professor and two teaching assistants are available to assist students who have individual questions. Class attendance is required.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 5
Hours per week: 6
Hours per term: 60


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
We customize the ALEKS topics.  In Intermediate Algebra, we cover 185 topics which are the basis for the course. We do not use a textbook or other materials.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
I break the 185 topics down into nine Intermediate Objectives. This way the students can pace themselves so they stay on track and complete the course within the ten week term. Each Objective has anywhere from 18 topics to 41 topics.

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?
There are four in-class quizzes during the quarter - we call them Exams and they are given every two weeks. The first exam covers homework 1a, 1b, and 2. The second exam covers homework 3 and 4. Exam three covers homework 5 and 6, and exam 4 covers homework 7, 8, and 9. Each exam has 20 questions selected from the related homework. Exams are a nice way to reinforce the material.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
ALEKS homework is due the day after an Intermediate Objective is due. Sometimes students assess past a topic and don't get a chance to practice it, so homework coves every possible topic in the objective to make sure students see each topic at least once. If the student is not understanding the topic, they receive individual help.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
Assessments are given several times during the quarter.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I usually lecture.  In this course, I do a lot of individual tutoring and some small group work.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I check to see how many topics students have left to complete in an Objective and what topics are coming up next for them. If a student is falling behind, I offer individual help and encourage them to keep working.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS determines 100 percent of the final grade. Exams account for 48 percent, Intermediate Objectives for 15 percent, homework for ten percent, final assessment for 22 percent, and hours logged in ALEKS for five percent.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?

ALEKS counts for 100 percent of the students' homework responsibilities.



Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Students must complete the Intermediate Objectives by the due dates to get credit.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I receive emails when the students complete their Intermediate Objectives. I use quiz reports to record homework and exam grades, and I use the progress page for the final assessment grade.

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. Students who spend time in ALEKS and work the examples, score better. I track the students' hours each week and those who consistently put in time perform better.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Yes, I like the fact that students have to work problems; ALEKS isn't passive learning which is what most lectures are.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
Students were initially assessed low (12 percent to 42 percent) and then assessed much higher (80 percent to 97 percent) after using ALEKS for one quarter.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Overall, students are pleased with ALEKS. Students like that they can focus on what is giving them trouble, and that they can work lots of examples and get immediate feedback on whether something is right or wrong.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
It was a challenge to get the syllabus set up the way I wanted. I recommend contacting ALEKS Customer Support; they are very helpful and saved me a lot of time and headaches.  

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Beginning Algebra, Intermediate Algebra

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Take time to review each explanation and come up with alternate approaches in helping students understand the material. I highly recommend allowing students to do homework (quizzes) an unlimited number of times - it is great practice for them. My students are encouraged to complete homework until they get the grade they want, then I record their best grade. I also set the due date in ALEKS beyond the end of the term so they can access the homework for the entire quarter. If a student doesn't pass an exam, and they are willing to do the related homework correctly before the start of the next class period, I give them a makeup and average the two grades. That way, the student gets more practice and I am more confident about them moving on in ALEKS.