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.

Midlands Technical College, SC
2 Year Technical or Career College

Scenario: I use ALEKS in an online course without a textbook.
Purpose: Online Course
ALEKS Course: Beginning Algebra

Rick Bailey, Mathematics Department Chair
32 percent of the students who used ALEKS earned an A, whereas only 21 percent of students who did not use ALEKS earned an A. Among the students who earned A grades by using ALEKS, five began working on topics for the subsequent course and three were able to pass the exemption exam for the next course. Many students have told me how much they like the ALEKS program. One thing that many students like is that ALEKS gives them an opportunity to work at their own pace, to finish the course early, and to begin working through topics in the next course.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Students place into developmental math courses even after prior completion of Algebra in high school. Many mature, returning education students have not seen Algebra for a long time. Some students have other obligations or live a considerable distance from one of our campuses which makes it difficult for them to take classes on campus. Many of our students don't put in the time-on-task that is necessary to be successful in the 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: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 31
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 31

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
Lectures are not used; students complete the course entirely on ALEKS.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per week: Approximately 4-5
Hours per term: 120


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
The ALEKS Beginning Algebra course is subdivided into five Intermediate Objectives: Linear Equations, Linear Functions, Polynomials, Rational Equations, and miscellaneous topics. Only ALEKS Assessments taken in a proctored environment are used for grading purposes. Student are encouraged to come on campus about every three weeks to take an assessment on ALEKS. I compute a score by calculating the percentage of topics mastered from that Intermediate Objective on the assessment. The final exam is a cumulative assessment of all topics on ALEKS. I use an average of the scores or the percentage topics mastered to assign a grade for the course.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
Students are encouraged to work on ALEKS topics included in the current Intermediate Objective.

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

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
Since this is an online course, I rely almost entirely on ALEKS to provide the necessary instruction. I do reply to questions sent to me via email, but this is not common.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I use the reports to keep up with student progress and to identify students that may need some assistance.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
I use WebCT to provide orientation information, as well as testing hours and dates. I post solutions to four course assessment problems that all students must complete.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
I use five tests that cover the Intermediate Objectives or the percentage of course topics mastered on an assessment in a proctored setting, whichever is higher.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is the only homework.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Students need to complete about 30 topics every three weeks.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the Individual Learning Progress Since Last Assessment report.

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?
This is difficult to say. The time required to complete all topics varied from 28 hours to 139 hours.  Most of those who were not successful did not log sufficient time on the ALEKS program.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Many students benefit from the opportunity to review prerequisite topics. The progress assessments also help students to retain what they are learning in the Learning Mode of the program.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
32 percent of the students who used ALEKS earned an A, whereas only 21 percent of students who did not use ALEKS earned an A. Among the students who earned A grades by using ALEKS, five began working on topics for the subsequent course and three were able to pass the exemption exam for the next course.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Many students have told me how much they like the ALEKS program. One thing that many students like is that ALEKS gives them an opportunity to work at their own pace, to finish the course early, and to begin working through topics in the next course. Some are able to then exempt the next course by examination.  Many students face circumstances that prevent them from coming on to campus to take the course and they like the convenience and flexibility that ALEKS offers. Many students have not taken a mathematics course for some time, so the fact that ALEKS assesses their mastery of prerequisite skills and provides an opportunity to review and reacquire these skills is appreciated. Most students think that ALEKS is easy to navigate and that they enjoy using it. Many students like the fact that they can work as many problems as they want until they have mastered a topic.    


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
It took me a while to figure out how to divide the course up into appropriate Intermediate Objectives. I think that the resources now provided to instructors are sufficient to avoid major difficulties.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Include prerequisite readiness topics. Encourage students to be assessed frequently, about every three weeks. Use Intermediate Objectives to help keep students on track to complete the course by the end of the term. Allow students to retake assessments if they do poorly.