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.

Penn State University, PA
4 Year University / Public

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

Stanley S. Smith, Director of Online Instruction of Mathematics
My general experience with ALEKS is good provided I use it the way it works best, which is to let the student progress at their own rate until they arrive where they need to be. Since I began working with ALEKS in 2003, I have witnessed improved student performance in those students who spend more time on ALEKS.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
My main challenge was assigning homework to students with reasonably quick feedback.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
My courses consist of a random selection of students comprising approximately 10 percent of the total Spring enrollment.

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 2
Number of students per ALEKS section: 45
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 90

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
I offer a general weekly lecture in order to stay in sync with our control group of students and one specific weekly lecture where the focus is on student needs as determined by ALEKS reports. In addition to my lectures, we have one lab day per week where I reward those students who have accomplished their goals with a day off.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: Varies
Hours per week: 4
Hours per term: 50

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
The sections that do not use ALEKS work with MyMathLab.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
We outline the objectives of the three units in the course, then set the ALEKS Intermediate Objectives to correspond to those three units.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
With the course in three units, I am approaching objectives in a very flexible manner and try to address needs across the spectrum when I lecture.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
No. I set my own intermediate objectives.

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?
We use the quiz feature as a tool to keep students proactive, engaged, and consistently reviewing material prior to unit midterm exams.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I now focus on student needs in lieu of a rigid linear schedule.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I use the report features to identify specific topics that would benefit a large number of students during my specific lectures. I also use progress reports to send out encouraging emails to my students.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
I export ALEKS data, manipulate it, and then upload it to ANGEL.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
ALEKS makes up 22 percent of my students' total grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Grading for ALEKS in my courses consists of a possible 450 points which are distributed as follows: Exam I is worth 100 points, Exam II is worth 150 points, and ALEKS work/concept mastery offers a maximum amount of points possible for unit one completion of 60 objectives (25 points plus one point for every objective completed, in addition to one point for every hour over 20 hours spent in ALEKS), unit two completion of 95 objectives (25 points plus one point for every objective over 65), unit three completion of 120 objectives (25 points plus one point for every objective over 90), and the Final Exam completion of 135 objectives (25 points plus one point for every objective over 110). I also administer grades for lab participation, as well as penalize those students one point per every lab missed. Conversely, those students who are ahead of expectations are not required to participate in the weekly lab.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS makes up 100 percent of my students' homework responsibilities.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I expect my students to successfully complete the unit objectives that I develop for the course. Throughout the semester, my students complete three unit objectives which cover in excess of 120 topics that are gradually introduced, then mastered. In addition, there are three examinations, including the final that the students must also complete in order to be successful in the course.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I track student progress by utilizing ALEKS progress reports in order to monitor hours completed, as well as the number of objectives completed during the unit.

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?
I have witnessed improved student performance in those students who spend more time on ALEKS in the past. We are currently conducting a study with a control group which should yield more specific results.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Yes. Improved student performance can be attributed to ALEKS methodology.


Learning Outcomes

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Generally, my students feel good about their ALEKS progress.

Published Papers Regarding ALEKS:
Yes.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Moving away from the linear curriculum and towards a more student-centered focus was a challenge.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I would like to be able to incorporate more projects and cooperative group work into my courses.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
It is important to let ALEKS move students through the topics in order for students to progress where they need to be. Instructors should try to develop a mentoring mentality, and allow their lectures to become humanistic, focusing more on mathematics concepts and history.