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.

Missouri Western State University, MO
4 Year University / Public

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

Tyra Warnke, Developmental Math Specialist
We use ALEKS 100 percent in all of our self-paced courses. ALEKS is a strong, reliable, consistent program with very few glitches or errors. ALEKS starts the student where they are ready and able to learn. ALEKS has an excellent Customer Support department with quick answers to most questions. ALEKS caught the students up who were not ready for College Algebra by starting them at the level they needed. Students who would most likely not make it in the traditional classroom succeed with ALEKS.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
In the traditional classroom, both lecture and self-paced, we had a list of objectives to cover in the course, usually starting with a small review section. One challenge was trying to cover all of the objectives in the 15 week time frame. Students who were not ready for Beginning Algebra and a classroom of students with widely ranging skill levels, were also challenges. We found that ALEKS (as a stand-alone course product) answered all challenges we faced. In order to cover all objectives, we were able to offer a true self-paced course where students could finish on their own schedule, whether it took them six weeks to finish, or three semesters.  In order to address students not being ready for Beginning Algebra, ALEKS caught these students and started them at the level they needed. Finally, in order to address the wide range of student skill levels, ALEKS started each student where they were ready to learn.

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: 28
Number of students per ALEKS section: 20-35
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 600

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
The class meets in a computer lab. Instructors and tutors are available for assistance and individualized instruction. All students are required to attend class.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 3
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 sections use ALEKS.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
We use ALEKS as a stand-alone source of instruction; students attend class while instructors and tutors are available for assistance.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
No, although we do adjust the topics to match what we cover in the lecture. Students work on these topics in any order.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
We use textbook linking to access the supplemental material in the explanations.

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?
ALEKS quizzes are set up for every topic on the pie; they are available for extra practice. We set up individual quizzes as students request them.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
Students are assessed every three weeks. We block automatic assessments for a few days prior to the scheduled assessments.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
Because students have varied skill levels, I can lecture on a wide variety of topics throughout the day, rather than giving the same lecture several times. I no longer spend time preparing for a lecture and use that time to check on individual student progress.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I use the individualized student reports to track progress of each student. If they are not making progress, I  discuss the possible reasons with the student and offer some solutions. I like the last week time log feature; it allows us to quickly identify students who use ALEKS outside of class.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Students are required to master a certain number of topics for a certain letter grade. We have 200 topics on our Beginning Algebra pie; 70-79 percent completion equals a C; 80-89 percent completion equals a B; and 90-100 percent completion equals an A. By mastering only 80 topics during the course, students earn a D, which is not considered passing. A student who puts effort into the course, but does not reach any of these goals is given an F. We also allow for FA, which is failure due to lack of attendance.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is used as stand-alone instruction.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I set up goals for each student based on their start point and their individual goals for the course. While they are aware of these goals, there is no penalty for not meeting them. Students understand the grading system and progress accordingly through the term.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
Students are given a weekly goal of objectives to master. Every student has differing skill levels and motivations. Some students work fine with weekly goals, others need the pressure of a deadline to motivate them. I use individual student reports and the Message Center to keep students aware of their goals and requirements.

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 varies by student. Some students work 100 hours and are able to master 150 topics, while others put in 100 hours and do not master more than 50 topics. With students who logged 1-20 hours, zero percent passed; with 21-40 hours logged, 28 percent passed; with 41-60 hours, 46 percent passed; with 61-80 hours, 66 percent passed; and with over 80 hours spent in ALEKS, percent passed.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
ALEKS starts the student where they are ready and able to learn. Students who could not keep up in traditional lecture course and previously failed, succeed using ALEKS' mastery based program.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
ALEKS prepares our students for their general studies math classes. Pass rates in our Developmental Math course are 89 percent, while pass rates in our general studies math courses are 94 percent. ALEKS answered all our challenges. We are now able to offer a true self-paced course where students finish on their own schedule, whether it takes them six weeks to finish, or three semesters. Students who would most likely not make it in the traditional classroom succeed with ALEKS.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students who start the course reviewing Arithmetic topics, master more than 200 Beginning and Intermediate Algebra topics by the end of the course. Students state that they have never gotten an A in math before are excited about their accomplishment. A student comment from our semester end survey states, "I really like that I am able to click explain and have help right when I need it, even when I wasn't in class. I do ALEKS at home on my own time and in an atmosphere that suits me best. I also like to see my improvement on a day to day basis and know when I need more work on some objectives".


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Students resist new methods of learning; they are hesitant about using a computer for math (especially non-traditional students), but ALEKS is very easy to learn and most students quickly lose that hesitation. A student states, "I didn't really like the idea of an entire math course on the computer when I started the class, but after only a few days I found that it was very helpful and I actually learned more than I would have in a regular course."

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
We revise our program in an effort to best serve the students, but ALEKS has remained constant the past eight years and will mostly likely in years to come.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
ALEKS is a strong, reliable, consistent program with very few glitches or errors. ALEKS has an excellent Customer Support department with quick answers to most questions. Also, the videos students can access on the explanation pages if you link to or integrate a textbook, are a great tool.