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 State University -- San Marcos, CA
4 Year University / Public

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

Radhika Ramamurthi, Associate Professor
Overall, I am very pleased with ALEKS. I am an instructor in charge of four graduate teaching assistants who use ALEKS labs. I really like the way ALEKS forces the students to retain the material they learn. I love the fact that I can, at a glance, see how much work they are putting into the course. I like the way the topics are broken up into small, bite-sized pieces. ALEKS doesn't allow students the convenient excuses they are used to leaning on: my teacher is bad, my book is unreadable, I am putting in the time but don't see any progress.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
We had many disengaged students and a lack of retention of the current material in the next course.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?

We had many disengaged students and a lack of retention of the current material in the next course.



Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 4
Number of students per ALEKS section: 25
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 100

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
The course consists of two 50 minute lectures per week and one two-hour lab per week.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: Approximately 1-5
Hours per week: Approximately 3-10
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?
They follow a traditional model with a textbook that lectures and homework are based on.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Class meetings are separated into lecture and ALEKS sessions. Lectures play a supportive roll to ALEKS. Students work on ALEKS while I am available to answer questions and clarify doubts. Students determine which topics are covered in lecture by bringing questions to class. Lecture consists of the topics that are on the ALEKS assignment due that week. The material is broken into 12 assignments that are due weekly, except on weeks with an exam. There are three exams plus a final after the initial three assignments are completed.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
Yes, I inherited the topic order from the course designer, who took into account how the topics are presented in ALEKS and also how to match the other non-ALEKS courses.

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 frequently throughout the term.

How do you incorporate ALEKS Quizzes into your course?
Six ALEKS quizzes are given after two assignments and four exams. Practice quizzes are set up to prepare students for the quizzes and as a review before exams.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
Homework assignments help students master topics by the due date.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
Scheduled assessments are not used regularly. Since we have exams on ALEKS on a specific set of assignments/topics, automatic assessments are suppressed five days before an exam.  We use scheduled assessments if a student complains that they got thrown back too far after an exam or have some other such complaint.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I tailor the lectures to ALEKS. Some students who complete the ALEKS course are not proficient in mathematical writing, so we use written quizzes and exams to supplement ALEKS quizzes and exams.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
Students come to class prepared with questions that they are struggling with. I highlight, in class, the topics that the majority of students are missing in their ALEKS pies.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS makes up 100 percent of the final course grade. Homework counts as 15 percent, six quizzes count for 10 percent, exams count for 45 percent, and the final counts for 30 percent.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
The students' homework is to master the topics from the week's assignment list on ALEKS.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Not specifically; it's intrinsically built into the homework structure.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the Detailed Progress Report and Class Average Mastery data.

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.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
ALEKS is the methodology used; any improvement in student performance is due to ALEKS.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
Students take the ALEKS course when they have not passed basic math readiness that certifies them as being ready for college level math courses. The most important learning outcome is that students demonstrate a mastery of basic algebra work that will allow them to move into a college level course successfully. I feel very satisfied using ALEKS because it provides a definite quantitative measure of mastery of the material. Students who take the course and pass it with a grade of C or better have a better grasp of Algebra, Logarithms, and Exponents.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students who are persistent and work hard get a great deal of satisfaction from ALEKS. Some students finish all the material early and thus take the final early. When students are advised on what to expect and have a sympathetic instructor, they settle down to ALEKS and appreciate the fact that they can monitor their own progress.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
The biggest challenge is really getting the students to understand that a loss of topics is not a horrible tragedy. Working through ALEKS oneself as a student is helpful to be able to listen and advise students.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I will not suppress assessments before exams; it causes students too much grief as they gain ground before the exam and then promptly lose it after the exam when the assessments come back.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Incorporate written work together with ALEKS. Reward students on the number of hours spent in ALEKS, irrespective of whether they progress on their pie or not. Warn students about the methodology of learning, that it is no longer linear and be prepared to give lots of pep talks. Completing ALEKS before implementing it in the course is helpful in enabling instructors to learn the features and to understand what the students will experience. Decide whether or not to use scheduled assessments, and require automatic assessments for students.