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.

Wake Forest University, NC
4 Year University / Private

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course with a textbook.
Purpose: Remediation, Preparation
ALEKS Course: Prep for Calculus

Edward E. Allen, Professor
ALEKS is wonderful. It is a professional product that takes very little time as an instructor to administer with my students.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Many of our students have taken Calculus in high school, but they have forgotten important algebra skills. ALEKS gives our students an opportunity to review these important skills.

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: 2
Number of students per ALEKS section: Approximately 37
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 75

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
Students are expected to spend at least two hours per week in a lab working with ALEKS.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per term: Approximately 20-40

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
All sections used ALEKS.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Students begin the semester by taking the ALEKS Assessment. After completing the assessment, they are required to work on ALEKS to increase the percentage of material they know. The score that students have at the end of six weeks becomes ten percent of their grade. However, we are now using ALEKS differently.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
No. Students complete the initial assessment and then work in ALEKS on their own.

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 scheduled Assessments into your course?
The students' final assessment grade is 10 percent of their course grade.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I no longer have to conduct a thorough review of PreCalculus material now that we use ALEKS. ALEKS also allows me to assume that all students understand Algebra. Generally speaking, students ask better questions throughout the semester when using ALEKS.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I use ALEKS as an instructional resource that is paralleled to my regular instruction.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
10 percent.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is part of students' homework responsibilities. Students still need to complete homework for the material that we are covering in class.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I do not require students to make regular amounts of progress because I feel that students need to be self-motivated. Our department, which has now fully adopted ALEKS, requires students to spend at least two hours each week in ALEKS if they enroll in an associated course.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I track student progress by using the Instructor Module and looking at both initial and recent assessment scores.

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, definitely. Students who failed our first semester using ALEKS spent very little time in the program. It is obvious to see the connection between student accomplishment in ALEKS and their accomplishment in the entire course.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Yes. Students receive a very thorough review of PreCalculus when they use ALEKS. Calculus is not hard by itself, but the Algebra needed to complete computations can be. ALEKS helps us give students a very strong background in their mathematics knowledge.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
I do not have any statistics that I can provide, but I can give some insight as to how our ALEKS semester was different than previous semesters. Our spring semesters are typically one of the most difficult semesters to teach Calculus because student ability may not be as mathematically strong in the spring as it is during the fall. During the spring of 2008, the group of students that I taught using ALEKS had far fewer issues of having to review basic algebra concepts than previous groups of students. Since I did not have to conduct a thorough review of PreCalculus material, I had enough time to cover material that is sometimes neglected. For example, we spent several days covering the Epsilon-Delta problems with respect to limits.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students generally like ALEKS and that they receive immediate feedback on topics. I had one student who had not taken a math course in three years. She told me that she found ALEKS to be very helpful in how it assisted her with remembering the tools that she needed to succeed in the course. Other students in the course made similar comments.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
Students were not motivated enough to work on ALEKS continuously throughout the semester. We have since changed that by starting a course that requires students to spend at least two hours a week in a lab working in ALEKS.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I plan on following what we have already adopted in the department. Specifically, students will be given the opportunity to enroll in the one-hour course that requires that they spend time in ALEKS each week.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Prep for Calculus

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
I think that the one-hour course we have adopted that parallels the Calculus course has been very helpful. The course encourages students to spend even more time working in ALEKS.

Additional Insights:
I really like ALEKS. I have worked with other internet resources in my calculus courses, but there is no comparison between the professionalism of ALEKS and other programs. ALEKS is easy to use and students get a lot out of it.