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.

Pacific Union College, CA
4 Year Baccalaureate-Granting College / Private

Scenario: I use ALEKS in an online course without a textbook.
Purpose: Emporium Model, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Beginning Algebra

Steve Waters, Professor
I use ALEKS for online Algebra courses. For those students who are self-motivated and need to fill in holes in their algebra background, ALEKS has worked extremely well. The ability to provide a completely individualized course has been great. Students are not bored by working on topics they already know, and are not overwhelmed by topics that are beyond their grasp. There is no need to try to fit ALEKS into the schedule arbitrarily imposed on a large class; rather, students can follow their own schedule, as long as they put time into ALEKS every day.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
It is a challenge trying to fit all students with incredibly diverse algebraic backgrounds into a traditional remedial Algebra class. Students needing Beginning Algebra have typically failed in previous course attempts with traditional in-class instruction. Many of our students have some knowledge of Algebra, but also have many holes in their knowledge.

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: 10
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 10

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
The courses are all online, available at the students' convenience. I am available for an hour each day in a computer lab to provide personalized assistance for those who need it.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 6
Hours per week: 10
Hours per term: 100

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
Students enrolled in other Beginning Algebra sections use a traditional textbook with lectures.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Students are asked to spend ten hours per week in ALEKS and are given target numbers of topics to be mastered by the end of each week within the ten-week quarter. Student grades are based on the comparison of the achieved totals and the target totals, with 80 percent of the weight on the mastered topics.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
No. Students are free to select from topics, as allowed by ALEKS, in any order they chose.

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?
I only assign a scheduled assessment during finals week. Other assessments throughout the course are either automatically triggered by ALEKS, or assigned by me to individual students only.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
My focus is now completely individualized, and my role has changed to more of a cheerleading motivator to keep students working.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
Every week, I record the number of hours that students have spent in the system and the number of topics they've mastered. For those who are falling behind, I encourage them to see me for one-on-one instruction.

How do you use ALEKS in conjunction with any other learning management systems, course management programs, etc.?
Records are kept in D2L.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
20 percent of each grade is based on the time spent in ALEKS, while the other 80 percent is based on the number of topics mastered. If students complete the entire pie chart before the end of the quarter, they receive an automatic A regardless of the amount of time spent.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS comprises the entire homework load for the course.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes. I require students to spend a target of ten hours per week in ALEKS throughout the ten-week quarter, for a total goal of 100 hours. I also set targets for the number of topics mastered per week; the target number of topics for each of the ten weeks are: 47, 79, 105, 127, 146, 163, 178, 192, 205, and 217. Each Monday morning I record students' time and topic progress in the D2L grade sheet with the target figures as "possible."


How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I track student progress by manually recording the number of logged hours and topics mastered, as reported by ALEKS each week.

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?
In general, yes. There are students who have a better math background and can do well with fewer hours, but I try to shift the students' focus to spending a couple of hours in ALEKS every day, and the topic mastery will take care of itself. Those who put in the time always do well.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
The ability to provide a completely individualized course has been great. Students are not bored by working on topics they already know, and are not overwhelmed by topics that are beyond their grasp. There is no need to try to fit ALEKS into the schedule arbitrarily imposed on a large class; rather, students can follow their own schedule, as long as they put time into ALEKS every day.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
The pass rates for the ALEKS course are slightly higher than the traditional course. However, the ALEKS course uses fewer college resources and has higher satisfaction ratings from students. We encourage students to sign up for the delivery system that best fits their personalities and backgrounds. For those who are self-motivated and need to fill in holes in their algebra background, the online ALEKS system with available one-on-one instructor help has worked extremely well.




In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students who schedule adequate time for ALEKS and keep with their schedule feel great about their progress in ALEKS. While a few students allow themselves to get sidetracked and not finish the course, those who keep at it regularly have nothing but praise for the system. These are students who have had bad experiences with traditional Algebra classes and are really grateful for the individualized instruction provided by ALEKS.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
The biggest challenge was, and continues to be, keeping students motivated to put in the necessary time in ALEKS. It is far too easy for some students to forget that they're really taking a class when they don't have to attend a daily meeting; they let several days go by before they realize that they've fallen behind.  I send weekly reports to my students, and try to stay in contact as best I can to encourage them to keep up.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I've been using ALEKS for several years now and have fine-tuned my implementation. I am always looking for ways to improve the course, but I don't anticipate any drastic changes in the immediate future.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
It has been important to provide time for students to come in for individualized help. ALEKS works really well for most self-motivated students, but human interaction is often important to get past rough spots. Since this is a completely online course, I need to make regular email contact with students to encourage them to keep at it and ask questions when necessary.

Additional Insights:
I really appreciate being able to use this program. It is a great solution for many of our students.