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.

Washington State University, WA
4 Year University / Public

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course with a textbook.
Purpose: Supplement, Homework
ALEKS Course: PreCalculus

Christy Jacobs, Instructor
I attribute improved student performance to the use of ALEKS. The most important improvement that I have noticed is that the gaps in student learning are slowly being filled. When students come from so many different educational backgrounds, it is difficult to know which prerequisite topics they need help with. ALEKS is a great tool for determining where students need help, and for allowing students to bridge those gaps, as they cannot move forward without completing those required topics.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Placement has been, and still is, a problem. Students are often placed in PreCalculus when their algebra skills are very weak, so they struggle throughout the course. The students need additional work with algebra skills, but instructors do not have time to adequately address this because they need to cover new material.

Was ALEKS used in your course with all students or with targeted students?
All students in this course use ALEKS.

Number of students who used ALEKS for the course and term:
Number of sections: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 30
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 30

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
ALEKS work is completed outside of scheduled class time; we do not use a lab.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 5
Hours per week: Approximately 5-8


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
I use ALEKS as my main source of homework. I used to assign 30-40 homework problems from the textbook, but now that I use ALEKS, I only assign about five problems from the textbook. ALEKS assignments are worth 75 percent of the overall homework grade.  Students are required to complete all of the work on their own time.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
I cover ALEKS material according to the order in our textbook. Students who complete the ALEKS homework as assigned, usually have the same ALEKS topics available to work on in ALEKS as we are working on in class.

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 periodically throughout the term.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
I require students to complete a certain number of topics in their ALEKS Pie by each due date. Homework is due approximately twice a week, and makes up approximately 75 percent of the overall homework grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
I schedule assessments after homework due dates to ensure that students are not interrupted with an unscheduled assessment when trying to complete the assigned number of topics. Scheduled assessments also make sure that the students actually learn the material.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I did not really modify my teaching approach. The main differences now are that I assign fewer written homework problems and I have to spend a few minutes here and there going over an ALEKS problem for a student during class time.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I did not use ALEKS to focus my teaching. However, in the future, I would like to use ALEKS to modify my exam reviews to fit the topics that students are struggling with in ALEKS.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
I download students' progress after each due date. I assign points according to the number of objectives the student has completed compared to the number that have been assigned. The points are then recorded in the gradebook. There are 14 assignments total, worth 15 points each, and the lowest score is thrown out.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
ALEKS is 75 percent of the homework load.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I require students to make progress based on the topics we cover in class. During the first week of class, students are required to complete about 40 topics, as there are many prerequisites that they should have mastered. After that, they have to complete about 15 topics per week.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the Detailed Progress History Report to determine the number of topics students have completed after each due date, and use this information to assign points in my gradebook. I also use the Average Report Pie Chart to view overall class progress.

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?
67 percent of students who earned 90 percent or more of the available ALEKS points, received an overall grade of A or a B for the course. Conversely, no student who earned less than 90 percent of their ALEKS points, received an A or B. Additionally, in class, I noticed that the students who spent more time in ALEKS ask better questions and are more attentive; I believe this is because they had already seen some of the material that I was lecturing on.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
I attribute improved student performance to the use of ALEKS. The most important improvement that I have noticed is that the gaps in student learning are slowly being filled. When students come from so many different educational backgrounds, it is difficult to know which prerequisite topics they need help with. ALEKS is a great tool for determining where students need help, and for allowing students to bridge those gaps, as they cannot move forward without completing those required topics.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
When requiring work in ALEKS, the biggest improvement I saw in my students was fewer algebra errors on quizzes and exams. In comparing this summer course to the previous summer course, quiz scores rose five percent and exam scores rose two percent. Also, when comparing overall grades, there were five percent more A grades, and three percent more B grades.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Many of my students tell me that they felt better prepared for course material and like the fact that I require them to work in ALEKS. A few students were upset at having to do what they consider extra work (although it was necessary practice for these students), but they did admit that using ALEKS helped them prepare for quizzes and exams. Overall, I would say that using ALEKS has been a positive experience for my students.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
The biggest challenge in implementing ALEKS occurred within the first week. Getting students signed up, making sure they understood how ALEKS worked, and getting students to believe in ALEKS were all major challenges. The first two issues could have been avoided by meeting in a computer lab during one of the first few days of class to make sure everyone was signed up and understood how things worked. The third challenge could have been avoided by talking about why ALEKS works, and providing some statistics. The best way to address that may be to have a former student to come in and endorse the product.

What will you do differently when you implement ALEKS in your future course(s)?
I would definitely use the new e-Homework option in ALEKS. I think it's very similar to what I was trying to do in previous courses, only much easier to use.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
Make sure you talk to your students about ALEKS, and if at all possible, spend time in a lab with them. Also remind students that ALEKS is helping them; if they have a good attitude about it and realize how it's helping them, they are much more likely to complete the work. Additionally, training any instructors that will be using the product is a necessity and they need this training more than a few days before classes begin so they have time to play around and figure out what they want to do with ALEKS. If an instructor is not completely sold on the merits of using ALEKS, then the students will sense this.