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.

Milwaukee School of Engineering, WI
4 Year University / Private

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a traditional course without a textbook.
Purpose: Supplement
ALEKS Course: Introduction to Statistics

Ron Jorgensen, Associate Professor
After several years of using ALEKS, I have found a large percentage increase in the course grades of students who use ALEKS versus those from previous terms who did not use ALEKS. ALEKS has been great as a tutor, providing instructor-like assistance to students even outside of the classroom. It holds students accountable for their work, regardless of their excuses. Without a doubt, both exam scores and pass rates have improved, and not by just a small amount.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Our students struggled in statistics. Homework would be assigned, but with the large number of students, it could not be graded or corrected with enough detail to be of benefit to the students. This challenge has been corrected with ALEKS - the system behaves like a very patient tutor. Students begin their homework, walk away from the unfinished assignment, and when they return, the tutor is still there waiting for the next response. Excuses don't get the student out of any work with ALEKS, nor does cutting class. The work required by ALEKS must be done either now or later, but students can't get out of it.

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

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?
I use ALEKS as an independent component in the course. ALEKS is worth 20-25 percent of the final grade. In general, I had students doing ALEKS topics a day or two before I presented those same topics in class.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Days per week: 7

For the sections that do NOT use ALEKS during this specific term, what do they work on in place of ALEKS?
In previous sections of this course that did not use ALEKS, we used traditional homework assignments and encouraged reading. Of course, without the collection of homework, most did not do the assignments.


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
ALEKS is used to satisfy two components of the course. First, ALEKS is used as a tutor, providing instructor-like assistance to students even outside of the classroom. Secondly, ALEKS functions as a homework generator.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
Yes. I use Intermediate Objectives to force ALEKS to present topics in the same order as we cover them in class. The topics start with Basic Probability and progress to more advanced probability (including Bayes' Rule), then to 1- and 2-Sample Hypothesis Testing, and concluding with ANOVA.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
I use a book that I wrote and posted online for my students. As a result, I use ALEKS Intermediate Objectives to coordinate the book with the ALEKS material, and to assign completion dates.

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?
I do not use the quiz option. Instead, students are graded on their ability to complete the assigned Intermediate Objectives, the success they have on assessments, and the grade they receive on a scheduled assessment at the conclusion of the course.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
I do not assign ALEKS homework assignments. Rather, students receive a homework grade according to their completion of the Intermediate Objectives by each due date.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
I schedule an assessment at the conclusion of the course. Students receive a grade based on the percentage of topics in their ALEKS Pie after the assessment, as compared to the percentage of topics in their pie prior to the assessment. The before/after percentage is then incorporated into the weighted average for the course.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I often find myself saying after lecturing on a topic (especially the probability topics that are thoroughly covered in ALEKS), that additional information would be provided in ALEKS. This has allowed me more time in class for explanation, and I spend less time on repetitive examples.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
I let ALEKS drill my students on mechanics, while I use the class time for detailed explanations.


Grading

What percent of a student's grade does ALEKS make up?
ALEKS is worth 40 percent of the students' grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Exams are worth 60 percent of the final grade, and ALEKS is worth 40 percent.

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

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes. There are exactly, by coincidence, 100 ALEKS topics (excluding Math Readiness) that students are required to master. Intermediate Objectives force students to master 5-15 topics per week over the ten-week quarter.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the Instructor Module to track student 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?
Students who spend more time in ALEKS perform incredibly better. However, some students become frustrated when they cannot just walk away from ALEKS and return further along in the course (as they can when they skip class or homework). When students return to ALEKS, they are at the exact same place they were when they walked away. Students hate this, but I love it.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
The adaptive nature of ALEKS' approach is extremely helpful. It minimizes the likelihood that a student is cheating to keep up in the course. Students have to prove, on several consecutive problems, that they understand a topic before it gets to be included in their ALEKS Pie. After that, students need to prove mastery on every subsequent assessment.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
Without a doubt, both exam scores and pass rates have improved, and not by just a small amount.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
It's interesting to me that even though student grades go up considerably with the use of ALEKS, students still get frustrated with the system. I think the experienced frustration is a result of the students' shortcomings - they get upset when they make a mistake and ALEKS continues to question them concerning that topic. Students seem to think, and incorrectly I might add, that getting a question right should be sufficient to give them credit, and that they should never be questioned about the topic again. I have tried to explain the necessity of needing several correct answers to demonstrate proficiency, but students are very impatient.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
The biggest challenge has been convincing students that ALEKS is good for them. The students' perceived inflexibility of ALEKS often frustrates them.

Which ALEKS course product(s) have you used in the past?
Introduction to Statistics