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.

Missouri Western State University, MO
4 Year University / Public

Scenario: I use ALEKS in a self-paced course without a textbook.
Purpose: Core Curriculum
ALEKS Course: Beginning Algebra

Meri J. Thompson, Assistant Developmental Math Specialist
ALEKS has the ability to place students where they need to be, yielding a high success rate. No students are struggling to keep up with an instructor and, at the same time, no students are bored or waiting on the instructor to continue. My students like that they can use ALEKS at home and study when they are free. As a result, ALEKS is extremely popular at our school.


Scenario

What challenges did your students or institution face prior to using ALEKS?
Students are placed in the Beginning Algebra ALEKS course due to their low American College Testing (ACT) math sub-score. There were many variations in student backgrounds; some were non-traditional students that just needed a review of Beginning and Intermediate Algebra, some had not planned to attend college and had no previous algebra experience, and others had dropped out of high school and had taken the GED exam. The greatest challenge for these students was their fear of math and a lack of basic 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: 1
Number of students per ALEKS section: 23
Total students enrolled in this ALEKS course: 23

How do you structure your course periods with ALEKS?
This course is a completely self-paced ALEKS course with an available instructor and student tutors in the classroom.

How often are students encouraged or required to use ALEKS?
Hours per week: Approximately 4-6
Hours per term: 40


Implementation

Please describe how you implement ALEKS into your course curriculum.
Our classrooms look like computer labs, but they are ALEKS classrooms. On either the first or second day of the semester, each student will be given an initial assessment in ALEKS. Students are required to keep a weekly log of the time and the objectives that they accomplish in ALEKS; this allows students to view their own progress at any time. I also schedule in-class assessments about every three weeks.

Do you cover ALEKS topics in a particular order?
This was entirely self-paced.  We do encourage and recommend that the students finish the topics in their Arithmetic pie first.  Since ALEKS allows access to the pie as students are ready, there are no concerns on a particular order for the student or the instructor.

Do you integrate a textbook with your course using ALEKS Textbook Integration? Please describe how you set up your chapter completion dates.
No, we do not use ALEKS Textbook Integration. However, we do make textbooks available to the students. I also recommend that the students make use of the worksheets available in ALEKS; many print those off.

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?
Quizzes are set-up on specific topics for individual students who having trouble and need extra help.

How do you incorporate ALEKS homework assignments into your course?
Completing the ALEKS Pie is the homework.

How do you incorporate ALEKS scheduled Assessments into your course?
I create scheduled assessments at regular intervals, about every three weeks of the course. I also make use of the assessment scheduler and prevent any automatic assessments from appearing for up to seven days prior to a scheduled assessment.

How do you modify your regular instructional approach as a result of ALEKS?
I walk around the classroom and speak with each student one-on-one. I individualize lectures to students when they are beginning a new topic or need special help - this is easy to spot from the Instructor Module.

How do you use information from ALEKS to focus your teaching?
The ALEKS Instructor Module is great for monitoring progress, attendance, etcetera. The downloadable spreadsheets are perfect for tracking progress or lack of progress.


Grading

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

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Students have to receive a passing percentage on the final ALEKS Assessment in the course. The grading scale is as follows: 70-80 percent is a C, 80-90 percent is a B, and 90-100 percent is an A. In our developmental courses, we do not offer D grades, so any students unable to reach a passing score receive a grade of F.

Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities?
We require 40 hours to be put into ALEKS in order to receive a passing percentage. We also implement an attendance policy.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I track student progress in the class and remind students of the number of objectives they need to complete per week in order to get a passing score in ALEKS.

How do you track student progress in ALEKS?
I use the downloadable spreadsheets that are available in the Instructor Module. I also print the class reports.

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?
This completely depends upon the student. I have students that spend very little time outside of the classroom and are successful, and others who require a large amount of time to complete one topic. This is dependent upon the background of the student, as well as the amount of elapsed time since his/her last math class.

Would you attribute any improved student performance in the course to ALEKS methodology or to some other factor?
Yes. I have a number of students from large inner-city high schools who had not been exposed to any Algebra in high school. They liked that ALEKS is self-paced and made them complete a topic before going on. Because ALEKS is a mastery system, it is an excellent tool.


Learning Outcomes

Please describe the learning outcomes your students have achieved using ALEKS.
My class had 23 students in the first week. 17 of those students passed the course, 4 students were administratively withdrawn, 1 student failed, and 1 student withdrew. The result is an 89.5 percent pass rate for students that came to class for the entire semester. Out of these students, 11 received a final grade of C, 3 received a B grade, and 3 received an A.

In general, how do the students feel about their progress in ALEKS?
Students like the self-paced format of ALEKS, and feel that they are more prepared for continuing on to the next level of mathematics.


Best Practices

What challenges did you encounter when first implementing ALEKS and how can other instructors avoid these pitfalls?
The instructor has to keep track of the progress of each student. It takes some time for the student to catch-on to all of the features available in ALEKS, and some must be pointed out in order for the student to receive the full benefit from the resource.

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

What best practices would you like to share with other instructors who are implementing ALEKS?
I like that assessments may be scheduled and automatic assessments may be delayed. Additionally, it is helpful to the student that the instructor is able to monitor student progress and track the time that the student puts in.