ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

7.3 Planning the ALEKS Course


In ALEKS, the instructor has complete freedom in planning lectures, lessons, and assignments, while ALEKS ensures that students can progress toward mastery regardless of their level of preparation. To the extent that students will be working independently in ALEKS, the content of lab classes is provided by their work in ALEKS. Instructors can, however, plan focused small-group instruction from week to week (Sec. 7.5).
It is important to make ALEKS an integral part of the course requirements and grading scheme. The main factor influencing the success of students using ALEKS is the time that they spend in it. This means that the students must be required to spend a suitable amount of time in ALEKS on a weekly basis. (A minimum of three hours is recommended.) They should be informed of this at the beginning of the course, and the instructor should monitor their fulfillment of this obligation. The amount of time required must be reasonable and in balance with other requirements for the course; the instructor should not simply include an ALEKS requirement without reducing the other requirements that the students have to fulfill. For example, the quantity of homework problems may be reduced, as the students will be solving problems in their ALEKS sessions.
These are only suggestions, and experienced instructors may well find approaches that will be more effective with their own students. There must, however, be clear, formal support for the use of ALEKS.
One approach is to provide a certain number of points toward the final grade for each week that the student fulfills their required hours. It is advisable to reward each week, so that the student does not fall into the expectation that all of the required hours can be done at the end; consistency should be rewarded, along with total hours. If a student falls short of the specified hours during a particular week, that week is not rewarded, but the "deficit" is not carried forward; the next week begins with a clean slate (the primary concern is regular use of the system; for this reason a surplus is also not carried forward). Proportional rewards can also be used; each hour spent has a point value, up to the required minimum.
In order to effectively monitor the students' use, the instructor should check the hours on the "Learning Progress Since Latest Assessment" page or the "Time and Topic" report. This page can be printed out every week for record-keeping. In rare cases, students may try to fool ALEKS by logging on to their accounts and doing something else; this can be seen when the number of items gained per hour is far too low. ALEKS will log the student off if there is no activity after a certain amount of time. Instructors can obtain a precise record of a student's actual work in ALEKS by viewing the student's "Time and Topic" report.
The students' achievement in ALEKS (as opposed to their use of the system) may also be used as a component in their final grade. For information on how to do this, see the Instructor Manual.