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Center for Teaching and Learning

Direct Student Support

ALEKS Diagnostic Software

Executive Summary

We received Basic Skill’s funding to expand our use of ALEKS software in our Basic Skills Courses. This program is designed to complement what we do in the classroom. ALEKS (Artificial Learning Knowledge Space) is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. The program uses adaptive questioning to determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. Based on the assessment and the students’ progress, only topics that a student is ready to learn are made available. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking. ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any Web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor.

We met several times during the semester to discuss how we would use the program in our course, the progress our students were making and our overall experience at the end of the semester. Marcia used this program in two courses (Math 65A and Math 105L) and Doris used it in one course (Math 65A). During her lab hour in Math 105L, Marcia would take her student to the lab and have them work on their available topics and quiz them. In Math 65A, since we both didn’t have a lab hour for the course, we instructed the students on the program during the first week of class and had them work on it on their own throughout the semester. Marcia would give them a general idea of how far along they should be and Doris asked student to progress 5% every week. We both counted their ALEKS work as 20% of their overall grade.

The software program helped several students pass the course that normally wouldn’t have in a traditional setting. We were able to see that several students spent many hours studying and working on ALEKS at their own pace, but they were not able to retain the material. We also discovered that several students learn Mathematics slowly, 1-2 topics per week, as opposed to the required 3-4 topics per week our traditional class pace moves. We both felt that many of our borderline students were able to pass because of their efforts on ALEKS.

The overall use of the program was a success and we both would use it again in the future. Many of our students were enthusiastic of the program because they could learn at their own pace and could visually see their progress on a pie chart and a progress chart. The explanations and step-by-step guidelines were used often by our students, and found it more helpful than reading the book. Although we enjoyed this experience, there is one thing we would do differently. We would be more inclined to use it again in a class that included a lab hour. During the lab hour, we could quiz them, work with them one on one and be able to provide additional feedback.


Doris Hanhan

Marcia Kolb

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