ALEKS Introduction

Overview of ALEKS

In your CHEM 1000 course you will use an innovative approach to facilitating the study of chemistry called ALEKS(Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces). ALEKS addresses many of the deficiencies in traditional online homework systems where the instructor chooses a list of problems from the textbook in initiate thoughtful study on the part of the student. Under this model, every student receives the same set of problems, regardless of his or her background preparation. Some students may not feel sufficiently challenged by the homework problems, while other students may feel overwhelmed. Further, students who complete the assignments without reflecting on conceptual underpinnings of the problems can be lulled into a false sense of security in their knowledge. Simple mastery of the mechanics of a particular kind of problem does not necessarily imply mastery of the concept, or that the concept will be retained long-term.

ALEKS, in contrast, is an instruction tool based on artificial intelligence, rather than a static set of homework problems. The first time you log in, ALEKS will ask you a series of math and chemistry questions designed to assess exactly what you do and do not know about the content in CHEM 1000 and your proficiency with basic algebra and mathematical skills. After this initial assessment ALEKS will begin to teach you items that meet both of the following criteria:

  1. You don't already know how to do an item, and
  2. You are ready to learn the item, based on what you know already.

Note that ALEKS will tailor its approach to the unique needs of each student in the class. ALEKS will rarely force you to "learn" material you already know – ensuring that more students are sufficiently challenged, nor will it try to teach you things for which your foundational skills make you unlikely to succeed – ensuring that fewer students will feel overwhelmed by the problems. Further, you will periodically have your mastery of the material assessed by ALEKS – ensuring that you are retaining the concepts you have learned.

How does ALEKS work?

There are two “modes” in ALEKS: the Assessment Mode and the Learning Mode. In the Assessment Mode, ALEKS will ask you questions designed to determine what you know and what skills you have. This means you will not receive any feedback from ALEKS during an assessment. The first time you log into ALEKS you will be automatically placed in the assessment mode to complete an Initial Assessment of you knowledge of chemistry and math (see below).

In the Learning Mode, you will complete “Objectives” designed by your instructor, rather than “homework assignments.” An ALEKS Objective will contain a list of topics relevant to the current lecture discussions and assigned reading. When you choose a particular topic to learn, ALEKS will present you with a series of practice problems on that topic. The problems will have enough variability that you will only be able to get them consistently correct by understanding the core principle defining the topic. Once you can consistently get the problems for a given topic correct, ALEKS considers that you have learned the topic, and you may then choose another topic to learn.

Periodically, ALEKS will ask you to complete an Objective Completion Assessment. These are intended to gauge how well you are retaining the material you have learned. If ALEKS determines that you are shaky in some areas that you covered in a previous topic or Objective, you will be required to relearn that material before you can move on to topics that build on those concepts.

How do I get graded in ALEKS?

Your grade for the ALEKS portion of the course will be based on four assessments. These assessments are grades on topics learned which will be converted to a percentage in Blackboard. Once an objective grade has been recorded, it will never change, even if you later forget some of the material and are forced by ALEKS to go back and relearn it (but the mastery grade goes up and down as the assessments measure your true mastery and retention over the entire semester).

The Initial Assessment

The first time you log in, ALEKS will automatically place you in the Assessment Mode, where it will ask you a series of math and chemistry questions designed to assess exactly what you do and do not know in chemistry and basic math. The Initial Assessmentis meant to be a snapshot of what you understand about chemistry at the start of this course. You will encounter questions that you will not know how to do...don't take this personally. This is just ALEKS trying to determine the edges of your understanding so that it will know where to begin teaching you.

It is extremely important that you complete the initial assessment carefully and honestly! This is how ALEKS finds out about YOU, how it determines what you already know, and what you are therefore ready to learn! Other online homework systems will make you solve problems whether or not you already know how to do it, or whether or not you are ready to learn them.

Always read and follow the onscreen instructions very carefully. IT IS A WASTE OF TIME to play games with the ALEKS assessments. For example:

  • If you complete the Initial Assessment carelessly or answer randomly, you will give ALEKS the impression that you do not have a solid background in the skills necessary to be successful in Chem 1000. This means you will waste time later because ALEKS will force you to work through material you already know and don’t really need to review. Therefore, it will take you much longer than necessary to complete the Objectives and earn your points.
  • Conversely, if you consult outside resources – such as a textbook, the internet, or a friend – while working through the Initial Assessment, then you will be giving ALEKS the impression that you have a very strong background in math and chemistry. This means that when you enter the Learning Mode, ALEKS will try to teach you things you are not really ready to learn. The Objective Completion Assessments will discover this, and you’ll end up spending far more time in the Learning Mode than necessary. Again, this means it will take you much longer than necessary to complete the Objectives and earn your points.
  • NEVER click the “I don't know” button during any ALEKS assessment unless you truly have no idea how to do the problem. Otherwise, ALEKS will think you don't know a bunch of things you actually do know and take you way back and make you "learn" them.

The Initial Assessment should take about an hour. Your professor will be able to see how long it took to complete your assessment. If your time to complete the assessment is significantly longer than an hour, your instructor will start you over with a brand new initial assessment.

NOTE: To avoid rounding errors, always use ALEKS’s calculator and periodic table!