By Arlene Rogoff, Coordinator for Dev Math and the Learning Communities, Union County College
I first encountered ALEKS at a McGraw-Hill Education presentation in New York City in the spring of 2013. I immediately knew that this was a platform I wanted to implement at my college. How, where and if I would get support at my institution would be the challenge. However, being the Mathematics Coordinator of the Title V Grant proved to be quite advantageous. I proposed we pilot ALEKS in our summer “boot camp” and the results surpassed everyone’s expectations.
The first attempt took place during the summer of 2013. Students were selected based upon their Accuplacer scores (50 or more in Computation and 45 or more in Algebra). Counselors employed by the grant contacted potential candidates and we recruited enough students to hold both a morning and evening session. There were 43 students who attended the sessions for two and a half hours, for five days (with a weekend in the middle). Each session had students who were working on Computation along with students who were working on Algebra. Packets were created for the students containing topics with examples, which were considered necessary for success. During the session, students worked in ALEKS while the professor circulated the room to help students who asked questions and those who appeared to be struggling. Midway through each class, the professor gave a mini lecture and reviewed examples from the packet. Students valued this “break” from ALEKS.
After the summer 2013 boot camp ended, we were very pleased with our results, especially for a first time effort. In summary, there were 17 participants in Computation: 94% improved and 71% tested out. There were 26 participants in Algebra: 85% improved and 69% tested out.
We learned a great deal from this first attempt and in the summer of 2014, the goals of the grant were more specific. Students who enrolled in Computation still had to score at least 50 on the Accuplacer exam, but they also had to score at least 53 on the Algebra portion. That algebra score would place them into the one-semester algebra course at our school. (We also offer a two-semester elementary algebra course for lower scoring students.) The expectation was that students would test out of Computation and go directly into our one-semester elementary algebra course. We also decided it was more beneficial to the students to be in a homogeneous environment, and therefore separated the Computation and Algebra students into different sessions.
Three sessions were held instead of two and the results were as follows:
|Session||# of Students||Results|
|Computational Day Class||10 students||90% tested out of Computation|
|Computational Night Class||11 students||92% tested out of Computation|
|Algebra Day Class||16 students*||88% tested out of Algebra|
*Students who just needed algebra and scored at least 53 on the Accuplacer
For the summer of 2015, we are not sure what the grant will focus on, but one thing we are sure about is the math department will be using ALEKS in a new 1-credit boot camp course both in Computation and Algebra. We are confident that the successes we encountered with the grant will be equivalent in these courses. And, by separating the Computation and the Algebra students, we were able to achieve an environment more conducive to learning and student engagement.
The best evaluations always come from the students, so here is what some of the students who were involved in these classes had to say:
“I felt as though ALEKS prepared me well.”
“I have never dealt with such an awesome program. I loved every minute of it!”
“I’m proud of myself.”
“The teacher was able to focus on my needs.”
“I always had help and felt like I could ask anything.”
“I was able to brush up on some materials and build confidence on my math skills.”
“I learned faster than I expected.”