# EdTech Solutions Teacher’s Corner: ALEKS Best Practices

## edtech solutions Teachers Corner webinar: January 2021

Thank you for joining us for today’s brand-new Teacher’s Corner.

You won’t want to miss the January Teacher’s Corner webinar where we discuss best practices for teachers using the ALEKS adaptive online learning platform. We demonstrate how to effectively gather and use the data reports within ALEKS and share some great ways to motivate students and use ALEKS for small group learning and individualized instruction. Other topics that we discuss include how to add assignments including homework and quizzes and how ALEKS incorporates state standards. So, whether you are new to using ALEKS or want to get more out of the program, we hope you find this webinar helpful.

### Online Tools Referenced:

### Read the transcript below:

Lacey:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to EdTech Teacher’s Corner. My name is Lacey with EdTech Solutions and I’m joined today by Angel and Augustina to discuss some best practices for teachers using the ALEXS, adaptive online learning program. Angel brings with her a background using ALEKS in the classroom and will demonstrate how to effectively gather and use the data reports within ALEKS, and Augustina is going to share some great ways to motivate students and how to use ALEKS for small group learning. And some other topics that we’ll show you today include how to add assignments in ALEKS, and also an overview of how state standards are incorporated. So whether you’re new to using ALEKS or you want to get more out of the program that you’re already using, we hope that you find today’s webinar helpful. So Angel, I’ll go ahead and turn it over to you.

Angel:

Hi, thank you so much. As Lacey said, I have used ALEKS in the classroom and just love all of the information that it brings to the table. It’s a truly adaptive environment that works with the students and what they’re able to do, and also catches when they’ve answered a question incorrectly. After a few times, it’s able to determine what the cause of that is and reevaluate the questions that it’s going to give them in the future. So it’ll go back and reteach them those steps so that those students can better scaffold and be able to apply those skills to the questions that they were missing.

A lot of the teachers, when they are initially using ALEKS become a little bit intimidated by it because it’s harder for them to understand where the information is coming from. That all starts off with an initial knowledge check. So when your students log on for the very first time, they’ll go through a very short tutorial that teaches them how to use the program, how to use the in-app calculator and how to answer those questions correctly, because they have to be input in a specific way in order for it to be counted as correct, if the answer is correct.

Once that is completely finished and they’re able to navigate their way through, they’ll be given an initial knowledge check. It is approximately 45 minutes of information that it goes through and determines the baseline for the student. It’ll show where their current learning gaps are, where they’re strong, and where they could use additional help. That initial knowledge check then will create a pie that shows mastered topics and where there’re learning gaps and where that will take you back to in your pie so that you can learn those learning gaps or your students will be able to become more successful in the classroom.

There are some reports that as a teacher, it’s very valuable to be able to watch or see, and those are the, there are a lot of them, but we’ll start out with just the initial three. There’s a student progress report, a time and topic report that can give you both live information and information after the fact, and the ALEKS pie report. The student progress report covers the information that was gathered during that initial knowledge check. It will also show the student’s improvement over time, once they’ve begun using the lessons, and you can also see how many topics the students have mastered, what they have learned since the last knowledge check. That’s very valuable information for you to have going forward.

The time and topic report tells you the amount of time that the students are there while they’re on their devices, you can check that while they’re on their devices and see exactly what topics they’re working on in the moment, and it has a table that includes dates as columns, that’ll give you additional information on the individual amount of time that a student is spending on ALEKS, that shows you the number of lessons learned against the number of lessons attempted, and it also will give you an individual summary of the student’s work. It’ll tell you again, the number of, or the amount of time that they’ve spent, how many topics they’ve attempted, it’ll show you the questions attempted, and if they’ve used their resources while they were within that. So you can see if they’ve used the in-app learning feature or help feature during that question. And you can see the student’s responses and correct answers and if they went to any explanation pages.

If they answered incorrectly, it’ll give you a red X. And if they’ve answered correctly, it’ll give you something different. If you click on the red X, it will actually show you the answer that the students gave. So that as a math teacher you have a better understanding as well of what they attempted and may not have done correctly.

The ALEKS pie report is an overall class progress report. You can use it entirely as a class or individually with each student. It identifies students that have similar skill gaps and allows you to fill in those learning gaps for those students. It also identifies the percentage of topics that the class has mastered so far. It’ll give you specific data on the topic if you click on the pie link. That can help you determine the percentage of students that are ready to learn a new topic and the percentage of students that have attempted a topic and not learned it. I am going to go ahead and share a video. All right. And I’m playing it.

### ALEKS Video on Reports:

The first report we’ll take a look at is the ALEKS progress report. This report is a good report to access after students complete the initial knowledge check or to see how students have improved over time. As a teacher, you get to see what the students have mastered and what they have learned since their last knowledge check. You can talk between the settings to view the data by percent or by topics. The progress report also lets you know how many topics students are learning per hour and how many topics they’ve learned since their last knowledge check.

The second report I want to share with you is the time and topic report. The time and topic report is a good report to use while your students are on their devices working on ALEKS. This report is also the best report to really drill in to the student’s work. The time and topic report is a table that includes dates as columns. For each one of the students, you can see how much time they spent on ALEKS every day. In parentheses, you can quickly understand the number of lessons that students learned over the number of lessons that students attempted. A cost for concern is when students have a low number of lessons learned over a high quantity that they attempted. The time and topic report has a refresh report button. As your students use ALEKS, you can click on this link to publish the data in real-time.

I’ll now click on the student’s name to dig deeper. In the student’s individual time and topic report, I can identify the same metrics on a daily basis. Time spent on ALEKS, and the blue and orange bars represent the lessons learned and attempted respectively. Clicking on any of the bars will give me a quick summary of the student’s work. I can see the student for this particular Friday, June 21st, 2019, the students spent an hour and 30 minutes on ALEKS, learned zero topics, and attempted, but did not learn, five topics.

If I click directly on these blue or orange bars, I will be presented with additional data. I can see the question that this student got wrong, the ones the student got right, and if they access any of the learning or explanation pages. I can see the topics that they worked on, the time where they worked on these topics and how much time was spent on those particular topics. If I click on any of the wrong answers, I can see the student’s response and the correct answer. The individual time and topic report is a huge eye-opener for teachers.

The ALEKS pie report is dynamic, allowing users to click through the pie and drill down to view additional data. The ALEKS pie report is the best report to view overall class progress and to identify actionable data for the class and students such as those students that have similar skill gaps. The ALEKS pie identifies the percentage of topics that the entire class has mastered so far, and the ones that they have learned. These two sets of metrics are included inside the ALEKS pie. You can find specific data by clicking on the slices to view data by strands or topics.

In the section below, teachers can see a table that can be displayed by ALEKS topics, by objectives, if the teacher has enabled objectives or by standards. The table demonstrates the percentage of students that have mastered certain topics or strands. For example, this table is telling me that 78% of my class has mastered the number and quantity strand. For the standard below, algebra, only 58% of my class has mastered these topics. If I click on the triangle next to the standard, I can expand their strand and can dig a little deeper and find out the percentage of students that have mastered these topics, and what percentage of my students are ready to learn these topics. I can also see the percentage of students that attempted some of these standards but did not learn them.

Augustina:

Now that Angel has spoken to you about how to gather data and how to see the data, we can talk about how to use the data with your whole class, small groups and individual students. The whole class. ALEKS is really nice because it allows you to, it embeds with the book that you’re learning in class. If you assign your students pages in the book during the night before, then the next morning they can go in and you can assign stuff for them in ALEKS that lines up to the homework that you gave the previous night. Let’s say they’re learning all about fractions or mixed numbers, the next day you can test their knowledge right after they had that homework and you can assign them something in ALEKS that has to do with fractions and whole numbers and you can see the raw data in ALEKS that matches up to what they should have learned the night before and they should have practiced to see if they’re actually ready for the upcoming tests or this data assessment or whatever it may be.

For small groups, you can do the same thing. But when I taught, I liked to use small groups in different ways. I would have my entire class do the review from the night before, and then I would pull small groups of students who still didn’t understand or they showed in ALEKS that they didn’t have an understanding of the material even after last night’s work. Then I would work with those small students while I had the rest of the students work on either the day’s standard that you would learn today to see who is ready to move on to today’s standard and who’s already mastered today’s standards, so you know who can be your experts in the class and can teach other students because you don’t have to teach them that skill. They’ve already known it.

Or you can use small groups if you’re getting ready for state testing and you want to go through all of the standards that you might have during that state test. You pick certain standards, you see which students, maybe you had a benchmark at the beginning of the year or just the ALEKS benchmark itself. You can pick those students that still don’t know the particular standard that should have been learned at the beginning of the year or they’re just the more problematic standards or certain state tests have standards that come up more than others. So you can focus on those. You can work with small groups and say you have four students who don’t know this first standard while the other students are working on the rest of the ALEKS platform standards. Once you have five minutes with those students, they go back to their desks, they test themselves on the standard that you just taught them, and then you work with the next five or six students.

And then the way that I always used it with individual students was I would have them work at their desks. I gave them, I don’t know, a marker to write on their desks because students always like that. And it’s better for your brain to write things down physically than it is on the computer or mental math. You would just remember it more. And it’s just nicer to write on a desk with a marker than it is on a piece of paper. So I would have my students write on their desks, work on ALEKS while they did it, and I would just walk around the room. If you want to turn the lights off, that always worked for my students to just be calm and like totally in the moment. I always had my students do that and then I would walk around the room, check their work on their desks, see how they were doing.

If they had something on their screen that showed, Hey, you’ve gotten 10 questions wrong. Or I would say, if you get three wrong in a row, raise your hand and I’ll come to you and I’ll help you out. And then you’re just working one on one with those certain students. So ALEKS can be used in a multitude of ways and with as many students as you want, and with the work that you’re currently doing in class, as well as the actual standards that they need to learn throughout the entire year, if you have a different pace for the state test than you do for your school’s math curriculum.

Angel:

And outside of using that within the classroom, I’ll go ahead and talk a little bit more about using it to create homework. There are several different ways that you can create an assignment within ALEKS. You can use it for homework, tests and quiz assignments. Those will allow all of your students to review the same content before either a big test or allow them to learn topics without requiring mastery. So with the adaptive learning environment that ALEKS is, if they go through what ALEKS puts together for them, that’s based entirely on their skill, what they’ve already mastered. If they get three questions wrong in a row, it will actually take them back to where their learning gap is so that they can then come back and answer those correctly. So outside of the classroom, without that just purely adaptive environment, you can assign homework tests and quizzes and that doesn’t affect the ALEKS pie or their objective progress. You’re still going to see what they’ve mastered, but you’re giving them skills that are going to help them with the actual unit that you’re working on in class.

In order for you to do that, there are a couple of different ways that you can go through and we’ll attach some worksheets at the end that will show you those steps. I’ll go over just a couple of the things that you can set that, some of the settings that you can have. In the name and date section, you can decide whether or not it will be a homework test or quiz, and then name that. You can then either set a time limit because you want them to be able to complete it within a certain amount of time. So you can save five minutes to get as many of these correct. You can see kind of rapid-fire thinking or as long as a day. You can set it like between when I tell the class and the next day when the next class starts, they have 24 hours to complete their homework. Without setting the actual time limit, the assignment is due on or before, or they can take as long as they need to finish it. Then you’ll select the content.

So you can either add questions from different topics or you can use a dropdown menu that allows you to organize the content either by the actual ALEKS topics, state standards, or you can do it from previous assignments. If you’ve already built on assignments and you saw that almost everybody in the classroom got a particular question wrong, you can then put that type of question into your next one.

There are additional dropdown menus and it will allow you to select up to, the maximum number of questions is 60 questions per assignment, and then you can preview. So after you’ve selected the types of topics that you would like to have within your assignment, you can preview that and just make sure that it’s addressing everything that you would like to. There is a shuffle option. You can assign points based on the questions, and each student will have the same questions, but receive them in a different order if you turn on that shuffle. So if you have a classroom, everybody’s working together and you want to make sure that they’re working individually, you can shuffle those questions.

You can turn on the maximum number of attempts for each question, and then you can also allow them a second attempt at the assignment. So if they go through the first time and they’re not happy with their score and they’re like, well, now that I’ve seen that, I think I can do better, you can allow them to try it a second time. It will give them different questions.

You can also allow them to submit late and you can require that they have a prerequisite to the assignment. They can perhaps have to complete a certain number of questions before they can go on and do the assignments. So you can require that they actually practice that first outside of the assignment. So if you’re doing a quiz or a test and you want them to do a few practice questions first, you can require that they do that. Then it also will grade it for you. I know as teachers, we have a lot to do and sometimes grading can take a lot of time. So if you are doing your assignments, quizzes, or tests through ALEKS, it will grade them for you. Save us a little bit of time.

Augustina:

The biggest piece that teachers and students always struggle with is the actual motivation to do the work. I’m going to talk to you guys about a few ways that I always motivated my students. I know a lot of the students are in high school and I taught younger students. I taught fifth grade through at school, but I feel like once kids get to high school, they just want to put like stars on a chart. So it works with all students.

The biggest thing that I always had of my students do was do the skill that they had last night for homework and do the skill that they had like tonight for homework, let’s say. So if the kids mastered tonight’s homework in the class through ALEKS, I didn’t give them homework that night. Because I understand that homework is for you to practice the skill until you learn it. If they’ve already learned it, then they’re just doing redundant work at that point. So it’s easier to give them that skill two weeks from now to make sure that they still know it instead of you already showing me you know it today, let’s give you more work for it. So I always took away the night’s homework for the students that already learned it, and then I would use the students who didn’t learn it for tonight’s homework and tomorrow’s ALEKS assignment to create those small groups. My students always learned that ALEKS is a way for them to show that they already know something so they don’t get the extra work.

Another thing I liked to do with my students, because I always had really, really competitive classrooms and maybe I brought that out in them, who knows, but I always had like a March madness kind of thing with my students to get them ready for state testing. And I know that we’re almost going into March now. So I always had my students in a gigantic chart in my classroom. I would put students against each other and you can always level it out. So it doesn’t have to be the same skills for all students because we know which students would get that lower percentage of ALEKS and then the higher percentage of ALEKS, you all know your student levels.

I would have, you need to complete one skill to move on into the March Madness bracket, let’s say. And then the student that has mastered the most skills at their level wins the March madness. In my classroom it was fifth grade, so they got to choose little prizes, but you can do whatever works for your classroom. And then we would also do like at the bottom of the chart, we would just do total skills learned. So the students that were out of the bracket, let’s say, still had to participate. It wasn’t, I lose this once, and then it’s over for all of March. So they had a bottom bar that they had to fulfill. And if they got, let’s say in the entire month of March, all 30 students completed like 120 skills altogether, then they got a giant recess at the end of March or every Friday for the month of March or something like that so that it’s little goals to build up to. And you don’t have just five students competing by the end of March.

Like I said, high school students like stars too. So you can have a chart in your classroom with the students’ names. And then ALEKS does like a completion level and a mastery level. So we always had like a yellow star if you reached completion, which is 80%, I believe. And then if you mastered the skill, 100% of the questions that you answered for that skill, they would put like a green star. So you have your little yellow stars, you have your green stars, and then the students just put their own stars on the chart. They were responsible for the chart. And it helped because students just did skills constantly. They just wanted to put the most amount of stars they possibly could on that chart.

So they constantly did skills, and a lot of students went back and did skills from lower grades so that they could earn that star. But it still helps. Kids forget what they learned in middle school by the time they get to high school, and those skills are still important, especially for reading comprehension, the math basics. A lot of students forget like memorization of multiplication by the time they get to like calculus. So it really helps.

And then having, let me share my screen. You guys can see my screen clearly? Okay. They have a progress goal setting and we always had something like this where each student had their binder of progress goals and they could write down each skill that they learned, the percentage that they learned. Because even though ALEKS shows you this data, the students always liked having it in like colored pencils in a notebook where they could see it every single day, take it home to their family and everything. So you have the number of ALEKS topics learned on the left-hand side and then the ALEKS percent on the right-hand side. So ALEKS has 543 topics. If you’ve reached 100%, that’s you’ve learned all 543 topics.

You have your initial knowledge check here that Angel spoke to you about before and you can record this score here and you can mark it off in a colored pencil over here. And it tells you all of the steps. So the end of year progress goal, if you want your students to learn all 543. If their initial check you had a student that learned 10, so their initial score was 10, I wouldn’t make their end goal 543. You guys all know your students. Your goal target, again, realistic goal targets in talking to your students about setting realistic goals and measuring goals out week by week, instead of okay, by the end of the year, I want to learn 1000 things and be a master in 1000 things. If you have a student that has trouble multiplying by the end of the year, they should be masters in multiplication.

And then with your interim goals, you subtract your initial knowledge check from your total topic goals for the year. You divide it in four. That’s how much you should know every quarter. And then you have the students keep their own progress. If you want to do this, I always had a binder with all my students because I needed to have some sort of control in case I had a student that just did not know their score ever. I knew that I knew it. There are definitely these motivation pieces and it helps you as the teacher because you can keep track of it if you have multiple classes. Say your school has three geometry classes, your students can compete. So you can have like full class competitions between your school’s classrooms, you can have individuals compete against each other or compete against themselves. There are 1000 different ways to motivate your students to get on this platform. The best thing that worked for me is, Hey, you guys don’t have homework tonight, then you have less work to do. So it always works out in the end.

Lacey:

That is awesome. I love the gamification aspect of it and just ways that you can keep students motivated, especially for the students who don’t necessarily love math. And this is a great resource that a lot of our schools that we work with use. Schools invest a lot of money to be able to use this program for an adaptive program that allows you to individualize instruction. It really is incredible. We have also found that a lot of our schools that are investing in this tool, a lot of the teachers are intimidated by it.

So as Angel went over, there is so much data that you can use to be able to individualize that instruction. But there is a bit of a learning curve. And ALEKS has provided a lot of resources. There’re small videos like the one that Angel showed, we will include links to that and other training resources that ALEKS has available. We’ll include that with the recording of this webinar.

We really appreciate your time in joining us for this webinar. We hope you found the information helpful. Thank you again, Angel and Augustina, for all of your expertise in sharing that with us. And please let us know teachers if you have future topics that you would like to see discussed on our Teacher’s Corner. Please visit our website, give us feedback. Our website is edtechsolutions.com. We’d love to hear from teachers, both the teachers that we currently work with and anyone looking at curriculum advisement. Any help that we can provide in that way, please let us know and we will see you next month. Thanks.

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