FAQ

What is ALEKS?

ALEKS is an online educational software program based on a cycle of assessment and learning. By knowing exactly which concepts the student has mastered and which are new but within reach, ALEKS enables the student to work on those concepts they are most ready to learn. ALEKS is fully online, including explanations, practice and feedback. ALEKS interacts closely with the student, continuously updating its precise map of the student’s knowledge state. ALEKS combines the advantages of one-on-one instruction and evaluation with the convenience of being online.

What is the theory behind ALEKS?

ALEKS is based on a field of Cognitive Science (Mathematical Psychology) called “Knowledge Spaces” (or “Learning Spaces”). The purpose of research in Knowledge Spaces is to model human knowledge in any subject, using mathematical tools such as Set Theory, Combinatorics, and Markovian Processes, so as to make possible fast and accurate assessment through interactive computer applications. There are numerous scientific publications in the field of Knowledge Spaces dating back to the early 1980s.

What is an ALEKS assessment (knowledge check)?

An assessment by the ALEKS system consists of a sequence of mathematical problems posed to the student. The answers are in the form of mathematical expressions and constructions produced by the system’s input tools (no multiple choice). The student can answer “I don’t know” where necessary. During an ALEKS assessment, the student is not told whether answers are correct or incorrect. The assessment is adaptive. Each question after the first is chosen on the basis of answers previously submitted. Assessment problems (like practice problems) are algorithmically generated, with random numerical values. The length of the assessment is variable, between 15 and 35 questions. There are no time constraints, but some assessments can take less than a half-hour and a few more than an hour and a half. Students taking an assessment need to have paper and pencil. The ALEKS calculator button will become active when use of a calculator is permitted. No help whatsoever should be given to students taking a knowledge check, not even rephrasing problems. Outside help can easily lead to false assessment results and hinder subsequent work in the ALEKS Learning Mode. Students may be assessed when they first register with ALEKS. It is advisable that all assessments from which the instructor uses data for grading or a similar purpose take place under the instructor’s supervision. At a minimum, the Initial Assessment should be supervised.

What is the Learning Mode?

The Learning Mode in ALEKS contains features to help students practice and master specific mathematical concepts and skills. In the Learning Mode, students are always working on a specific concept that they have chosen and that, in the system’s estimation, they are fully prepared to master. If the learner successfully solves an appropriate number of problems based on that concept, the system will tentatively determine that it has been mastered and offer a new choice of topics. If the student has difficulty, the system will attempt to diagnose and interpret the student’s errors. It will also provide explanations of how to solve problems and definitions of mathematical terms. It may suggest the name of a classmate who can help. If the student is unable to master the concept right now, or if the student wishes to change topics, a new choice of topics will be offered. After a certain amount of time has been spent in the Learning Mode, or after a certain amount of progress has been made, the student will automatically be reassessed.

What is the relationship between the Assessment Mode and the Learning Mode in ALEKS?

The Assessment and Learning Modes work together in a cyclical fashion, beginning with the Initial Assessment (Knowledge Check). A student is assessed, and the results of the assessment serve as a basis for the student’s entry into the Learning Mode (the student works on concepts that the assessment showed that student most “ready to learn”). After a certain time in the Learning Mode, during which the results of the previous assessment are tentatively updated according to whether the student masters or fails to master new concepts, the student is reassessed and the cycle begins again. In this sense, ALEKS is an interactive learning system guided and powered by ongoing diagnostic assessment.

Can ALEKS be used by students with intellectual and developmental disabilities? Is ALEKS a remedial tool?

ALEKS is designed to help all students who can read sufficiently to understand what is being displayed on the screen, and who can use a computer. It has been used successfully with students exhibiting a range of learning disabilities. A large part of ALEKS content is compatible with screen-reading technology.

What will it be like taking an ALEKS course?

The vast majority of ALEKS problems are “open-ended” (rather than multiple-choice) questions requiring the student to provide authentic input appropriate to the discipline. For example, students may be required to input their final answer as a mathematical expression, chemical equation, histogram, step-by-step math proof, graph of a function, an accounting entry, or a geometrical construction using a virtual pencil, ruler, and compass.

How will students receive the codes?

CDE will send student the ALEKS class codes, then go to McGraw/Hill site and enter the code depending on the chosen track.

After I answer a question, can I go back and change my answer?

Once you submit an answer, you cannot change it.

Tech Support needed for the support beyond 18 weeks – how is that addressed?

Another code may be purchased and applied to the same ALEKS login name.

What is the time commitment?

ALEKS is an adaptive learning system – time spent by one student will be different from the next – we find that for most course areas in ALEKS the average student learns about 3-5 topics/hour and the student typically need to answer 3-5 questions in a row to get completion in one topic area.

Is Tech Support available?

Students are encouraged to approach instructors with technical issues which can be addressed via the Instructor’s manual. Technical support and consultation on the effective use of ALEKS is provided to educators by ALEKS Corporation. Instructors with additional questions are asked to contact the support group via the web: www.support.aleks.com. 

What type of computer do I need to use?

ALEKS system requirements are available online through the ALEKS website. 

How do you ensure quality of instruction?

Learning Aids are available to provide quality instruction.  For those who purchase the e-book you will find the learning aids in the e-book.  For those who did not purchase the e-book you can find aid buttons on the website.  Continuing and Distance Ed has also provided a Catamount Tutor to assist you with this course.

What is the refund policy?

If you need to cancel your attendance, you must notify us via email at noncredit@uvm.edu or call us at (802) 656-8407 at least two weeks prior to the start date of the course to receive a full refund, less a $25 cancellation fee. If a medical condition necessitates cancellation/withdrawal (documentation must be provided), this will be reviewed by our Studies Committee for any type of refund.

Can I purchase the e-book later or do I need to purchase it at the start of the course?

You can purchase the book before or during the course.