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Design Your Online Math Course with ALEKS® Based on the Quality in Online Learning Certification

We interviewed the University of North Carolina Wilmington mathematics instructor, Elisabeth Peters, about best practices for planning your course with ALEKS and your Quality in Online Learning Certification.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

"When one of my colleagues and I decided to pilot ALEKS, we started by rethinking our approach to content structure and learning beyond the classroom. The result was moving from a textbook driven course to an objective driven course and moving from traditional, stagnant homework assignments to personalized, adaptive assignments. We reorganized our course into topic modules, such as rational functions or algebra of function rather than chapters and sections. This change, combined with ALEKS, not only improved the overall structure of the course but increased students’ mathematical vocabulary.

If you must convert to an online instructional format quickly, ALEKS can save the day!! There are so many ways to use ALEKS, but I think there are two essentials for any ALEKS course creation.

  1. Utilize the adaptive component. I found that creating custom adaptive objectives helps students navigate through the material as I would in class from their computer at home. I choose the topics (essential skills) that I want students to master during a given week’s lesson, and ALEKS personalizes their navigation through those topics in a way that promotes understanding, mastery, and retention.
  2. Go 360. The ALEKS 360 resources are awesome, and my students use them! In addition to the excellent learning pages and explanation pages built into each topic, ALEKS 360 gives my students access to short teaching videos. These videos have become a favorite resource for my students as they complete their online class. The videos are short and straightforward to help the students quickly when they feel stuck.

One extra tip: Reach out to your ALEKS Implementation Manager. They have great strategies and ideas for creating a course quickly.

If this is your first time considering ALEKS, I would encourage you to start using it from the beginning of your course, even if your class isn’t online initially. During the Spring 2020 semester, I had to convert all my classes to online instruction. The classes in which I was already using ALEKS were the easiest to transition; I just had to convert my assessments online. With ALEKS, I was able to create a quiz or test exactly to my liking. I could pick up and close dates, set time limits, add extended time for students with accommodations, pick questions from my ALEKS objectives or my textbook, add proctoring features through integrated Respondus, and more."

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

"The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has many standards for best practices. Here are a few that I keep in mind when teaching online with ALEKS:

  1.  Large blocks of information are divided into manageable sections: Creating weekly objectives with 20-25 topics gives students a manageable workload during the week.
  2. Learners have opportunities to review their performance and assess their own learning throughout the course: It is important to show students how they can use the reports in student view to review their learning and assessments.
  3. Appropriate methods and devices for accessing and participating in the course are communicated: ALEKS works across many devices and browsers. However, if you decide to utilize the Respondus lockdown browser and/or webcam, make sure to clearly communicate the devices compatible with Respondus."

What specific ALEKS tools would you recommend using?

"I have two reports that I use every day!

  1. Time and Topic: I use the time and topic report when meeting with a student or answering a student email about ALEKS. I can review a specific question the student worked through (down to the specific day and time). I can also give study suggestions based on how the student is spending their time in ALEKS.
  2. Progress Report: I use the progress report to see student progress in the current objective and to determine if a student is overdue for a knowledge check."

About the Author

Elisabeth Peters has had the pleasure of teaching at the University of North Carolina Wilmington since 2013 in a variety of capacities. She primarily teaches lower-division mathematics and statistics courses that service both mathematics and non-mathematics majors. She is passionate about curriculum development and how it applies to the scope and sequences of mathematics courses. Since 2017, Elisabeth has worked alongside her colleague, Elizabeth Creath to design and implement ALEKS® in the Math Readiness, College Algebra, and Trigonometry courses offered at UNCW. When she is not teaching, Elisabeth enjoys spending time at the beach or whipping up a batch of cookies to share with friends.

Profile Photo of Elisabeth Peters