ALEKS, making math harder for students


Sarah SheltonFeatures Editor

“ALEKS is the worst,” I have said plenty of times during my freshman year here. 

“Why? What did he do?” majority of people would ask thinking I was referring to someone actually named “Alex”. 

“No, the math program,” I would have to say. 

If you have never heard of ALEKS, you are lucky. 

ALEKS is a math program the university uses for Math 100P. 

At the time of my freshman year, I was placed in the class as a prerequisite for a journalism degree as you only need one math class in the liberal education program. 

My high school used the ALEKS program. The day I graduated, I was so happy to never have to see it again, but I walked right into this university, sat down for orientation and learned I had to do the program once more. It was quite disappointing. 

For MAT 100P, you have to spend a minimum of two hours in the Math Emporium, a lab in the basement of Buley Library, a week. If you do not, you fail the course. And no, students cannot do four hours in one week and not come the next. 

Students also have to spend a certain amount of hours working, outside of class and the emporium, and have a certain amount of topics and hours done a week, or they risk failing the class. 

If students do not master enough topics during the knowledge checks, which pop ups after a certain amount of topics and hours done on ALEKS, they will most likely fail, at least according to the professors and peer academic leaders at the time. 

I remember sitting in the emporium and the wall had this giant poster with the dates of the semester on it. The poster basically showing if you are not at a certain point at each date, you are most likely not going to pass. They made this timeline using what they called engagement points. 

As students, we were told if you do everything they ask of you, you still only get a D. To get a good grade, you have to do extra hours in the lab to get what they call engagement points.  

Every minute students work in the emporium, they get two engagement points. If they have less than 7,800 engagement points at the end of the course, they fail the class. 

I did my math emporium hours every week, and some weeks extra hours were spent there, but my problem was I did not have enough engagement points. I completed topics faster than the average they came up with, so I could not hit the amount of points they were requesting of me. The only possible way for me to pass this course was to finish it early, so that is what I did. 

I mastered enough topics to take my final test, and I was able to take it two weeks early. 

The way finals worked in this course is not taking the test during finals week, but instead took it when you finished the DSAs; However, if you did not have enough topics mastered by finals, it was an automatic fail. You also have to have a certain amount of hours done in the course, because of the points, but if you took your final, early hours did not matter as much because you could not possibly continue working on it to get more hours after you finished the course. 

I ended up with a B- in the class. It would have been even lower, even possibly a fail, if I did not go to quickly master my topics. 

This was the first semester of my freshman year, the semester before COVID-19. I understand online courses are pretty normal now, but I still think the ALEKS program is unreasonable. Everyone in the class is at a different part of the course which means there is no possible way for the math professor to efficiently teach the class. 

I am not sure if they still running things like this; however, with all the complaints from the past few years, I am surprised to learn this course still exists.  

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