ALEKS personal tutoring

CH101 General Chemistry

Fall 2016
Copyright © 2016 Dan Dill | Contact
Department of Chemistry | Boston University

A note about ALEKS: The point of ALEKS, your personal tutor for basic concepts, is that it supports your working through the text on your own. You read the chapter and work through all the practice problems, and then further your own construction of your understanding of the material using ALEKS. THEN you are ready to come to lecture and discussion and get the most out of your time spent there. This means ALEKS is purposefully a little ahead of lecture for these reasons.

What is ALEKS?

ALEKS is a web-based, artificially-intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to determine quickly and accurately exactly what you know and don’t know in General Chemistry, and then instructs you on the topics you are most ready to learn. ALEKS will periodically assess you to determine what topics you have mastered and what you have forgotten. This means that you will sometimes be required to re-learn topics that you’ve forgotten.

Purchase and registration for CH101

ALEKS is licensed per semester. The charge for use of ALEKS in the Fall semester is $60, and for the Fall and Spring semesters is $75; if you are planning to also take CH102 Spring 2017, the full year options is recommended. You purchase your ALEKS access online when you register.

Here is what you need to do to begin using ALEKS.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “SIGN UP NOW”
  3. In the box provided, enter the code LJ94F-JVLCG. This code is to be used for all four lecture sections (A1 Dill, A2 Dill, A3 Abrams, and A4 Georgiadis).
  4. Register, following the instructions. Be sure to correctly enter your Boston University nine-character ID number in the format U######## (an upper case U followed by nine digits), so that you can receive credit for your work.

That’s it. When you log in you will receive a brief tutorial on how to enter answers in ALEKS before taking an initial assessment to determine what you have retained from your prior studies.

ALEKS mastery and objectives

Here are the key points you must grasp about ALEKS:

  1. Work for mastery, not a grade — make sure to really learn the skill, as it will be important foundation for future topics
  2. ALEKS is not something to try to “get done” in a single day. An hour a day, 4 days per week (on average) is a good way to work with ALEKS.
  3. Re-learn topics you’ve forgotten without too much delay. Building up a list of topics that you will need to review is a bad idea.
  4. Technical issues, problems, or concerns go directly to ALEKS technical support. CH101/102 course staff are not equipped to handle ALEKS technical questions.

ALEKS determines your “mastery” of a topic, not your time spent or how many problems you have completed.  This means it will ask you how to do a problem in a few different ways and will periodically assess you to make sure you are retaining this information. Trying to cheat the system by having a friend help do the work for you will only hurt you later because when ALEKS assesses you and finds you don't really understand how to do something, it will remove that topic from your mastered list and teach it to you again.

Your CH101 ALEKS work will be broken down into weekly objectives that follow along with the material being covered in lecture.  You can always see your current mastery of all topics - and how close you are to completing the current objective - by viewing your pie chart, which is on the first ALEKS page when you log in.

You will always be able to see, right below your ALEKS topics pie

  • what you need to be doing,
  • when it is due, and
  • the number of topics needed to complete an objective.

Also shown is the number of topics you are learning per hour, so you can always estimate the time it will take to complete your work (factoring in some extra time for assessment).

ALEKS will always try to get you to complete the current objective first. In some cases, pre-requisite topics that you’ve forgotten will need to be completed ahead of new, current topics. When you complete the weekly objective one of two things will happen: assessment or unlocked pie. Every few weeks when you complete your objective you will get a periodic assessment. Periodic assessments are ALEKS’ way of making sure that you haven’t forgotten the material that you’ve learned. If you demonstrate that you remember the material then you can proceed from where you left off; if not, some topics will be removed from your pie and you will need to go back and review them later (possibly before you can go on to new topics). On weeks where you don’t get an assessment, the pie will unlock and you are free to work on any ALEKS topic you would like, either getting ahead or going back and relearning topics you have forgotten.

ALEKS grading

ALEKS will constitute 10% of your course score, broken down as follows.

  • Mastery Goals, 5 goals, 1% each: There will be 5 times (randomly) during the year we when will check to make sure that you have completed your weekly goals in ALEKS. This part of your grade is completely based on your ability to master topics. It is NOT based on time spent or number of problems answered.
  • Overall course mastery, 5%: You have until 11:59 pm on the last day of class to work on ALEKS. Once this due date has passed you will be offered a final knowledge check. This knowledge check must be completed by the end of the last day of class. As usual, based on your answers to the knowledge check, learned topics may be converted to mastered topics. Since this is the last opportunity to add to your mastered topics, please take your time and work through this final knowledge check carefully. After the last day of class, we will look at the total number of topics you achieved mastery on divided by how many total topics there are. This will give you 5% of your final score.

Getting the most out of ALEKS

ALEKS object are due each Wednesday evening by 11:59 pm, beginning Wednesday, September 14.

ALEKS follows along with the course and book and can be a great help if used correctly. We expect most students to spend 3–5 hours every week working on it. If you put this work off, then it will require much more time. If you have others do the work for you, it will take you MUCH more time because ALEKS will reteach topics to you. Never work on ALEKS more than 1–2 hours in a sitting. Ideally, students would spend an hour every other day working on ALEKS to get the most benefit - do not wait until the day that an objective is due to start working through your topics.

Because ALEKS is tailored to you, you might find you are a bit ahead or behind the lecture. This is fine, just keep spending your time with it. Do not allow yourself to fall too far behind the course because then you may find you have too many topics to learn before you are graded on your mastery goal. ALEKS only goes as fast as you are able to learn topics, which historically is between 2–7 topics an hour. No concessions will be made for incomplete work when objectives are due.

Should you have any problems working with ALEKS

ALEKS is a computer program, and it operates over the Internet. Part of it operates on the ALEKS servers, in California, but part of it also operates on your browser and your computer, wherever you are. With this many working parts, it’s sometimes possible for things to go wrong, either a little bit or a lot, in confusing ways. Here are some things that could happen, and what to do about them:

  • Your browser or computer freezes up, won’t display things correctly, et cetera. This is almost always a problem located within your browser. The best thing to try immediately is to quit the browser and restart it, or if the computer is not acting right, reboot the computer. That will start everything fresh. If this doesn’t work try a different computer before contacting support.
  • Don’t worry about your work in ALEKS! ALEKS saves what you do as you go along, so when you log back into ALEKS you’ll be just where you left off, even if you were right in the middle of an assessment or tutorial. To prevent problems like this, it’s often wise not to be asking the browser to do too much else while you’re working on ALEKS.
  • You can’t seem to get any response from ALEKS, for example you submit an answer and ALEKS doesn’t respond for a long time. This can happen because of Internet problems, and these are usually at the level of your local Internet Service Provider (or sometimes with a WiFi connection if you’re using one). It is almost never a problem with the Internet itself, or with the ALEKS servers, which are very large servers with dedicated high-bandwidth connections to the Internet. Again, restart the browser, but also check your Internet connection to other sites.

Any problems with ALEKS can only be fixed by ALEKS support staff. Don’t write your professor if ALEKS, the Internet, or your browser is having problems – just complain (politely of course) directly to ALEKS!

If possible, send problem reports from within ALEKS. To do this,

  1. click on the Message Center icon (the envelope) in the upper right of the ALEKS screen, and compose a message to ALEKS Customer Support.
  2. and check the little box at the bottom of the form that says “Attach the page on which I was working,” so that, again, Customer Support can zero in on exactly what you and ALEKS did, to find the problem.

You’ll get a response quickly, usually within 24 hours, except on weekends. In the meantime, ask ALEKS for another problem on the topic, or even go back to the Pie and work on a different topic entirely.

If you are unable to report your problem from within ALEKS, then go to

and using the form there describe your problem in as much detail as you can. It’s particularly important that you tell the ALEKS team your ALEKS login and the date and time of the problem. This will allow them to see exactly what you did and what ALEKS did, and thereby diagnose the problem.