Chem 105-151: ALEKS 

What is ALEKS?

ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces), is an instruction tool based on artificial intelligence.  ALEKS is unique in that it tailors its approach to the needs of each student in the class. ALEKS will rarely force you to "learn" material you already know, nor will it try to teach you things for which your foundational skills make you unlikely to succeed. Further, you will periodically have your mastery of the material assessed by ALEKS – ensuring that you are retaining the concepts you have learned.  The biggest advantage of the ALEKS approach is that it is completely individualized. You'll be reviewing only those topics in which you yourself need help and you won't be wasting time on topics you've already fully mastered.

What is the Initial Assessment?

The first time you log in, ALEKS will ask you a series of math and chemistry questions designed to assess exactly what you do and do not know about the content in general chemistry, and your proficiency with basic algebra and mathematical skills. You may encounter questions that you will not know how to do.  This is just ALEKS trying to determine the edges of your understanding so that it will know where to begin teaching you.  It is extremely important that you complete the initial assessment carefully and honestly! This is how ALEKS finds out about YOU, how it determines what you already know, and what you are therefore ready to learn!  Failure to complete the initial assessment honestly can result in the following outcomes:

  • Careless or random guessing will give ALEKS the impression that you do not have a solid background in the skills necessary to be successful in CHEM-105 or CHEM-151. This means you will waste time later because ALEKS will force you to work through material you already know and don’t really need to review. Therefore, it will take you much longer than necessary to complete the Objectives and earn your points.
  • If you consult outside resources – such as a textbook, the internet, or a friend – while working through the Initial Assessment, then you will be give ALEKS the impression that you have a very strong background in math and chemistry. This means that when you enter the Learning Mode, ALEKS will try to teach you things you are not really ready to learn. The Objective Completion Assessments will discover this, and you’ll end up spending far more time in the Learning Mode than necessary. Again, this means it will take you much longer than necessary to complete the Objectives and earn your points.
  • NEVER click the I don't knowbutton during any ALEKS assessment unless you truly have no idea how to do the problem. Otherwise, ALEKS will think you don't know a bunch of things you actually do know and take you way back and make you "learn" them.
  • ALWAYS use the calculator and periodic table provided in ALEKS to avoid rounding or significant figure errors.

Getting Started with ALEKS:

ALEKS is very unfriendly to procrastinators. ALEKS was designed by psychologists who specialize in learning, who know that procrastinating until the night before an assignment is due and then cramming until the wee hours is not a good way to learn. You can't do ALEKS that way. You must put in some time every day, or else you will fall so far behind on basic topics that you won’t have time to complete the Objectives. It is impossible to earn a good score in ALEKS by cramming the night before the due date.

To register as an ALEKS user:

  1. Go to the ALEKS web site at
  2. Click on the link marked "SIGN UP NOW" (middle left side of the screen under New User).
  3. On the next screen you will be asked to provide the following course code.
    a. For CHEM-105: JL9QV–NHAAL
    b. For CHEM-151: RWGML-H3QJQ
  4. Confirm the enrollment information on the next page and click the continue button.  Dr. Williamsen will be listed as the instructor for all CHEM-105 sections.
  5. Click the button for “I have never used ALEKS before or I do not have an ALEKS login name” and continue.
  6. On the next page, click the link to “purchase an access code online” and follow the instructions.
  7. The next screen will ask for your full name, your email address, and your Ursinus student ID number. Please provide all the information requested, even the information that is listed as optional.
  8. On the next screen you will receive your ALEKS login name and a temporary password, and you will have the chance to chance your temporary password. We recommend that you change your temporary password.
  9. You will learn how to input mathematical and chemical answers into ALEKS. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
  10. Once you have completed the input tutorial, ALEKS will prompt you to complete the Initial Assessment, which will take 60 – 90 minutes. You may choose to complete the Initial Assessment later. You may also start the assessment and then take a break and come back later to finish.

The ALEKS Learning Mode:

After you complete the assessment, ALEKS will show you your "Pie."  This is the central ALEKS report and navigation tool. It's a pie chart of all the topics in your ALEKS course, arranged by color-coded subject area. Fat slices have a lot of topics in them, and narrower slices have fewer. The darker shading on each slice tells you how much of that slice YOU have mastered.  Your goal in ALEKS Learning Mode is to add topics to this Pie, which will make the dark shading move outward. 

You must master 85% of the topics in the pie (based on your assessment and additional learning) by September 3rd, along with a final assessment, in order to receive the points towards your final course grade.

To demonstrate mastery of a topic, you must select it from the Pie and complete several problems in the topic. The exact number of problems you have to do will depend on your answers. If you get each problem exactly right, you may have to do as few as 2 or 3 problems.  On the other hand, if you start getting problems wrong, ALEKS will assign more problems to ensure you have mastery. ALEKS will tell you at each step how many more problems you must get right to get the topic added to your Pie.

If you don't know how to do a problem, click the "Explain" button at the bottom of the problem. ALEKS will tell you how to do the problem.  If you need more help while reading the Explanation, you can use the ALEKSPedia, a built-in FAQ-style explanation of chemistry vocabulary, techniques, and concepts. There's a direct link to the ALEKSPedia from the ALEKS toolbar, above the Pie. Also, within an Explanation, you'll usually see lots of hyperlinks on words or phrases about which the ALEKSPedia has more information.

Periodically, ALEKS will give you an assessment to determine how much information you have retained from the topics you have completed in the learning mode.  This assessment will allow ALEKS to determine if you are ready to move on to new topics, or if you need further review of previous topics.  Once you have mastered all topics, or on Sept 4th (whichever comes first), you will be asked to complete one final assessment to measure your overall knowledge of the topics covered in ALEKS.


Technical Support

No one in the department of chemistry at Ursinus can provide you with competent technical support for ALEKS. Instead, try the following resources on the ALEKS website: