UT Chemistry department needs to address its disregard of ALEKS test scores

Isabelle Costello

To be honest, AP Chemistry kicked my butt. The material seemed foreign, and the tests were excruciating, which made that A at the end of the year all the more satisfying. 

That pride didn’t last long. I found myself staring at my laptop the summer after my senior year of high school, spending post-work evenings chugging through a $50 program for a chemistry review I didn’t ask for. In fact, I was still staring at the ALEKS chemistry modules a few nights before my first day of college, a time when I should’ve been making friends and exploring my new home.

I rationalized that the practice was worth it, of course, because my professors had promised a swift drop from my intro chemistry class if I didn’t reach completion. Imagine my frustration when I learned the day of the deadline that the software had “messed up,” and our professors were not able to validate our scores of completion.

Even more frustrating was that I recieved this recount from a GroupMe chat –– not from the professors themselves. 

The UT Chemistry department needs to address its blatant disregard of the ALEKS assessment and offer a refund or extra credit grade in place of the promised eligibility check. 

For a supposed review of basic material covered in high school, the ALEKS, which gauges a student’s background in chemistry through repetitive practice and quizzing, takes a ridiculous amount of time and effort. 

“It took a lot of work,” neuroscience freshman Jordan Poch said.  

The ALEKS site claims the learning modules only take several hours to complete, but they took Poch at least three weeks spaced out. Poch had to plan the online work around her summer job at H-E-B. Poch said she was glad for the extra practice but wished they wouldn’t charge for it.

This isn’t to say the fault of the scores’ illegitimacy falls on the professors. 

“Technical issues that occurred on ALEKS’ end at the last minute meant that some scores were not accurately reported,” chemistry professor Stacy Sparks said.

This technical issue has not happened in past years at UT. Sparks said instead of dropping students from CH 301, as was warned would happen if students did not complete the modules, ALEKS results were ignored to ensure that no one was wrongfully dropped. 

This is all fine and well, but the hours on end that chemistry students spent on an unsolicited review –– not to mention an unnecessary $50 fee during a pandemic that cost over 2 million Texans their jobs –– can be neither gained back by students nor ignored by their professors. 

The professors advertising the ALEKS as a prerequisite for CH 301 need to first address the dismissal of our scores. Whether the system glitch was on them or not, it is their responsibility to act as the mediator between students and McGraw-Hill, the corporation behind ALEKS. In addition, students deserve compensation for the work they put in, either in the form of a financial refund for the test or as extra credit in class. 

“I wish it would’ve been optional,” Poch said upon finding out about the actual usage, or the lack thereof, of our ALEKS scores. “I would definitely like it to be extra credit.”

Professors, we are all too familiar with juggling the difficulties that accompany online learning, and as college freshmen, it’s all we’ve ever known. Don’t make us pick up the slack for one more technological glitch on the part of our leadership –– instead, be the example of the grace you keep requesting. 

Costello is a neuroscience freshman from Boerne, Texas.