ALEKS Ribbon
Using Ribbon Tool to monitor enrollment patterns and completion rates in online course.

Student Course Progress over Time

Summer Preparatory Chemistry Course

University of California Davis, Center for Educational Effectiveness

Catherine Uvarov, Derek Dockter,


ALEKS Ribbon

Figure 1. Enrollment and completion patterns over the course of the summer. Highlighted are students who have not enrolled (Blue), students enrolled but not started (Red), and students who have finished (Orange).

At UC Davis, General Chemistry is a required foundational course for a large number of incoming freshmen. However, many incoming freshmen have not had chemistry since sophomore year in high school, if at all. Historically, all incoming freshmen must take chemistry and math placement exams that serve to screen-out underprepared students and prevent them from enrolling in a class for which they are not ready. Underprepared students take a “Workload” course in the Fall term, and General Chemistry in the Winter term. This pattern creates a disparity between the Fall and Winter student demographics. For financial and logistical reasons a few years ago, the placement exams were moved online – unproctored – which makes it a less effective screening tool. The Chemistry Department, in partnership with Educational Effectiveness Hub (EEH), is piloting the use of ALEKS (1) for a Summer-Preparatory course that will prepare students over the summer so that they can enroll in General Chemistry Fall term. The purpose of these visualizations was to determine which students to target for interventions prior to the deadline to finish the preparatory course.

Tool: Ribbon

The Ribbon Tool, developed as part of TEA, was chosen to help visualize student flows over multiple time points, with filters for student information. The Ribbon Tool is freely available (2). The Microsoft Windows Snipping Tool was used to grab screenshots of the visualizations since exporting of images is not currently available.

IRB determination was that this pilot was not human subject research. Approximately 1100 students were randomly selected to participate from the pool of incoming domestic freshmen who completed a Student Intent to Register (SIR). Students were told that the pilot was by invitation only and that completing the ALEKS SP-Chem course would be accepted as a prerequisite so they did not need to do the placement exam. The student course mastery data was obtained through the custom reporting feature of ALEKS and matched with the invited student list via Microsoft Excel.

Students change from a status of “Not-Enrolled” to “Enrolled” once they make an account on ALEKS. Once they make an account on ALEKS, they are at 0% course mastery until they complete an initial assessment of their prior knowledge. The initial assessment plus any additional learning modules represents the student’s overall course mastery on a given day. Students with ≥ 95% course mastery have completed the Summer Preparatory course and can enroll in General Chemistry (CHE 2A). The Ribbon Tool represents snapshots of course mastery on different days.

The layers used were:

  1. Enrollment Status (Enrolled vs. Not-Enrolled).
  2. Course Mastery (0%, 1-10%, 11-20%, 21-30%, etc.)
  3. College (Engineering, Biological Science, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, and Letters and Science)
  4. Major

The following filters were available:

  1. Chemistry placement test score (pass, did not pass, did not take)
  2. Chemistry Demand (High, Medium, Low) – This is based on historical enrollment numbers for a given major.

Evidence-based Action

For more details about what evidence was collected, and actions taken, join the Tools for Evidence-based Action group on Trellis.




  1. ALEKS,
  2. Ribbon Tool,