How I Use It
I've used ixl.com with small groups of students in after-school tutoring. Because I strive to target specific areas where individual students are struggling, this site helps me to achieve that goal. Without question the paid version is the way to go for this site, although without it students can still benefit from the limited practice problems available. My experience has only been with the math area of the site. I assigned each student a topic and skill to work on and was able to quickly check their progress at the end of the session to determine if they were ready to move on or not. For some students, the explanations provided were sufficient, but for others the lack of audio and animation prevented them from understanding why they got a problem wrong. It was necessary for me to assist those students as they worked when I saw that their score was not improving or that they were getting questions wrong.
The students themselves were always willing if not eager to use the website both in tutoring and for additional practice at home so obviously they felt that the practice was helping them improve. I saw this as a huge positive. Unfortunately there is no money available to fund classroom or district licenses for this product so the teachers are unable to fully utilize it. I will continue to share the site with parents and use it with the free limitations as much as I can though, as I do see the benefits.
The organization of this site makes it the perfect place for students to practice math skills. Even without a paid subscription teachers can direct students to the topic and skill that they correspond to what is being covered in the classroom. As students work through the problems, they receive feedback immediately. If they are incorrect, an explanation is given. Students continue to work until they obtain a mastery score. The site is not terribly dynamic or game-like, but does award prizes in a game-like structure. In my opinion the straightforward practice keeps students on task and contains enough visual aids to be helpful without becoming distracting.
For teachers with paid accounts, class rosters can be set up requiring only student name and password. The option is there to put in email addresses, but it is not required. This is a huge plus in my district where we prefer to keep student data as private as possible. Students are not assigned lessons within the website, but either self-select or do what is prescribed by the teacher. For those who don't have accounts, users are limited to 20 questions (that's per computer, not per student) per day. It is still useful, but rather limiting, especially in a lab situation.
Overall, I've found the site to be beneficial to students in providing meaningful math practice aligned to common core standards.