Teaching statistics online causeweb webinar december 12 2006
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Teaching Statistics Online CAUSEweb Webinar December 12, 2006. Michelle Everson University of Minnesota. Overview. About the course Structure of the course website Description of student assignments and assessments What do students think about the course?

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Teaching statistics online causeweb webinar december 12 2006

Teaching Statistics OnlineCAUSEweb WebinarDecember 12, 2006

Michelle Everson

University of Minnesota


  • About the course

  • Structure of the course website

  • Description of student assignments and assessments

  • What do students think about the course?

  • Things for the online instructor to consider

  • Some lessons learned

The gaise recommendations
The GAISE Recommendations

  • According to the GAISE (2005) recommendations, introductory statistics courses at the college level should:

    • Emphasize statistical literacy and develop statistical thinking

    • Use real data

    • Stress conceptual understanding

    • Foster active learning

    • Use technology

    • Integrate assessments that are aligned with course goals

Research on teaching statistics online
Research on Teaching Statistics Online

  • How can collaborative activities and technology can be integrated into an online statistics course?

    • Student-to-student interaction and collaboration

      • Weekly chats(e.g., Dereshiwsky, 1998)

      • Project work(e.g., Davis & Chao, 2004; Prater & MacNeil, 2002; Suanpang, Petocz, & Kalceff, 2004)

      • Regular group discussions(e.g., Grandzol, 2004; Jones, 2003)

    • Technology

      • Courses have used Excel, SPSS, Minitab, Cyberstats, and ActivStats(e.g., Davis & Chao, 2004; Dutton & Dutton, 2005; Grandzol, 2004; Harrington, 1999; Lawrence & Singhania, 2004; Mills & Xu, 2005; Prater & MacNeil, 2002; Utts et al., 2003; Zhang, 2004)

Epsy 3264 basic and applied statistics
EPSY 3264: Basic and Applied Statistics

  • This is a 3-credit, semester-long, upper-level undergraduate course

  • Students who take the course come from all over campus; most take the course to fulfill a general education requirement

  • The course covers the following topics: data collection and description, normal distributions, sampling distributions, methods of statistical estimation and inference, correlation, and simple linear regression

  • The course uses the textbook Mind on Statistics (3rd ed., by Utts & Heckard), bundled with Minitab

Course assignments
Course Assignments

  • Grades are based on:

    • Small-group Discussion Assignments (7)

    • Homework Assignments (8)

    • Quizzes (4)

    • Project (1)

  • Students also have the opportunity to complete non-graded practice activities and extra credit assignments

Collaborative group assignments
Collaborative Group Assignments

  • Each student is assigned to a discussion group at the beginning of the semester

  • Seven small-group discussion assignments are completed

  • Assignments involve discussing concepts and answering questions as a group

    • Students must post their own thoughts (by midnight on Wednesday) AND respond in a meaningful way to what at least one group member has posted

    • One student volunteers to lead each discussion and submit a summary to the instructor by midnight on Monday

    • Grading: 3 points for initial posting, 3 points for responding, 1 point if group summary is submitted on time

Group assignment 1 designing an experiment
Group Assignment #1: Designing an experiment

  • Students read a 1998 New York Times article about a Therapeutic Touch experiment conducted by 11-year-old Emily Rosa

  • Students spend some time critiquing the study (i.e., discussing sampling issues, possible confounding variables, etc.)

  • Students then design a new experiment in order to assess the efficacy of the Therapeutic Touch method

Group assignment 4 sampling distributions
Group Assignment #4: Sampling Distributions

  • Students work independently through a lab in which they use the Sampling SIM program (delMas, 2001)

  • Students then attempt to answer a series of questions about the lab as a group:

    • They talk about what they feel a sampling distribution is and why it is important.

    • They talk about why they think the sampling distribution has the characteristics that it does.

    • They work as a group to answer a question that involves applying knowledge of sampling distributions.

Group assignment 6 hypotheses tests
Group Assignment #6: Hypotheses tests

  • Each student posts a research question that he/she is interested in and that can be addressed using either a one-sample, two-sample, or paired t-test procedure

    • Students talk about:

      • Why they are interested in this question

      • What their null and alternative hypotheses will be

      • What procedure is most appropriate to use and why

  • After students have posted their own research question, they each must choose one other research question to critique

More on homework assignments
More on Homework Assignments

  • Students complete 8 homework assignments, each worth 10 points

  • Assignments involve answering instructor-generated questions

    • Most assignments involve using Minitab or other technology (e.g., Java applets)

    • For some assignments, student data is analyzed (i.e., data from a class survey that students fill out during Week 1 of the course)

  • Assignments are submitted as Word attachments through WebCT e-mail

  • The TA grades each assignment and sends individual feedback to the student within one week

More on the project
More on the Project

  • Each student completes a project that involves gathering data from two groups and describing/analyzing the data using Minitab

  • The project is submitted in parts:

    • Part 1: Project idea

    • Part 2: Project data

    • Part 3: Introduction and description of data

    • Part 4: Inference (confidence intervals and hypothesis testing) and summary/conclusion


  • Every four weeks (25 points each)

  • Quizzes are administered online through the WebCT quiz tool

    • Available from noon on Fridays until noon on Mondays

    • Students have up to three hours to complete the quiz (in one sitting)

    • Quizzes consist almost entirely of short-answer questions

  • The BIG question: How do you administer quizzes online and ensure that students are not cheating? Can you do this????

Trying to prevent cheating
Trying to Prevent Cheating

  • If all of your quizzes will be online (like they are in this course), you can do different things to prevent cheating

    • Change assessments from semester to semester

    • Insist that students complete the quiz in one sitting, within a certain period of time

    • Use open-ended questions where students must explain their answers

      • You can also randomize the order in which questions are presented to each student

    • Ask that students adhere to an “honor code” of some kind

Student feedback spring and fall 2006
Student Feedback (Spring and Fall, 2006)

  • Students are asked to complete a Midterm Feedback Survey during Week 9 and indicate how they feel different assignments are contributing to their understanding of statistics

Teaching online issues to consider
Teaching Online: Issues to Consider

  • What kind of support will you get in developing the course? How much autonomy do you want to have?

  • How large will your class be? Will you get some TA support?

  • How will you ensure that students know what is expected of them in the online course?

  • What do you want YOUR role in the course to be?

    • Are you willing to be online often?

    • Are you comfortable providing feedback or explaining concepts to students via e-mail?

    • If you use discussion groups, will you participate in group discussions?

Some lessons learned
Some Lessons Learned

  • Teaching online can be a big time commitment

  • Online courses are NOT for everyone!

  • You get to know your students in a much different way when teaching online

  • Students appreciate timely communication with the instructor/TA, organization, and consistent deadlines

  • Online discussion assignments can be a great way to learn more about student difficulties/misconceptions

    • They motivate ALL students to participate

    • Discussions can be monitored for ALL GROUPS from start to finish

    • Set deadlines discourage students from waiting until the last minute to participate

Thank you
Thank you!!!!

Contact information:

Dr. Michelle Everson

Department of Educational Psychology

University of Minnesota