New Memorial apps support statistical learning

Oct 28th, 2015

Kelly Foss

New Memorial apps support statistical learning

Statistics deals with the collection, analysis and interpretation of data.

Because it applies across disciplines, statistics is often incorporated as a compulsory course in many academic programs. But as students will attest, it is one of the most difficult courses to learn and even professors agree that teaching an introductory statistics course is challenging.

Dr. Asokan Variyath, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, says today’s technology plays a vital role in modern teaching of statistics. With recent advancements in the technology available, some statisticians have been opting to develop their own web-based statistical apps for teaching assistance.

“Using apps in statistics courses helps focus student attention on new material and stimulates interest while highlighting the targeted principles needing to be learned,” he said. “Unfortunately, many of these apps suffer from poor presentation, a lack of statistical thinking process and software issues.”

In fall 2012, a new undergrad course at Memorial, STAT 1510 - Statistical Thinking and Concepts, was introduced for first year students with the overall objective of improving the undergraduate statistics program.

Dr. Variyath taught the course and begun developing and implementing his own web-based statistical apps to improve the student learning process. With the help of a MUN undergraduate computer engineering student, Jacob Parsons, they developed a series of apps using JAVA programming. Two other statistics graduate students, Tharshanna Nadarajah and Chithran Vasudevan, worked on this Memorial-funded project and were engaged in quality control testing. Faculty members of the math and stats department provided additional suggestions and feedback.

The first applets were used in the STAT 1510 course in 2012, with more being developed and implemented in the years since. Feedback from students using the apps has been encouraging.

The department intends to continue constructing more applets, and Dr. Variyath is currently preparing a paper on the project to a leading peer-reviewed journal.


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