Three departments in the Social Sciences have joined with the Department of Computer Science to produce computerized course materials that promote understanding and appreciation of statistics and mathematical models among undergraduate students in the social sciences. Our goal is to promote integration of statistical methods and concepts throughout the curricula, rather than isolate student contact with statistics to one or two courses. This will help students understand the role of statistics in the evaluation of hypotheses, and help students apply analytical thinking skills to claims of fact presented to them in their everyday lives.
To meet this goal, we seek to provide students with on-line materials that explain statistical concepts, and visualization tools to do statistical analysis on real data sets. These materials are designed to make it easy for instructors to integrate them into their courses. In this way we hope to overcome the problem where instructors do not use statistical concepts in a course due to the difficulty of doing so, even though such concepts might be a natural and valuable component of the course content.
We are creating software that includes significant social science databases, visualization and analysis tools, and multimedia tutorials on statistical techniques and the role of models. Our tutorials and software will be widely accessible, as they are delivered entirely via the WWW using HTML pages and Java applets. The primary databases for exploration are the 1990 US Census, the General Social Survey, and several smaller experimental psychology databases. In addition, students will be able to enter their own datasets for analysis. Our visualization modules will also allow users to access and analyze databases from remote sites available on the WWW.
Our tutorials directly address the widely recognized conceptual barriers that students traditionally encounter when studying basic statistical concepts. Since beginning our project, we have moved away from the concept of an "electronic textbook," and instead have embraced the concept of using authentic activities that encourage students to explore key concepts. Thus, each of our tutorials is directed at a particular statistical concept or group of concepts known to provide difficulty to students, and each is organized around an activity that directly promotes understanding of the concept.
The Statistics Tutorials
For historical interest, our original project proposal
Here are some other Java applets that make for interesting examples.
Here are some other Online Statistics Projects.