Subimal Chatterjee, professor of marketing and associate dean of Binghamton University’s School of Management, has been teaching for more than 20 years. This semester, Dr. Chatterjee is using Acrobatiq’s Statistical Reasoning in a hybrid format for his freshman statistics course.
What prompted you to move to an online/hybrid approach to statistics?
We were always unhappy with the way the statistics class was run. It was rated low in satisfaction by both students and instructors. Statistics, like calculus, is a foundation course. If students don’t grasp it, their knowledge deficit will only increase into their junior and senior years. After trying a couple of different approaches (self-paced options), we got it right this semester, with the hybrid format.
How is the course organized?
All the content is online. We meet each Wednesday to flip the course. We spend classroom time doing the homework. When students come to class, they must have completed the checkpoints for the week. This forces them to complete the reading, and attempt the problems before we meet.
What are some of elements of the Statistical Reasoning courseware you find particularly effective?
The content is very good and students have no difficulty following along. The system lays out the framework for where students need to go. The built-in assessments are excellent. Each Wednesday, I will know exactly what area, and what questions, students had problems with. This is so useful to me. I can go into class and say, ‘Out of 50 questions, these 5 questions gave most of you problems. I’m going to start with these 5 questions.’
You’re into the 8th week of the course. What’s been the student feedback?
You live and learn. Once you give the students all the materials, they do not want to come to class. Only 12 students (out of 34) show up every Wednesday. As we get into the tougher chapters (sampling distribution, for example), I believe that this number will go up. The feedback from the students who do turn up is overwhelmingly positive – they believe that they are learning.
How’s it going from your perspective?
I think some more tweaking will have to be done. To what extent do I force all students to attend the Wednesday classes? Should I insist on attendance? Clearly a few students, who are not attending could certainly benefit. I can see from their checkpoints that they are not grasping the materials.
How will you measure success?
We’ll gauge student satisfaction with a survey at the end of the course. The final exam is May 17.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to overcome in moving to an online/hybrid format?
Faculty culture. It’s so different than the way faculty are used to doing things. Change is the hardest thing to do. We’re not asking instructors to create their own course. Just to consume some outstanding new course options to supplement their teaching and solve new problems.
Can you share some teaching tips for instructors transitioning from a textbook to courseware?
If you use the courseware properly, you don’t need a textbook. Everything is there. Your lectures, your narrative – you don’t need anything more. And it saves time. We only meet once a week, instead of twice, so the time is already reduced by 50 percent. There’s more time for research.
If you’re using courseware for the first time, invest the time upfront to know all the modules by the first day of class. Because students are working at their own pace, you can find that the smarter ones are ahead of you.
I also recommend analyzing your grade book once a week. Catch those students falling behind and call or email them. When I look at The Learning Dashboard and see that students are having difficulty, I create a short video lecture and push the link to them. You can save a lot of time knowing early on where a student is struggling. Now you have a daily snapshot that assesses students in a way that really helps you and helps individual students.
Any other suggestions?
For any instructor teaching statistics, I recommend Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan. This book is a fun introduction to why we study statistics.
How would you like to see online learning evolve? What improvements would you like to see in the future?
This is the future of education. The moment we talk about access to education, in five years, due to financial pressures and other developments, this is where we will be. What I sometimes fear is that by trying to broaden access, there might be a temptation to water down content. That’s why it’s important to have content and assessments that adapt to different students. Not all people are motivated the same way. Or learn the same way. And of course, some people need an instructor to stand in front of them.