collaborative Creation of a statistical flowchart tool DrEugénieHunsicker Department of Mathematical Sciences Loughborough University Dr. ArunaPalipana Mathematics Education Center Loughborough University
Talk outline • The flowchart project: Whattest.co.uk • Collaborators and recruitment • Benefits to project and to collaborators • Managing partnerships • Conclusions
Flowchart tool: Whattest.co.uk Whattest.co.uk will be a website containing a set of resources aimed at helping students in various disciplines and at various levels to determine the appropriate statistical procedures to carry out on data. In particular, there will be a set of interactive flowcharts for deciding what procedures to use in a variety of settings. Each flowchart will help students through a decision tree using links to explanatory materials, including examples and videos.
Motivations for Whattest.co.uk • Many students in a variety of disciplines need statistics for final year research projects. • Many courses in applied statistics teach how to use certain statistical tests, but do not emphasize how to decide what test to run in a particular context. • Students therefore struggle in their projects to use the statistics they have learned. • The goal of Whattest is to help students understand how to identify the characteristics of their dataset and experimental design that will determine the appropriate statistical procedures to run. • It will also contain links to videos that review how to run these procedures in various statistical packages.
Stages of project • 2012-13 academic year: • Develop the software that lies behind the flowcharts. • Gather information about how statistics is used in various disciplines, begin to create some resources that will be linked to the flowchart, make connections with staff teaching students who might be interested in using the resource. • 2013 summer: Create the first version of the resource • 2013-14 academic year: Pilot the resource at LoughboroughUniversity • 2014 summer: Revisions and additions • 2014 autumn: Launch website to public
Collaborators for first two stages Coordinator: • staff member from Mathematical Sciences with experience in statistics and statistics education Software development: • 2 academics from Computer Science • 1 learning technologist in the Mathematics Education Centre Gather information on use of statistics, generate resources: • 8 final year mathematics project students • 5 staff members teaching statistics in departments around the university (engineering, mathematics, information science, sport and exercise science) Create first version of Whattest website: • 3 student interns • MEC learning technologist • External statistical consulting expert
Practical Motivation for Collaboration • This is a very large project, and certainly cannot be completed by one or two individuals. • A wide range of knowledge is needed to complete this project: • How to use a wide range of statistical procedures • Basic principles in statistics education • What statistical procedures are most used in a variety of disciplines • Programming for a web application • How to create instructional videos in Camtasia using various statistical packages • Students’ use of web-based learning materials
Recruitment How did I convince so many different collaborators to work on this, often for free? • It is a good project that many people can see the benefit of. • I talked about it to everyone – students, staff around the university, people at workshops and conferences, people on online statistics forums. • I followed up on conversations and was flexible about let the project adapt according to the input and volunteers I got. • I looked for new ways to get people involved, e.g, through students’ final year projects that produced materials for lecturers in other departments to use in their modules, as well as for the flowchart. • I convinced my dean it was a good project and he dedicated some staff time to it.
Support for Whattest Funding: £7000 for HEA individual teaching development grant to pay for • 2 student interns over 5 weeks this summer • Consulting from external statistics expert • Dissemination costs • Registration of domain name for 10 years • Computing hardware on which all relevant software could be installed (SPSS, Camtasia, Microsoft Office, R and R Studio, Dreamweaver). • Additional support through dissemination opportunities (like this!) University support: • Office space for student interns • Staff time in Computer Science and Learning Technology • Software expenses • Website launch expenses • Dissemination support • Costs associated to hosting and maintaining website
Benefits of working with collaborators on software development (2 members of academic staff in Computer Science and a learning technologist) The project benefits from • Bespoke software to implement the interactive flowcharts. • Expertise of staff in bringing up practical considerations about how the site will be used. • Consultation about website development. The collaborators benefit from • An enterprise application of programming work. • A chance to share programming and learning technology knowledge between CS staff and learning technologist. • The flowchart builder developed for this project can be used for other applications as well.
Benefits of working with collaborators on gathering information and generating resources (8 final year project students in mathematics and 5 members of teaching staff lecturing on statistics) The project benefits from: • Expertise of staff in various disciplines on what statistical procedures are most used in their disciplines and the contexts in which their students will use them. • Project students’ help in collating information about statistics in various areas. • The ability of these undergraduates to produce high-quality resources. • The perspectives of the undergraduates on how students interact with web-based tools and materials. • Dissemination of the Whattest flowchart project among staff and students on campus
Benefits of working with collaborators on gathering information and generating resources (8 final year project students in mathematics and 5 members of teaching staff lecturing on statistics) The students benefit from: • Expertise of staff in various disciplines on what statistical procedures are most used and the contexts in which their students will use them. • A year-long project that solidifies their knowledge of statistics and gives them a holistic perspective of the subject. • Learning about principles of statistics education from the education literature. • The gratification of knowing that their final year project work will be used by other people and become part of a widely available resource that they can also put on their CVs. • A chance to work collaboratively along with staff and other students on a large scale project.
Student Comments:Useful projects are good • Knowing that my work will be used by students in the near future is also extremely rewarding. • I also thought it sounded interesting to develop a statistical flowchart which would directly help students as a lot of the other projects are not interested in this. • I feel that the resources that I am going to create for the module will actually benefit students and so this makes me feel like the project is worthwhile!
Student comments:Teamwork in projects is good • I have enjoyed the mixture of working on my own and being able to come together as a group to discuss the work we have done. • It has been very useful to present to the group what we have done so far, so that not only can the group provide feedback on this, but you also get to see what the other group members are doing. • [I liked the]amount of interaction with others, which I feel you won’t get in other projects.
One challenge from student comments: need a clear timeline and structure for projects • The amount of time it took to really get the ball rolling at the start was a little unnerving as it put a bit of pressure on when it did. Also not really knowing what the final aim in terms of assessment is. • I would suggest that an almost exact plan is created for the project at the start of the year so that the student knows exactly what they need to do and therefore can make sure they get each part done in good time, so as not to leave a lot of work for the last few weeks.
Benefits of working with collaborators on gathering information and generating resources (8 final year project students in mathematics and 5 members of teaching staff lecturing on statistics) The teaching staff benefit from: • High quality resources produced for use by their students. • Perspectives of project students on how students use study materials and what materials are most effective. • Expertise on statistics theory and statistics education that the students and supervisor brought to the project.
Benefits of working with collaborators on developing first version of Whattest? The project benefits from collaborating with interns, learning technologist and external consultant through: • Student interns can completely dedicate themselves to the project during the internship in the way most staff cannot. • Interns work really hard and produce very high quality materials. • Interns bring with them a variety of skills useful to the project: Java coding, using Camtasia, fluency in Chinese, website design, and others. • Interns bring perspectives on how technology is used by students. • Consulting expert brings knowledge of statistics and the types of problems many students encounter with projects. • Learning technologist is on hand to sort out any computer issues.
Benefits of working with collaborators on developing first version of Whattest? The interns benefit from: • A chance to deepen their knowledge of statistics. • A chance to create something that will be used by their peers. • Money! Something on their CV! • Making close connections with staff. The statistical consultant benefits from: • A chance to make more connections in academia. • A chance to work on a tool that could be used by consulting clients.
Managing collaborations It is necessary to be aware of the needs and goals of all collaborators and make sure the project is flexible enough to be able to meet them. For instance • Project students need to produce a good report on what they have done. • Staff from other disciplines want to improve their teaching resources. • Computer staff want to develop a tool that is broadly applicable beyond the project. This means that not all outcomes of the overall project can be directly plugged into Whattest. However, they all contribute to the construction, although they are not directly visible in the final product. Thus, there needs to be direction of the project, but also respect and consensus among all collaborators to keep everybody invested and allow everyone to benefit.
Conclusions • It is absolutely necessary to collaborate on a large project. • There are benefits to the project from the collaboration beyond simply sharing out the work. • There are benefits to collaborators that can attract them to work on the project. • Project students and interns make really excellent collaborators! • There is a big push right now for enterprise and applications of academic work that can motivate academics in other departments to get involved with big projects. • Good collaborations take effort and need flexibility that can make them take longer than a directed project, but are worth the time put in.
Thanks! • To our colleagues at Loughborough who were involved in this project, especially Prof. Paul Chung and Dr. Roger Stone from Computer Science. • To our project students and interns: Rob Cleaver, Thomas Foster, Charlotte Cannon, Charlotte Tewkesbury, Emma Brealey, Sarah Haar, Sarah Booty, Kalon Veale, Harriet Powell, Catherine Hewitt, Simeng Li. • To the HEA for inviting me here today. • To you for listening!