Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coursera Statistics One - Week Two reflection #stats1

Coursera Statistics One I am posting weekly reflections here on the Coursera Statistics One MOOC as it progresses.

It's been a bumpy week on the course with lots of turbulence. The GoDoddy DNS hacking which disrupted Coursera last weekend notwithstanding, this week the course has come across as badly planned, with assignments posted late, and (rather good) R how to videos added as an afterthought rather than as part of the course structure.

In terms of R, it is clear that although this was advertised as a feature of this course, many people only saw "statistics" and did not take the R element on board, hence are getting some surprises. Personally, I think R is the best statistics tool there is at present, but it clearly needs to be made more prominent in the course description, and needs more support in the course - for example, screen capture videos of how to carry out required procedures in R.

As far as the discussion boards are concerned, on this and other Coursera courses, there is a lot of highly negative sentiment. This is rarely if ever responded to by the teaching staff, and is usually from anonymous posters. I believe anonymous posting is a highly negative feature of the Coursera discussion boards and should be removed. real names would not necessarily be need to post comments, but by removing the anonymous option, the tone of the discussions might easily be improved.

Rambling asides on baseball that might work well in an American classroom to establish the lecturer's humanity (which is important) don't work well with an international audience online. A good example of Coursera's lack of forethought in simply taking existing materials and chucking it online (and not something that Udacity could be accused of).

Statistical concepts and practical knowledge of how to operate R shoot by far too quickly for a true introductory course - OK as revision/extension for those who already have some knowledge, but again, a mis-badging of this course as introductory by Coursera with insufficient support being available. Potential harm - this is going to screw some people up "I can't do statistics".

A bad week for Coursera. If I was Princeton, I wouldn't want my brand associated with this.


  1. Given this whole Coursera approach is new and worldwide, I think there'll be lots of bugs to work out.

    As for anonymous posters I agree. If I get a forum message from someone listed as anon, I just delete it.

    As for folks getting discouraged because they didn't quite "get it", for whatever reason, if they are determined, they'll return. If not, they won't. They'll find something else to do.

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  3. I see things differently, Perdita. I'm not sure why having a more unusual name should make a difference.

    This was my personal response to anons. I'd rather not engage with someone in this kind of an environment without being able to address them by name, even though their posted name might be an alias.

    I also found it interesting that, in a few cases, people would check the anon box but then include their name in their post.

    The names are, to the best of my knowledge, available to fellow students, TAs and Professors who are enrolled or teaching the courses.

    And, since it is a class, mistakes, misunderstandings and incorrect answers are to be expected. Holding that against someone, displays a number of inappropriate judgements and/or characteristics by the person dong the judging.

    Though I never saw it, evidently there was some trolling and flaming that took place, which is unfortunate though not unusual in a situation where tens of thousands of people are involved.