We talked about this a couple of months ago, but now the time is nigh to build and create an on-line statistics course, or courses.
There are several problems: content, manner of delivery, costs, credit or acknowledgement, advertising. I’ll sketch my thoughts and request yours.
Statistics ranges from pure philosophy to pure mechanics, and I have the idea that more people would enjoy the latter. I mean, I could offer courses on epistemology, philosophy of science, point (God help us) estimation, measure theory, Bayesian theory, and the like, with more or less technical content, but I think the audience for such material is limited, and those wanting it are more anxious for “credit”, discussed below.
Instead, my guess is that practicum would be more popular. Courses like: Introductory Data Analysis, Introduction to R, Advanced Modeling, Regression, Predictive Analytics, and the like, again with more or less meatiness depending on the audience.
Therefore, at the start, I propose three: (1) Introduction to the New Statistics: Bayes, Prediction, and All That. (2) Introduction to R. (3) Philosophy of probability. If you have other suggestions, please do list them below. I’m open to most things.
Introduction to the New Statistics: Bayes, Prediction, and All That
A sketch of the two major philosophies of probability, settling on the correct one (probability as logic, Bayesian statistics). Evidence, argument, logic. Learning to count. Basic probability models. Uncertainty. Modeling: regression and logistic regression. Students must find, present, and explain their own data sets, with guidance and within certain limitations. A project where this data is analyzed and explained fully, complete with an explanation of the many reasons why they results might be wrong, comprises the grade. This is the course I teach, to some success, at Cornell, even though I say it myself. The R software (free) will be used, but the computer work is not the main focus.
Introduction to R
Reading in, storing, outputting, and manipulating data. GUIs, why they’re nice and why they should not be used. Data frames, variables, basic coding, modeling, graphics (base, lattice, introduction to ggplot2). The world of packages (plug-ins of analysis software, all freely available). Interacting with JAGS, Excel. A project comprises the grade (a file or files of code designed to do a set task).
Philosophy of probability
A reading and discussion course, with some but minimal lectures (videos). Sketch of authors list (incomplete): Aristotle, Laplace, Keynes, Hacking, Ramsey, Carnap, Jeffreys, de Finetti, Howson & Urbach, Williamson, Stove, Jaynes. Plus a few more modern papers. Some of these are too technical or mathematical, so only select pieces of authors are used. A paper—and a phone call with me—discussing some aspect of probability comprises the grade.
Manner of delivery
I could do the whole thing here, on a separate room on the site, complete with videos, emails, chat sessions and so forth. Or I could use a site like Udemy or StraighterLine. The advantage to sites like these are: infrastructure already in place, easy to create courses, possibility of “credit”, billing outsourced, and so forth. Disadvantages are courses can get lost (there are many on offer), have to share the money with the site, they are a little more impersonal.
Another advantage is the material is all paced at your ability. The course does not have to start and stop in (say) twelve weeks for everybody. Some might blaze through in six, others might take fifty-two; others might join in the beginning and then leave, or more might skip the intro and wade in downstream. All would be fine.
It’s got to cost something. How much? That is, what weight of green stuff are you willing to part with to take these courses? Let me know below. When answering, remember the beauty of the phrase, “Give ’till it hurts.” Good news is that different courses can cost different amounts. The Philosophy of Probability course would be cheapest, because most of the burden of the material is on you, the student. The others would cost more because they’d take more of my time.
Credit or acknowledgement
At the least, anybody who takes a course with me could always ask for a letter or a phone call as acknowledgement they took the course, and where I could give my opinion on the student’s ability. I could always devise a certificate; the sites like Udemy have such a mechanism already in place. They also have approaches to (and here is where it gets complicated) official accreditation, wherein courses might—I say might—transfer in part or in whole to more formal institutions of higher learning. Instead of me going on about this, I encourage you to wade through the sites linked above, or this article, and learning more.
How best to get the word out? It would be quite an investment of my time to create the course, particularly the first two, so that they fit well on-line. I’d hate to make this investment if I can only find a handful of students. Advertising is where I’m at my weakest. I’m terrible at blowing my own horn, finding it embarrassing. Yet this is how one must get on, so I’m prepared to do it. I just don’t know how.
All ideas welcome. I envision, if all goes well, beginning this or these courses early next year, perhaps February or March. Thanks everybody!