New course software features

The last month has been focused on developing new features for the online course management software for fall courses. Several instructors have signed up to use the software, and we’re excited to receive helpful feedback on what future developments will be most useful.

Below is a summary of what is new this month:

  • Manage Course. Teachers may specify a time zone and view a list of registered students.
  • Quiz Utility. Quiz timers are defaulted to 30 minutes but are adjustable in the range of 15-60 minutes. Instructors may also, if they desire, prevent students from taking a quiz more than once (but students may still view the quiz). Instructors may also view a summary of student performance. Students may review their performance on quizzes, which we hope will aid in studying.
  • Question Bank. The end-of-chapter-exercises from three additional book chapters have been entered into the Public Question Bank.
  • Archiving. By the end of a course, instructors will have dozens of elements that they have distributed to students but that they may no longer wish to see on their homepage. To this end, we offer an Archive option, which allows instructors to hide quizzes, assignments, labs, and links that have already been posted. These archived elements are remain easily accessible on the instructor’s homepage by the Show Archived button (shown when at least one element is archived). Note that archiving has no influence on the appearance of student pages.
  • Highlighting Deadlines. Quiz, Assignment, and Lab due dates are now highlighted on students homepages when the due date is within 3 days, which will help students manage fast-approaching deadlines.

We have also posted a Labs page that will stage the release of labs in R and RStudio this fall. The first labs will be released later this month, and eight labs and their source are scheduled for release before the start of 2012 classes.

Send us an email and let us know what you think about our current products and planned expansions. We’re always looking for more input on what we should do next or what should take highest priority.


JSM 2011

The Joint Statistical Meeting was held in beautiful Miami Beach in early August. A few folks from the OpenIntro team attended and had a blast!

Early in the program Chris Barr gave a talk titled “Beyond the Textbook: Dynamic Approaches in Statistics Education”, in which he highlighted the importance and potential for new technologies in statistics education and beyond. Blogs, free software, social networks, videos, and (of course) OpenIntro were all on the list. Above all, Chris stressed the importance of integrating resources. As he put it: “The future is coming from all directions. Our greatest opportunity is harnessing and unifying the amazing potential of these resources.” Chris’ presentation was part of a panel discussion with other innovators in textbooks and teaching: Webster West from Texas A&M and Rebekah Isaak from the University of Minnesota each presented on alternatives. Webster described the potential for e-books to bring together resources in an interactive way, and Rebekah discussed efforts from her team to help students as they gradually build their own books throughout the semester. These are two great ideas!  The last speaker was our friend Rob Gould. He highlighted the importance of traditional books, and the opportunities for new approaches. At one point he remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many authors of introductory statistics textbooks in one room… I support diversity. I wish I could see more authors!” With ample opportunities for contributions from everyone in the community, we couldn’t agree more!

On the last day of the conference Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel gave a talk titled “Getting involved with OpenIntro” where she gave a brief demonstration of how to use and contribute to the online tools such as the question bank and quizzes. The audience was excited about the opportunity to be able to share questions amongst themselves via the online question bank, which is a perk other course management systems with a quiz feature do not provide. This presentation was a part of a session on online and open source teaching. Anna Helga Jonsdottir from University of Iceland talked about another free and open source web-based application called tutor-web. This application allows for a dynamic online quiz where the questions are randomly selected based on the student’s performance. If the student is doing well, the questions on the quiz get progressively more difficult. If not, simpler questions are selected until the system points the student to review certain topics. Both the back-end and the user experience of this application are rather impressive, and we were happy to see that researchers all over the world are contributing to open source education.

New releases on September 4

We will be releasing new materials online this September 4th. This release will include several products and features, including:

  • two labs, built specifically for use with RStudio (update: we are going to post these in mid-September after they have gotten one final trial in a course),
  • an expanded Question Bank, including all textbook exercises and a selection of new Quiz Ready questions, and
  • new course management options for teachers to assist in organization.
To all of you being visited by Hurricane Irene this weekend, stay safe!

OpenIntro Statistics source available online

We have posted a link to the source of OpenIntro Statistics (First Edition) on the Statistics Downloads page. Details about file structure and other important details on the license of the release are included in the readMe.txt file. The textbook images are also included in the release, as is R code for creating the graphics.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

August Splash

This past week we released the brand new First Edition of OpenIntro Statistics (with 8 chapters, also available on Amazon), a completely new website, and free online course management software.

The Preliminary Edition of OpenIntro Statistics was used in three unique courses at two separate universities during the 2010-2011 academic year, and we’re on track to reach even more students this year. In support of the project, we’ve released the First Edition, which weighs in at 370 pages and costs $9.02 on Amazon (39% increase in content). The PDF remains free under a Creative Commons license (see Rights), and we’ll be releasing the book’s source later this week on the Statistics Downloads page.

OpenIntro Statistics includes new material in each of the seven original chapters, plus a completely new chapter on multiple regression and one-way ANOVA (developed in May and June). The text and exercises continue to grow in quantity and quality. We’re excited to offer this textbook as a free download and at a zero-profit price through Amazon. We’re very grateful to several people who provided valuable feedback during the final months of development and revision: Andrew Bray, Dalene Stangl, Dave Harrington, Jan de Leeuw, Kevin Rader, Philippe Rigollet, and Rob Gould.

We’ve timed the development of the new website to coincide with the First Edition of OpenIntro Statistics, and our new web presence represents the professional quality expected of OpenIntro. This 2.0 version of the website was designed by Meenal Patel, our team’s graphic designer, and it offers much greater structure for public content. Importantly, we now also offer a new private section that includes online course management software. User accounts are free for teachers, students, and anyone else interested.

Teachers can manage a course and its content through the website using an efficient and powerful interface on their personal homepage. A teacher can create Quizzes, Assignments, Labs*, and Links by filling out a short form, and then distribute those elements to student homepages with just a couple mouse clicks. To create Quizzes and Assignments, teachers select questions from our large and fast-growing Question Bank, or teachers can create and use their own questions from their Private Question Bank.

It has been a fantastic year for OpenIntro development. All online content remains free, and paperback copies of OpenIntro Statistics are incredibly affordable. As we grow, we’ll continue to develop open source and free tools that meet the highest standards.

* Lab uploading privileges are currently restricted to verified teachers, but verification is simple and free.

Last major release before First Edition in July

The material in OpenIntro Statistics has been extended to match the AP curriculum plus a couple additional topics with today’s releases (Ch 1 + new exercises in Ch 3, 4, 6, and 7). This marks the completion of new sections for the First Edition of the textbook. We’ll be grooming the current text and exercises over the next 3 months to ensure alignment with and fulfillment of the AP curriculum and identify errata (let us know if you find any!). Then we will go to press for the First Edition in July.

We are also developing a new website — “2.0” — with a new look and expanded utilities. These features will also be released in (late) July. Meenal, our team’s graphic designer, has been developing the layout of the new website, setting the bar high for the visual appeal and layout of the site, and we are working hard on the back-end programming. We will be rolling out lite public versions of these components in July, and we are recruiting teachers who would like to trial additional features of the site this fall in their courses (teachers, please contact us if this might be of interest to you).

New sections, exercises, solutions, and online resources

Today’s release includes textbook sections, end of chapter exercises, and the initial posting of a new series of online tools.

Chapters 2 and 6 gained new material. New subsections in 2.5 introduce linear combinations of random variables. Often times we model random variables as the sum or linear combination of other random variables, and these subsections describe how we characterize the properties of these combinations. Section 6.3 was also released, and it describes small sample inference using simulation and exact methods for a single proportion.

New exercises have been added to Chapter 2, nearly doubling the number originally available in the Preliminary Edition of the textbook. Several exercises have also been updated.

Solutions to odd-numbered exercises to Chapters 1 and 2 have been posted on the Downloads page. We will continue to release the solutions to odd-numbered exercises for later chapters throughout February.

The backbone of a Question Bank and Quiz Utility have been constructed. While the number of questions available is currently limited, the current tools offer a taste of the capabilities that will be rolled out over the next many months. We encourage instructors interested in testing beta components of the system to contact us. Use of the online components is free and can be used in conjunction with other textbooks.

Updated exercises for the new year

December was marked with more expansions made in the problem sets available and by some behind the scenes work on the website.

Chapters 5 and 7 were each expanded to include problems for new sections written since the publication of the Preliminary Edition. The chi-square sections now have many excellent questions available, as does the section on inference for regression.

We also hope to release some new website tools in February. These resources should be useful to folks using OpenIntro: Statistics and other folks who would like some additional online resources but use other textbooks. While this work has been ongoing since early December, we will hold off until February to say much more — feel free to make guesses in the comments about what will be released!

December 1 Release

Updates this month:

  • Chapter 5 exercises extended
  • Chapter 7 extended
  • Discussion notes 3 and 4

Chapter 5 exercises were added, and additional sets will come online in January for one-way and two-way chi-square test. Thanks again to Dave Harrington, who has generously allowed us to incorporate his problems.

Chapter 7 was extended and edited. The inference for regression section has been added. In this section, we consider the connection between the unemployment rate and the performance of the President’s party in the House of Representatives during midterm elections from 1898 to 2006. Check out this section to see if we find a meaningful trend!

The third and fourth sets of discussion notes cover probability and distributions. In the probability notes, the basics are emphasized along with conditional probability. A special topic — expectation and SD of linear combinations of random variables — is also included, which is a topic that will later be added to the probability chapter. The fourth set of notes covers the normal, geometric, and binomial models. The LaTeX source and a PDF for all discussion notes are included in the downloads (see the Rights section of OpenIntro for what you can do with these products).

Additionally, Chapter 3 underwent an important change since last month. The Poisson distribution replaced the discrete uniform distribution as Section 3.5.2.

Updates to Ch 2, 3, 5, new exercises in Ch 1, and discussion section notes

We have outlined a plan for the next four months to bring out new content and this is our first release of the series.

  • Ch 1 Problem Set: Many new problems have been added, and several problems have also been modified. This first problem set continues to emphasize critical thinking and applications necessary for a foundational course in statistics. We would like to thank Professor Dave Harrington for his contribution of exercises. A more formal recognition will be extended as we build a framework to recognize new contributors like Professor Harrington.
  • Ch 2: A new subsection 2.3.7 has been added to introduce Bayes’ Theorem. This section exploits the connection with tree diagrams and emphasizes Bayes’ Theorem as a new tool for analyzing conditional probabilities.
  • Ch 3: Section 3.5 was added for two new discrete models: negative binomial and discrete uniform. We also intend to later add an additional subsection to 3.5: the Poisson model.
  • Ch 5: The Preliminary Edition offered 5.5 as a section called When to retreat. This section has been modified and moved to 5.7 to make room for two new sections. Sections 5.5 and 5.6 introduce the one-way and two-way chi-square tests, respectively.

We also added Discussion section notes to the Downloads page. These offer a pre-built plan in a handout that teachers or assistants can use to facilitate a discussion oriented session. Our target is to offer notes for ten discussion sections before the release of the First Edition in July 2011. While the releases are initially in LaTeX, we will later release Doc versions for wider use.

Our next release on December 1st will emphasize new sections on linear regression, expanded problem sets, two new sets of notes for discussion section, and improvements to this month’s releases.