The Development of an Undergraduate Statistics Lab at North Dakota State University

Rhonda Magel and Ruey-Ping Lu

North Dakota State University is a land grant institution of approximately 9,000 students. The University is divided into eight colleges that include: 1. Humanities and Social Sciences; 2. Business Administration; 3. Pharmacy; 4. Science and Mathematics; 5. Engineering and Architecture; 6. Home Economics; 7. Human Development and Education; 8. University Studies; and 9. Agriculture.

The Department of Statistics is housed in the College of Science and Mathematics. We have six faculty members, one secretary, four adjunct faculty, and several graduate students working in research or teaching assistantship positions. We offer B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.'s in Statistics. We also offer minors at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most of the statistics courses taught on campus are offered in the Department and therefore, we do have a large service load. Students from many different areas are required to take our courses including: 1. Computer Science; 2. Business; 3. Pharmacy; 4. Home Economics; 5. Psychology; and 6. Agriculture.

The focus of this project is to develop an undergraduate statistics laboratory that will include a network of microcomputers and printers. It will be set up so that students may use various statistical packages. The primary courses that we feel will be affected by this lab are: 1. Stat 330 -- Introductory Statistics; 2. Stat 331 -- Regression Analysis; 3. Stat 368 -- Statistics (calculus based); 4. Stat 461 -- Applied Regression Models (matrix algebra based); 5. Stat 462 -- Introduction to Experimental Design; and 6. Stat 463 -- Nonparametric Statistics. Within a year's period of time, there are approximately 1420 students enrolled in these courses. The breakdown is as follows:

       	         STAT 330  -   860
                 STAT 331  -   450 
                 STAT 368  -    50 
                 STAT 461  -    30 
                 STAT 462  -    60
                 STAT 463  -    20

		 TOTAL     -  1420

At the present time, we do not use any computers at all in Stat 330 (Introductory Statistics), Stat 368 (Statistics [calculus based]), or Stat 463 (Nonparametric Statistics). SAS is used on an IBM 3090 for Stat 331 (Regression Analysis), Stat 461 (Applied Regression Models [matrix algebra based]), and Stat 462 (Experimental Design).

We feel that what is missing from our curriculum is a better way to help motivate students to learn about statistics. (This is true at our introductory course levels.) By giving the students more graphical displays and hands-on experience on microcomputers, we hope to accomplish this. We would also like to make statistics seem more realistic to the students. This includes both more realistic data sets to work with and a more realistic environment under which to do the analysis. We would like to get away from the concept that a mainframe computer is necessary to perform statistical calculations.

The goals for this project are as follows:

1. We want to be able to better motivate our students. This goal is primarily for students taking Stat 330, Stat 331, and Stat 368.

2. We would like to increase our students' understanding and retention of statistics.

3. We would like to provide a more realistic environment for our students to work in. The students that graduate with a minor in statistics often end up getting jobs that require some use of statistics. We would like our students to graduate prepared to perform statistical calculations without requiring the use of a mainframe computer. Most businesses will not have a mainframe computer, but they will have microcomputers.

4. We would like to provide more realistic data for our students to work with. By having a statistics lab, it would be easier for us to collect and store large data sets so that we can make problems seem more realistic.

Return to Cobb Paper | Return to Table of Contents | Return to the JSE Home Page