Teaching Matters

Virtual learning for undergraduate students on statistics

Two lecturers in Geosciences have created an initiative to help students learning statistics.

screenshot from VLE of information page on linear models
Example of VLE view (information page on linear models)

Within the Ecology and Environmental Science Undergraduate Degree Programme we recently started a pilot initiative called Introduction to R and Statistics, a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) designed to help undergraduate students get started with statistics and the statistical package R.

R is a programming language and an environment for statistical computing and graphics, and it is widely used in the scientific community. It has the capacity to be used for a wide variety of statistical tests and graphical techniques. There are many great features of R, but one of the best is that it is Open Source. This means that unlike many other statistical packages you can use this on any computer anywhere (including by our students after leaving university).

The VLE provides an environment which can be used independently to get to grips with basic coding and statistics. We all learn at different speeds, therefore the VLE gives students the space to work on problems and return to them for as long as they need. For many of our students coding is completely new to them; therefore, giving them an environment where they can work on this provides them with the opportunity to practice this new skill. We provide worksheets, quizzes, data, information pages and some short videos to aid the learning experience. 

The VLE ties in with another new initiative within GeoSciences called Coding Club. This is a student led initiative design to help students develop their coding skills. You can read more about Coding Club in Gergana Daskalova’s post for Teaching Matters.

We plan to collect feedback from students to help us improve the VLE so that this is a resource for students over the coming years. If you would like more information regarding the VLE, please contact Dr Christina Coakley (christina.coakley@ed.ac.uk) or Dr Kyle Dexter (kyle.dexter@ed.ac.uk).