Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sebastian Thrun: Statistics 101 will be majorly updated

Students of STAT101!

When I designed STAT 101, my hope was to make the material accessible to everyone, even students who don't like math. Statistics, to me, is a highly intuitive field -- a field full of magic and surprises. I aspired to share these insights with everyone, and to have students experience them by working on interesting problems. In making this class, I also experimented with a mix of materials. Plenty of materials are optional, such as mathematical proofs that students can elect to construct. We have been carefully studying engagement numbers and student feedback for these experiments and learning a lot about how students learn in this new online medium.

We have also received a lot of direct feedback from our students throughout the course in our forums and in discussions, which we really appreciate. I recently came across this article by another professor, which I read very carefully. While luckily not all of our students share this view, this article points out a number of shortcomings that warrant improvements that a few students have also raised and we have noted for iteration. Some are the result of my attempt to experiment with open questions (challenge students before I provide an answer), my dedication to get rid of overly formal definitions, and my desire to place optional challenges into an otherwise basic course. But I agree with the author of this article -- and our many supporters who have voiced similar things -- that the resulting course can be improved in more than one way.

Our online classes are being revised frequently. We use the data and feedback in this medium to adapt and further optimize. In the next weeks we will majorly update the content of this class, making it more coherent, fixing errors, and adding missing content. I believe that Udacity owes all of our students the hardest and finest work in making amazing classes. We are very grateful for any feedback that we receive. These are the early days of online education, and sometimes our experimentation gets in the way of a coherent class.

For clarification, the "final exam" in this class is for students to prove to themselves that they got the material right -- not as a test that independently certifies a student's performance. We have launched a proctored exam for CS101 and in time will do the same for this class.

Udaciously,
Sebastian