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.


31 thoughts on “Sebastian Thrun: Statistics 101 will be majorly updated

  1. This is so true:"Also, I feel that written text is ultimately more useful than videos, being more elegant and precise, easier to search and index key terms and examples, suffering fewer technical problems, easier to update, and generally being truer to the form of mathematical written presentation in the first place."

    • This passage got me thinking as well. I'd agree to some pros of written text like "fewer technical problems" and "easier to update", but these two issues aren't a student's concern. I cannot understand why text should inherently be "more elegant and precise" or "generally being truer to…". A video feature s written text in the same way a book

    • >> I'd agree to some pros of written text like "fewer technical problems" and "easier to update"On second thought, I don't think that my bookshelf is that easy to update either. 😉

    • Videos are excellent as an initial learning tool, but as Paul very accurately pointed out (and I personally vouch for it) written text offers a more detailed explanation than videos can offer. There are a number of reasons for it as well.While excellent for giving a general overview and explaining the important concepts, videos are not suitable for a thorough treatment of

  2. thank you for the work. and please start more courses in mathematics as well (such as linear algebra ,higher calculus ). since maths is a heart of science , we can't do lot of things with out mathematical knowledge.

  3. I felt the class had the quality of a college lecture, and it excelled at presenting certain concepts in an insightful way.However, that's not good enough, because a college course also has a textbook with a generally deep presentation of the subject matter. I found I had to supplement quite a bit with other materials, including wikipedia and other online materials,

  4. It is simply awesome. :) This issue of revisiting was bothering me a bit (and a lot of other people as well I guess). Especially given experimental nature of not only MOOC but also specific classes like st101 or `software testing`.I think you guys should state that _essential_ policy somewhere much more clearly – so that everyone will know and there would be no doubt and misconception

  5. I would like to see the diff of the new class… It would be nice to review just the changed info, without having to retake the entire class. or perhaps just a changelog? Actually, I would appreciate that for any of the classes that I complete.

  6. Is there a shedule yet? I've finished about a third of this course and I wonder if I should wait or continue (will be there a sort of update path for those who already completed the course?)?

    • I would recommend continuing as long as you can follow along and aren't too annoyed by sundry minor bugs. If you're stuck, Also feel free to use the forums which do fill in most of the holes in the course. If you'd rather not do that and wait for it to be incorporated, feel free to wait for the relaunch.We'll let you know about the additional material when it's

  7. Personnel I enjoyed the Stats 101 course and found it to be a great introduction to statistics. Over 1 week I was able to increase my statistical knowledge and preform a quality regression analysis on data I needed to.No I do not believe it was challenging enough or enough interaction (questions, quizzes, feedback) to be a full scale college course. But for myself it fit the bill

  8. I agree that it would be useful for students who are currently taking the Intro to Statistics to have an estimate of whether we're talking "weeks" as in "a few weeks" or "tens of weeks" until the rollout of the next iteration.

    • I would expect to start seeing changes within the next several weeks. I'm not quite sure when they'll finish; we'll communicate more as we know it.For students still in the course, I would recommend continuing if the course works for that student. Plenty of students do find it helpful. I suspect this is most challenging for students who have truly no statistics background.

  9. I loved to hear that the statistics course will get updated because I like the general news that Udacity courses are not a fire-and-forget offering but rather evolving offerings that only get better over time.The points I can most agree with are:- bipolar difficulty- quiz regime (in part)- omission of explanationsOn the other hand, I emphatically disagree

  10. I agree partially that ST101 was a disappointment in many respects. Suggestion: How about written courses instead of video ones? I think that would make courses easier to update, removes any language barriers and allow for off-screen reading and hence saving eyes some drainage.

  11. I did not go through the stats course from udacity, but went through the build your own robotic car class. I would like to say the opposite of what the author of that article says. The conventional education system is designed to suit people who learn deductively. They prefer to "stand on top of concepts they know"… Then there are people who like to learn by dabbling. People who learn

  12. I've taught the standard intro to statistics course several times, and each time I resolve to never do so again. This, for the same reason I hated taking the course as a student (just for fun one summer, while an undergraduate mathematics major). One needs calculus to understand WHY much of course content is true, but the course doesn't require such a background. The text I used as a

  13. i don't agree with using written course instead of videos. if we need text then we can buy a book and study it(or even we can google it). but studying a subject by attending a school is giving another dimension. virtual university also should give that experience. but still i haven't take ST101. ( i like to attend the courses on by one). but so far i am happy with the

  14. I read the same article and published my own thoughts on my blog ( before reading Sebastian's response. It's good to hear the course will be revised. I'm about 2/3rds through it (work and vacation intervened), and I 1) think it is not particularly well done, 2) not necessarily representative of other Udacity courses or MOOC's in general, and

  15. Well done, Sebastian, for having the courage to admit your mistakes and own up to the fact that the ST101 course was not all that you hoped it would be. That is admirable. Now knock us dead with a revised course that shows the brilliance that Udacity demonstrated it was capable of in CS101, CS373, and CS387.

  16. As you consider his point #8 about final exam questions, please don't revert to a system where a student has only one chance ever to get a good score. Just build a large set of questions that change each time someone retries. That's fair and rigorous and also provides good practice. This is what does and it makes a bad grade turn into a good motivator to understand

  17. Having removed the deadline for the final exam was the best thing done by Udacity. Eight weeks was too short for a student who began an online course for the first time without first looking all the tools at its disposal. Wiki, Forum, etc.. Now I do and redo units and really grasp the content of the videos and comments from other Udacians

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