An Interactive Website for a Large Lecture
What Some Students Know Might Surprise You
Statistics 2 is the minimal course that satisfies
the university's quantitative distribution requirement.
As such, one would not expect the students to be
terribly "computer literate."
over 1/3 of my class regularly accesses
the class material and online labs from home, dormitory,
Many have their own accounts with ISPs
such as AOL and CompuServe.
What Some Students Don't Know Might Surprise
That you can resize windows, and how to.
That you can move windows, and how to.
How to use scroll bars
That the presence of a scrollbar means
there's more to see
That something underlined is a link
Expect a Mixed Reception
Some students consider using a browser
"knowing all about computers." They feel that asking
them to point and click is a serious imposition, and can't have
anything to do with learning the material.
What Students Like Most About the Approach
Having lecture notes online, especially
if they can print them out before lecture
Being able to "experiment" with
the applets in the notes. The number of students who can
take advantage of this is limited by:
1) The paucity of modem lines with which to access the
material from home
2) The paucity of on-campus facilities that support
Primarily, students who live in dorms with direct campus
ethernet connections, and wtudents who subscribe to an
ISP, take advantage of this.
The ability to do the computer lab
exercises from home.
The ability to submit homework by email.
What Students Like Least
I dim the lights to project the material;
they fall asleep.
Many students complain that it is unfair
to offer material on the web because not everyone has a
Competition for the few general UCB modem
lines limits off-campus access by those who do not
subscribe to an ISP.
Some feel that using a browser is
"knowing all about computers," and is too much
to expect in a non-technical course. Enabling Java on a
browser that supports Java requires about 4 mouse-clicks.
Here are the results
of a survey from Fall, 1997.
The technology I'm using (html, html forms,
Nonetheless, there is almost nowhere that the
students can get access to the material. Consider, for example,
the microcomputer facility in Evans Hall basement:
The PC's run Windows 3.x, a 16 bit OS.
Until last month, there was no 16 bit port of Java, and
Java-compatible browsers still have not been installed.
There is no way to access my class material using the
PC's in the lab.
The Mac's have too little memory to run
The only way to access the material from
this facility is to use Internet Explorer running on a
Mac, but, by default, Java is not
enabled when the browser starts up: the students need to
learn how to enable Java, which is tedious and confusing
to many of them.
Similarly, the Wheeler facility does not let the
students access the Java applets.
Students can access the material from the
X-Window terminals in the Statistical Computing facility, but,
The terminals are monochrome, which
requires gymnastics on my part to overcome (special color
choices that render visibly differently---all colors are
mapped to white or black); even with a great deal of
effort on my part, the result is a poor substitute for
Netscape on unix boxes with monochrome
monitors is very buggy: choice menus are invisible, for
When 30 students are all downloading
3000-point data sets the day before a lab is due, things
The facility is open only 9am-5pm.
I sent email to the administrator of Cafe MOOlano
two months ago to set up a MOO for my class. He or she has not
It took three email messages from me and three
from my system administrator to get a news group set up for my
class on agate---one month elapsed.
Java is not
Java is not
Java is not
Java is not
Java is not
You need to view your material using several
browsers on several platforms to have a reasonable chance that
the students get what you think you put there.
Why It's Not Worth The Trouble
It's a lot of trouble. I
can count on my fingers the nights in which I've gotten
more than 4 hours of sleep since the beginning of the
Some fraction of the students will hate
it; your teaching evaluations will suffer.
You get more class time for instruction.
After it's set up, teaching the class the
next time is easy (at least, I'm hoping so!).
If you are pessimistic about the economic
future of the University, this might ultimately be the
most economical way to teach large classes.
Once you know Perl, HTML, and Java, you
can get a job "in the real world" with a real
Samples of Student Comments
- It was great! Very convenient, and easy to use! Thanks
for all the extra work it really helps! I especially
liked looking at the graphs and questions simultaneously,
and not having to write it all out. The graphs are the
best part .
- I really liked being able to do my homework directly on
the web. Overall it was a great experience....
- It is really helpful that you have the labs on-line. I
work about 20 hours a week and barely have time for
homework until the weekend. Thank you for being
thoughtful. If you need help putting things on-line,
please let me know.
- I would just like to let you know that I appriciate how
much time you put into our stat class.
- I was really pleased to see that we would be able to send
in our homework over the internet to our readers - it
made things a whole lot easier for me. The last three
assignments that I have sent in however, have not been
returned to me in discussion. I only can assume that for
one reason or another, they didn't make it through.
- I finished this lab in the amount of time it took me
just to try to get into the stat lab for our last lab.
Also, netscape is aesthetically superior to the stat
server. The only thing I don't like about this format is
that I worry I might have accidentally missed a bubble I
was supposed to fill in.
- The only thing I really miss ... is that there is a TA
there just in case I have no idea what I am doing. Doing
it through the web is a lot easier and I am greatful for
the time and effort put into it....
- I liked doing my lab at home much better .... I liked
being able to f iddle around with the plots though,
adding SD lines and residual plots and such. I also liked
this type of write-up where we just clicked on the answer
we wanted. Overall, I liked doing the lab this way much
- I find that having the lab on t/he web is much more
convenient; I can work at my own pace, and there is less
pressure to finish in a given amount of time than there
is at the computer facilities (when sometimes there are
students waiting to use the computers)
- Running this program tended to crash all the time so I'd
have to sit through a couple restarts and start over each
time. But that's not your fault. But w/o the crashes, it
was mighty convenient and pretty cool to use. Keep up the
good work! (imagine me saying that to a professor, but
you know what I mean.) =)
- This method is particularly good through the web because
I can do the lab at home. I really didn't have too much
difficulty, and Netscape is much easier to use than the
Unix system we have in the Statistics Lab ... I was
wondering if there was any way I could get to the
bulletin board and chatroom if I'm not through the
- ...even before I read the last section, I was getting a
clear idea of the effect of increasing the sample size...
accomplishing the point of actually understanding the
effect of large sample sizes.
- I liked this lab much more .... i actually feel like i
learned better control over the concepts. good job!
...this lab was much easier to use and the extra
instructions made it much more helpful in learning the
- I found the lab particularly difficult to do at first
...Computer fluency is not mentioned as a requirement for
this class, but this lab expects that of us. .... once
I got the hang of manipulating the charts, they helped
alot. This lab was a good way to make sure we understand
- If the computer facility itself in the Statistics
department was better, this lab would have been much
- In general it worked great--my only complaint is that the
applet took forever to load.
- i think the internet idea is really cool. but i just have
hard time setting up the java script to work in my
computer. doing lab on internet however is very tideous.
the screen was too small. the constant switching back and
forth between different windows gets very annoying.
- I am often compelled to leave your lectures early because
I am unable to stay awake in them. I truly want to stay
alert and hear what you have to say, but it is difficult
because I don't feel that I am getting much out of them.
I already have your lecture notes from the Web ahead of
time, which may be a part of the problem. Plus, you
shouldn't dim the lights more than necessary ...
- It took a while to figure out and get comfortable with
doing the lab on netscape. But after I did get
comfortable , it wasn't too bad.
- The program is done poorly. It doesn't let you move
around easily. There is no room for mistakes. The
concepts are too difficult for a class filled with mostly
- putting the lab on the internet is bothersome to me
because it's hard staring at a computer screen for long
periods of time and also it's a pain to click everywhere
just to find out the information that you want to know.
getting over here is a pain too.
- AGAIN, THIS WAS VERY INCONVIENIENT AND TIME CONSUMING. I
THINK THESE LABS, WHICH MUST BE DONE AT A CAMPUS-BASED
COMPUTER SYSTEM ON THE INTERNET ARE BIASED TOWARD THOSE
STUDENTS WHO HAVE THE FINANCIAL ACCESS TO HAVE THEIR OWN
COMPUTERS AT HOME, WHICH I DO NOT. I ALSO THINK THEY ARE
BIASED TOWARD THE TYPICAL CAL STUDEN T WHO LIVES ON
CAMPUS. I LIVE VERY FAR AWAY AND IT IS HARD FOR ME TO
REARRANGE MY SCHEDULE AND FIND TIME TO MAKE IT TO CAMPUS
TO DO THESE LABS. I PERSONALLY THINK THEY ARE FAR ABD
BEYOND WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR THIS CLASS.
- i still am not able to get much out of your lectures. i
find them confusing, boring, and hardly recognizable
compared to the text. no offense professor, i know that
you work hard at the aplets, lecture notes, etc., but it
just isn't working for me. i find that the text is the
best way for me to learn the material and understand it.
- ... I really dislike doing labs on the computer. I would
really prefer to be able to do them on paper.
- It was kind of hard to switch back and forth between the
place where we type our answers to the place where the
graphs are. It just takes longer. I was unable to ask a
TA questions because I could not fit in a time in my
schedule when I could go to the Stat computer lab. I
could only go after hours to the basement of Evans. It is
kind of inconvenient. Not everyone is so
- I much rather enjoyed doing the lab when I was able to
write my answeres out rather having to worry about
submitting them and having problems with the computer and
reading data. ... I thought it was was interesting to
have the graphs to work with, but for some reason this
was extremely difficult on these computers. All in all, I
did not like diong the lab on these computers. I do not
have the ability to do this at home and I hate that I
have to come here with hundreds of other students at the
- I feel that the use of the Java histograms and such are
not especially those to use. I think it would be better
that instead of relying so much on your computer you
should write more on the board. Your handwriting is not
nearly as bad as a majority of professors on this campus.
The other little "complaint" I had was the labs
on the internet. Maybe it is just my problem but I do not
have access to the internet and much less to a Netscape
that is 3.0 to run Java. I think that the dependency on
the computer (though I thank you for trying to get us
updated in the cyberspace-whatever they call it-world) is
not conducive to the learning of Statistics. Your notes
on the web page are useful but turning in work this way
is unfair to those of us that truly do not have all this
technology available to us at 3 a.m. when Evans is
- This lab was confusing because each time you logged on
your samples were different, so you couldn't look at the
lab once and then go back to it, you had to do it right
off . We should have been told in advance that each time
we log on the lab would change. It was also tough because
you could not verify your work because if you tried to go
back chances are you would get a different sample of
answers. I still think that internet labs are time
consuming and frustrating.
- I know we are trying to get into new technology, and the
way of the the future, but, I think I missed that
generation. I have no problem admitting that third
graders are more computer literate than I am, and I know
I should get to be more computer friendly, but I have a
very difficult time with these labs. I think what you are
doing is wonderful, but, it totally stresses me out. I
spent all of Friday night (I know, I'm a wild and crazy
college kid) in my friends room who has internet access,
with another student, struggling throught this lab. The
three of us spent 2 hours working on it, and when we got
through it once, decided to call it quits for the night
and take a break. When one girl tried to do it on Sunday
night, she found that no longer was the data the same.
Each time she restarted the computer, new information
came up. To say the least, this threw us all into a panic
. With midterms and the various other previous
engagements we all had, we were completely stressed to
find out that the lab we had worked on, and spent our
Friday night doing, ich we thought we had completed, had
to be redone!! I know that you are trying to prevent
cheating, but if you could have warned us, it would have
saved each of us a great deal of time. This was very
discouraging finding out that we could not help each
other out and work together to do this lab. Worse yet, I
went back and tried to check my answers and each time the
computer would draw a brand new sample, I know each
sample is different, but this was extremely frustrating
that I could not go back and check my answers!!!!!
- Doing the labs this way sucks because we can't see
everything and because it is sooooo easy to loose all of
your information. there has to be a way to save
information or to have a hard copy of it so that all your
work is not lost. besides, i don't really trust
technology and i always worry after i hit the send button
because i'm unsure of where it actually went.
© 1997, P.B. Stark.
All rights reserved.
Last modified April 11, 1997.