The School of Foreign Service's statistics for international politics courses include a lab component to support the lectures and enhance the learning objectives for the courses. In the prior course structure, however, the labs failed at effectively achieving this goal. For this project, Parina Patel and Oded Meyer replaced a portion of the labs with web-based modules built using Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (OLI) platform. OLI is a scientifically-based online learning environment that has been shown to lead to increased learning gains when used to support face-to-face instruction. This more engaging, interactive lab experience was designed to address the individual needs of students. The modules, designed in Summer 2013 and 2014 and launched each subsequent fall, reinforced lecture material and fundamental statistical ideas in the context of real political science data and engaged students in hands-on activities where they reflected on and tested their own knowledge.
Results from the implementation of six modules, created and used over the past two years, reveal that both graduate and undergraduate students expressed very positive opinions about the presentation of material through OLI, the activities, and the general features of OLI. More specifically, most students felt that the material was written in a way that was easy to understand and helpful for learning Stata. Students almost unanimously agreed that the activities enhanced their understanding of the material. In addition, students felt that being able to work at their own pace and go back to previous content were useful for their learning processes. Given the positive results from the assessments, Patel will continue using OLI in her courses. She has also considered shifting the use of OLI to before class, which would provide additional class time for the TAs to go over more examples and answer questions.
Patel, Parina and Oded Meyer. "Using the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) to Support Teaching Statistics to International Politics Students." Presented at the 9th International Conference on Teaching Statistics, Flagstaff, AZ, July 14, 2014.
Meyer, Oded and Marsha Lovett. "Using Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (OLI) to support the teaching of introductory statistics: experiences, assessments and lessons learned." Presented at the 9th International Conference on Teaching Statistics, Flagstaff, AZ, July 18, 2014.