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Making the Most of Your Statistics Experience in the Fall of 2020

Taking our mission seriously

We have an awesome teaching responsibility here in the Department of Statistics.  Statistical ideas and methodologies are everywhere.  This creates a two-fold responsibility for us when teaching general statistics classes.  We need to show students how to correctly apply the methodologies, but we also need to facilitate enough of an experience with the underlying theory so as to limit common misapplications and misinterpretations of the results.    

We have a long history of meeting this challenge head on in our STA 210 and STA 296 classes.  Our approach over the last decade has been to utilize student-centered activities that allow students to experience the critical role of the underlying theory, without having to confront that theory on any daunting mathematical level.  Nearly all of our STA 210 and STA 296 classes are taught in the state-of-the-art student-centered classroom in Jacobs Science Building (JSB) 221.   The room was designed by the Statistics Department just for that purpose.   Additionally, we were the first department on campus to infuse a definite kind of active learning into our online classes and the first to develop flipped classrooms for large undergraduate classes.   Our faculty work very hard to make the undergraduate experience with statistical science rewarding, understandable, and even fun!

Then along comes the pandemic.   Everything we have been used to, everything you have been used to has changed.  All of us have had to adapt.   Almost all of our traditionally face-to-face STA 210 and STA 296 classes are large classes, typically of 132 persons.   Space restrictions coming out of the Centers for Disease Control make it impossible to have that many people in a room and stay safe.   JSB 221, for example, has an official Covid-19 capacity of 44.  That’s two persons per table across the 22 tables in the room.   The University of Kentucky allowed faculty to choose if they wanted to adapt by going completely online or by adopting some kind of alternative attendance policy and teaching in what the University calls a hybrid model.   We did both.   A few of our large undergraduate sections are fully online to accommodate students who prefer that modality.  Almost all the other large classes are hybrid classes. 


What does having a hybrid statistics class mean to you as a student?

  • The specific details of your hybrid class will depend on your instructor.  Most of our instructors have indicated they want to wait and talk to their students before pinning down those details. The Department Chair in Statistics has reviewed the general plans instructors have for the fall and those plans are all well thought out and student-focused.    
  • What hybrid means for all of us is that some part of the class will have a face-to-face component.  In some cases these will be optional.  The goal is to come up with a model that fits the needs of a given class.  If a large proportion of your class feels uncomfortable coming on campus at all, for example, then your instructor may well have the face-to-face sessions be optional help sessions.
  • In other cases your instructor may give lectures as usual, with a third of the class allowed to come in person each time.  The other 2/3 could watch the live stream of that lecture, or watch the recorded version at their convenience.  This all takes place automatically and easily through Canvas.  Your instructor may be using the Echo 360 streaming tools for the first time, so we ask for your patience at the beginning of the semester.
  • Still other instructors may have their lectures all be online, perhaps as synchronous Zoom lectures, maybe as personally recorded videos, and use face-to-face time for small group work or help sessions, all carefully socially distanced as required by the CDC.
  • The bottom line is that by listing a class as hybrid it gives the instructor a way to offer some version of an on-campus experience, in so far as they and the students are comfortable with that. 


What does having an online statistics class mean to you as a student?

  • The specific details of your online class will depend on your instructor.  The Department Chair in Statistics has reviewed plans instructors have for the fall and those plans are all well thought out and student-focused, just like they are for the hybrid classes.
  • There will be substantial synchronous opportunities for you to interact in real time with a smiling, living, breathing instructor.  There may be similar opportunities to interact with your peers.
  • All of our online instructors are experienced in that modality.  You will not be getting any of the old-fashioned course-in-a-can type experiences.  You will see and interact with real people.   


How can I get help?

  • Instructors will be available during regularly scheduled times on Zoom for you to drop-in whether you have specific questions or want to just listen to what others are asking. For discussion of confidential matters or other issues, you can also request a one-on-one meeting with your instructor.
  • Canvas discussion boards, or email may also be used by your instructor to provide help.
  • The Department of Statistics will also be running a free Zoom-based tutoring center staffed by current STA graduate students.  Your instructor will pass along details once they are available.  We have a long history of offering this service, so you can expect it to be well organized and professional.
  • The Study will also provide free peer tutoring both online and face-to-face. More information will be available at