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JMM 2018 External Advisory Board notes

This document lives on the site, but is intentially not prominent in the menu system.

From Jenna’s agenda: Big Questions for Mike Brilleslyper and Danny Kaplan

a. How to get the participants to talk to each other and share with each other?
– To become a cohesive hub?
– What are the hub leaders doing in-between?
– What are the participants doing with what they are learning?
– How could we use evaluation to determine this? (usually 2+ faculty per institution)

b. Dissemination
– How to effectively disseminate?
– How do we get other people to adopt and adapt this approach/materials?


  1. Why do we have hubs?
    a. To provide a first level of support for participants:
    – What materials are available.
    – How to integrate the materials into your course.
    – Using the technology
    – Deployed tutorials
    – R for wrangling, visualization, stats.
    – RStudio for authoring or customizing tutorials
    b. To lower anxiety about making the change to data-centric statistics by offering help as needed.
    c. Provide a non-intimidating local contact who can triage questions/requests/suggestions and pass along those to be handled at the national level.
  2. What are hub leaders doing in-between workshops?
    a. Hub leaders from Year 1 have been reactive rather than pro-active.

    • This is natural, since there aren’t enough materials posted in a stable format for the hub leaders to think creatively about how to share them with participants.
      b. They have participated and organized participation in webinars.
    • Three held so far.
      • All of them have been about introducing tools: GitHub, Markdown, Rmd. These were the easiest to develop in a limited time.
      • These tools by themselves don’t put the participants on the road to teach data-centric stats.
      • We need to transition to webinars about teaching rather than developing tool skills.
        c. There have not been enough other group-forming activities.
        d. Overall result, hub leaders are underutilized (not their fault) because of a shortage of ready-to-use, polished curricular resources.
  3. What are the participants doing with what they are learning?
    a. Very little participation so far outside the summer workshops.
    b. A handful are learning RStudio, setting up course web sites.
    c. Few to none are writing their own tutorials.
  4. How can we use evaluation to track participant activity?
    a. Self-reporting to activity log [Exists]
    b. Recording use by tutorials.
    – Highly aggregated via logs. [Exists]
    – Logging of individual exercise submissions. [Expected end of Feb. 2018]
    c. Tracking by hub leaders
    – Passive: “Write to me …”
    – Active: Call them up individually. (But not until we have ready-to-use resources available.)

Overall situations: The two pilot-year hubs are not accomplishing what we want, but

  • we are gaining experience from them
  • they are handicapped by a shortage of ready-to-use materials.


  1. What is it that we want to disseminate?
    a. From the StatPREP national leadership:
    – Classroom and homework activities that enable instructors easily to bring data science into their statistics teaching.
    – Materials that can be customized.
    – Access to computing
    – No setup access to tutorials
    – Development tools (e.g. RStudio, blogs, …) for participants
    – Training (e.g. webinars)
    b. From the hub leaders and participants
    – Descriptions of their experiences.
    – Proposals for settings/lessons/datasets
    – Tutorial materials that they develop or customize.
  2. How do we get other people to adapt this approach/materials?
    a. Make it very easy to use lessons.
    – Polished lesson plans with commentary/discussion directed to the instructor.
    – Tutorials for use in the class. These enable interactive computing at negligible setup cost.
    – Tutorials for direct use by students. Immediately available without setting up an account.
    – Tutorials that don’t require using computer commands, but instead are based on custom, interactive apps for doing the data wrangling and statistics. These can be effective at lowering the barrier to access faced by instructors. For an example of the format, see the tutorial on “What’s normal?”
    b. Provide ways for instructors to track student activity, e.g. automatic grading.
    c. Increase the participant’s level of comfort with trying lessons out.
    – Provide peer-level discussion among instructors of their experiences.
    – Emphasize the availability of direct support from national and hub leaders for discussion, training, help.
    – Possibility: Talk to an expert, a hotline for contacting leaders. At first, this should be national leaders. As demand increases, and hub-leader topical expertise develops, shift toward hub leaders.
    – Possibility: Office hours, a low stakes way for a shy participant to get in contact with experts.
    d. Regular updates to participants about …
    – experiences of participants who have already started
    – new lessons
    – development/training opportunities
  3. How to effectively disseminate? I’ll recast this as “what are our present dissemination channels and plans for others?”
    * Homepage. Provides basic information about StatPREP, e.g. workshop locations, registration, …
    * Reasonable page view tracking to be part of project assessment available through login to site.
    * Reasonable authoring/editing access for the StatPREP leadership — it’s not too hard for any of us to post something.
    – We have not yet developed a protocol for editing/revising/authorizing posts. Right now it’s pretty much an open site for the leaders, which is simultaneously empowering and intimidating.
    * Blog. Should help to keep the topic in front of participants, remind them of things that they can do.
    – Blog entries are relatively infrequent. We need more regular content.
    – Currently the blog posts are about lessons/tutorials
    – More commentary and drawing attention to existing resources, e.g.
    – GAISE report
    – CUPM Guide to Applied Data Analysis
    – We do not yet have a working mechanism for pushing the blog posts out to subscribers. This is mainly because Danny has not found the time to manage this.
    – Too much for Danny both to manage the blog and write for it. Danny should be a writer. We need someone else to handle the technical aspect and the marketing aspect (e.g. soliciting posts).
    b. Summer workshops. This is a very strong form of outreach.
    – We need to make sure to have completely ready-to-go lessons available for this summer.
    – Topic to add to workshop: “How to use a tutorial”. This should include information on tracking/grading student submissions.
    c. Webinars.
    – Relatively easy to run/record with Zoom.
    – We need to edit down the recording. We want to emphasize the interactive nature of the live workshops but there is a lot of dead time.
    – We haven’t had many of these.
    – We need them conceived and set up by people other than Danny. Danny can be off-putting to many potential participants because he gravitates toward a relatively high technical level.
    d. Cloud servers for tutorials. We are currently using This is acceptable in terms of availability, handling load, and expense. We should keep track of ongoing developments, but changes are a low priority.
    – Danny has been working intensively on two software systems to make tutorials more complete.
    – A system for providing instant feedback to guide users around difficulties in using tutorial code blocks.
    – A system for logging/tracking/grading student use that can be open to instructors.
    Both of these have taken very substantial effort, but they are now in a reasonable state. (I’ll be talking about them at the RStudio::conf meeting at the end of the month. I’m hoping this will generate some excitement.) Importantly, having these systems in place allows me to create tutorials with full functionality: not just the narrative and exercises, but what to do with the exercise submissions.
    e. Cloud servers for development tools. This has been marginal.
    – Promises from RStudio about their providing such services have not yet materialized. (I’m expecting an announcement at the upcoming RStudio::conf meeting to be held at the end of the month in this very site.) I will continue to try to get RStudio to provide what’s needed.
    – In the interim, Danny has set up a minimal server on This has been adequate for the webinars held in Oct. Nov. Dec 2017. But, Danny is not a system administrator. We need to move to a more stable and reliable platform that doesn’t add to Danny’s workload.
    f. MAA Focus. [A possibility.] The Joint MAA/ASA Committee on Undergraduate Statistics Education (of which I am a member), has asked me to inquire with MAA about the possibility of having a monthly column in MAA Focus. This column would briefly review reports and resources about teaching stats in a math department and draw attention to blog posts, etc. The Committee would be happy to have StatPREP manage the column.
    g. (A very small thing …) Add the statprep blog to the listings under Programs & Communities/Member Communities/Blogs


I believe that, one year into the project, we are now in a good position to be publishing easy-to-use and effective lessons in a polished and complete format (e.g. including feedback to users and logging/tracking of submissions).

As these become available in the next few months, we will be able:

  1. to integrate them into the summer workshops, so that instructors have something concrete to take away for their teaching.
  2. form the basis for more activity by the hubs and our dissemination channels.