Statistics students being used as part of a multimedia experience

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    By KRISTEN BUSH

    BYU students registering for statistics are about to become statistics themselves.

    The department is taking teaching to the next level, using Statistics 221 students as test subjects in the Learning Research Initiative, an ongoing experiment.

    Sterling Hilton, assistant professor of statistics and head of the experiment, said there was a lot of negative feedback from students when the project began.

    But most talk about being guinea pigs has died down, Hilton said.

    “As long as we’re learning the exact same material, it doesn’t bother me,” said Ryan Wegner, a junior from Vancouver, Wash., majoring in political science.

    LRI’s main focus is to study whether a multimedia lecture enhances student learning.

    The program is comparing student learning by teaching half the eight sections with multimedia, and the other half with traditional overheads.

    “I’m doing this to find out how we can help students learn the material better,” Hilton said.

    Hilton said he also wants to know if students like it.

    Wayne A. Larsen, associate professor of statistics, said teaching through multimedia is more fun.

    “I think the class is more responsive to it,” Larsen said.

    He said when he plays an interesting or funny video clip, the students often ask him to play it again.

    Heather McNeill, 20, a sophomore from Golden, Colo., majoring in psychology, said she took Stats 221 last semester. She said based on her experience with overheads in other classes, she said she feels she got the better deal with the multimedia style of teaching. McNeill said she thought the teachers used more examples and video clips to illustrate their points.

    Alejandro Moreno, a sophomore from Granada Hills, Calif., majoring in exercise science, said he prefers the overheads.

    He said he appreciates the purpose of Power Point, but with overheads, the teacher has to be more creative to capture his attention.

    “In a lot of ways, 221 provided a great laboratory,” Hilton said.

    Hilton said every class is essentially a laboratory because teachers respond to student reactions to improve their class.

    Hilton said Stats 221 is an ideal class to use in the experiment because there are multiple sections and multiple teachers to allow time and variety.

    While students register for the section they want, teaching style and teacher assignments were randomly selected afterwards — although each teacher has a section of each.

    Larsen said he likes the multimedia presentations. He said transitioning to Power Point was not difficult since he already used it elsewhere.

    “I don’t give a priesthood lesson without Power Point now,” Larsen said.

    Patti Collings, assistant professor of statistics, said there is no real difference between the two.

    She said Power Point requires just as much preparation because the teachers need to know the slides just as well as their notes.

    No matter what section students are in, Hilton said they still receive the same material.

    Common exams and quizzes are also administered to students to compare understanding.

    Hilton said the experiment receives criticism from different people because they think the questions asked are stupid or already answered.

    Some say teaching method, not medium used is important, Hilton said. He said he still thinks it is important to take on the media as a whole.

    If the parts don’t work as a whole, then it wastes time to focus on individual areas, he said.

    Collings said it is important to be trained in case of emergency.

    She said class could not just be cancelled if Power Point breaks down; teachers need be prepared to teach in either situation.

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