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Presentation 7A3. Interactive Content in Web Pages Teaching Statistics

Doug Stirling (New Zealand)


Presentation Abstract
Direct transfer of static course notes to a web site offers few advantages to students (perhaps color and nonlinear links). However computer screens are much less convenient for students to use than paper so migration of teaching material to the Internet should only be contemplated if features are added that could not be implemented in print. In general, interactive content must be added to get any real benefit from offering expository material on the Internet.

The most flexible way to add interactive content to web pages is by embedding small Java programs (applets) in the pages. CAST is an introductory statistics textbook that includes over 400 interactive diagrams written in Java to help explain all statistical concepts. By using so many applets, interaction can play a major role in student learning. This is of particular benefit to distance students.

The object-oriented nature of Java makes it especially suitable for writing such a large collection of applets since many of those used to teach statistics share a similar structure and function. Most are based on datasets, variables, distributions, sampling and summary statistics and also share common user-interface elements such as axes and various graphical displays of data. In CAST, this common functionality is implemented in a large core class library that is used by all applets.

Further economy can be gained by sharing classes of object (such as an implementation of a time series display or contingency table) by the applets within particular sections of CAST. As a result, adding extra applets has often required little additional programming even when their functionality was complex -- most of the code could be reused from previously written classes.


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