Completing this course efficiently and effectively
When starting an online course, most people neglect planning, opting instead to jump in and begin working. While this might seem efficient (after all, who wants to spend time planning when they could be doing?), it can ultimately be inefficient. In fact, one of the characteristics that distinguishes experts from novices is that experts spend far more time planning their approach to a task and less time actually completing it; while novices do the reverse: rushing through the planning stage and spending far more time overall.
In this course, we want to help you work as efficiently and effectively as possible, given what you already know. Some of you have already taken a statistics course, and are already familiar with many of the concepts. You may not need to work through all of the activities in the course; just enough to make sure that you've "got it." For others, this is your first exposure to statistics, and you will want to do more of the activities, since you are learning these concepts for the first time.
Improving your planning skills as you work through the material in the course will help you to become a more strategic and thoughtful learner and will enable you to more effectively plan your approach to assignments, exams and projects in other courses.
This idea of planning your approach to the course before you start is called Metacognition.
Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking,” refers to your awareness of yourself as a learner and your ability to regulate your own learning.
Metacognition involves five distinct skills: 1. Assess the task—Get a handle on what is involved in completing a task (the steps or components required for success) and any constraints (time, resources). 2. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses—Evaluate your own skills and knowledge in relation to a task. 3. Plan an approach—Take into account your assessment of the task and your evaluation of your own strengths and weaknesses in order to devise an appropriate plan. 4. Apply strategies and monitor your performance—Continually monitor your progress as you are working on a task, comparing where you are to the goal you want to achieve. 5. Reflect and adjust if needed—Look back on what worked and what didn't work so that you can adjust your approach next time and, if needed, start the cycle again.
These five skills are applied over and over again in a cycle—within the same course as well as from one course to another:
The Big Picture
In a nutshell, what statistics is all about is converting data into useful information. Statistics is therefore a process where we are: 6. collecting data, 7. summarizing data, and 8. interpreting data.
To really understand how this process works, we need to put it in a context. We will do that by introducing one of the central ideas of this course—the Big Picture of Statistics. We will introduce the Big Picture by building it gradually and explaining each step. At the end of the introductory explanation, once you have the full Big Picture in front of you, we will show it again using a concrete example.
The process of statistics starts when we identify what group we want to study or learn something about. We call this group the population. Note that the word "population" here (and in the entire course) is not just used to refer to people; it is used in the more broad statistical sense, where population can refer not only to people, but also to animals, things etc. For example, we might be interested in: * the opinions of the population of U.S. adults about the death penalty; or * how the population of mice react to a certain chemical; or * the average price of the population of all one-bedroom apartments in a certain city.
Population, then, is the entire group that is the target of our interest: