Teaching applied statistics courses using computer laboratory final examinations

Tania Prvan, Margaret Mackisack


Courses taught in Applied Statistics, such as regression or multivariate analysis, tend to have the examination component based on a final written paper, either with computer output attached for interpretation or with summary statistics given so the calculator can be used to evaluate test statistics and hence make inference, or a mixture of both. Assignments may be based on students using a statistical package to do the analysis. The authors found this approach unsatisfactory. The first author trialled at the University of Canberra in 2001 both a mid semester computer based examination and final computer based examination with the students being allowed to use a variety of statistical packages. Student feedback was so favourable that she taught the course the following year in the same manner as well as a regression course. When she moved to Macquarie University she split the final examination for the third year regression course she was in charge of in 2004, 2005 and 2006 into a computer laboratory examination and a separate written paper. We have been unable to find more than a small number of other examples of this approach, which seems to have considerable promise as a way of implementing authentic assessment in applied courses. As well as case studies, issues associated with setting, running and marking such examinations are discussed.

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