UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000


Introduction to Statistics

Julie Hansen
School of Psychology & Counselling, Queensland University of Technology

Introduction to Statistics is an interactive multimedia tutorial in introductory research methods and statistics, covering sampling and measurement, summarising and visualising data, correlation, standard scores and the normal curve, the logic of statistical inference, and basic statistical tests (chi-square, t-tests and their distribution-free analogs). This would be an excellent self-paced learning resource for students working either alone or with a tutor. The demonstrations would also make wonderful illustrations in lectures and tutorials.

The package can be configured for multiple users on either a stand-alone computer (PC or Mac) or a network. Designated tutors can create password access for individual students, devise customised study plans, and monitor students' progress. Password access allows students to use the program independently, bookmark sections for later reference, test their understanding of each section, and view their progress.

The user-friendly interface requires minimal computer skills. A guided tour shows students how to navigate the package, access the glossary, index, and study plans, and create their own bookmarks. All these features are readily available from virtually anywhere in the program.

This is an excellent learning tool, with clear explanations, well-chosen examples, memorable graphics and interactive exercises designed to help students understand the basic concepts taught in introductory statistics. Sandy MacRae, the developer, has also expertly targeted common misconceptions and difficulties that befuddle students. Some of the many high points include: the interactive section on graphing data; comprehensive treatment of correlation (including Relatedness not equality); an integrated approach to distribution-dependent and corresponding distribution-free tests; and a simple, non-mathematical treatment of standard error.

Although the focus is on conceptual understanding, there are also interactive exercises to help students master statistical formulae and computation, including a walk-through interactive demonstration of the (computational) formula for correlation, and 'necessary skills' tutorials on basic algebra, reading statistical formulae, and using statistical tables.

Installation notes

This review was based on a stand-alone installation on a Macintosh Performa 6300, with not too many installation problems. This can be managed by someone with reasonable computer literacy, as long as they follow the instructions carefully. Installation on a network would require the help of the network administrator.

The program ran smoothly with only two small glitches.

  1. The Glossary file had to be manually located each time I tried to access it. The program was searching for the wrong file.
  2. In tutor mode, the list of users' names was written in white text on a white background, so that only the currently highlighted name could be seen. As a consequence, I kept trying to register the same students over and over!
Introduction to Statistics is available from:
BPS Multimedia
St Andrews House
48 Princess Road East
Leicester UK LE1 7DR
Tel: (0116) 252 9557

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UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000

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