ShareStats: professional community and open environment for statistics assignments in one

In social science courses, statistics is an important but also difficult subject. Students want to practise a lot and that means that lecturers have a lot of work in making all those assignments. Four universities took the initiative to join forces and create an open environment for statistics assignments.

Marleen de Moor - Sharestats
"The result: an item database as well as a subject community that works much more closely together"
Marleen de Moor

Marleen de Moor is one of the nine project team members. She has been teaching statistics for many years, first at the Free University (VU), now at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). She noticed that students have a great need for practice sums. Until recently, she always made them herself. "But of course that's an awful lot of work."

Through Grasple, an open learning environment for students in mathematics and statistics, she came into contact with colleagues in Utrecht and Amsterdam. "This is how five faculties from four universities - Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) and Utrecht University (UU) - came up with the idea to apply for a grant from OCW to develop an open learning environment," she says.

Involving teachers other universities

The aim was not only to make practice materials widely available, but also to develop a subject community. Therefore, the project team started not only with the technology, but also with the question: how will we approach and involve lecturers from other universities? A national meeting was organised in spring 2020. That had to be hastily converted to a digital meeting because of corona. "Since then, we have held all our meetings digitally, with the exception of the final meeting," says De Moor. And that had its advantages: "The project team members all work in the Randstad, but we also wanted to involve universities in the rest of the country. By organising the meetings digitally, it was also easy for lecturers from Groningen, Enschede or Maastricht to get involved. As a result, attendance was very high and the community really took off."

"It already contains more than 4,000 statistics assignments, which are easily searchable"
Marleen de Moor

More than 4,000 statistics tasks

The technical side caused some headaches: how do we make the materials available to everyone? How do we integrate it with the online learning environments of the various universities? Because the four initiating universities work a lot with the software package and programming language R, the idea soon arose to also use this software to implement the assignments.

As time and money were limiting factors, the team created a tight demarcation: we start with only statistics assignments (and thus no adjacent subject areas such as research methodology) at undergraduate level focusing on social sciences. "It would be very nice if we could expand that later, but for now this is more than enough. It already contains more than 4,000 statistics assignments, which are easily searchable via a taxonomy."

"This will give a boost to statistics education in the Netherlands, and hopefully soon abroad."
Marleen de Moor

Boost to statistics education

The project is complete, but the team is not finished yet. De Moor: "We are still improving the links to Canvas, Grasple and other online learning environments. This means that you cannot yet easily paste a task from the ShareStats item database into Canvas or Grasple. We are still working hard on that. But without funding and without being released to do so, it takes a bit more time than we would like." The team is also working on a publication in a journal. "Because we also want to promote ShareStats internationally."

In the Netherlands, that promotion has been successful. So well that the Society for Statistics and Operations Research (VVSOR) set up a special education section as a result of the project. De Moor: "With this project, we have not only ensured that statistics teachers can share their practice materials more easily, we have above all strengthened the subject community. This gives a boost to statistics education in the Netherlands, and hopefully soon abroad as well."

Getting started yourself?

Want to get started with the materials developed in this project? Read more about project ShareStats -Statistics assignments open sharing with a subject community of teachers.

More about the Open and Online Education Incentive Scheme

This project was created with help from the Open and Online Education Incentive Scheme. View more results from the scheme's projects.