[R] R for a stats intro for undergrads in the US?

John Fox jfox at mcmaster.ca
Sun Nov 17 15:53:54 CET 2013

Dear Spencer,

I regularly use R (via the R Commander) for intro stats courses taught to
third-year sociology undergrads (in Canada). Without knowing where your
friend teaches, it's hard to know what her students are like, but in my
experience psychology students are generally more numerate than sociology
students, and first-year students would likely have a bit more trouble with
the course than third-year students. That your friend's department teaches
this course in the first year suggests that it, and possibly its students,
have a quantitative orientation.

I've also used a variety of statistical software to teach intro stats,
including SPSS. I originally wrote the Rcmdr package so that I could use R
instead, and I find that students have no more trouble pointing and clicking
in the R Commander than they do in SPSS. It's also my experience that
computing, regardless of the software that I've used, is the least
problematic part of the course. It's much harder for students to understand
statistical concepts, and even to apply simple formulas correctly, than to
use menu-driven statistical software.

If you'd like to take a look at the course website for my undergrad class
the last time I taught it in 2011-2012, it's at
<http://socserv.socsci.mcmaster.ca/jfox/Courses/soc3h6/index.html>. I'm
currently teaching essentially the same course, but for grad students in an
accelerated one-semester format, and that's at
<http://socserv.socsci.mcmaster.ca/jfox/Courses/soc6z3/index.html>. You'll
notice that in the grad class, students use their own computers, while in
the undergrad class, they use a computer lab. That decision relates more to
the size of the class (about 200 undergrads divided into four labs, 10 grad
students) than to the level of the students.

I hope this helps,

John Fox, Professor
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

> -----Original Message-----
> From: r-help-bounces at r-project.org [mailto:r-help-bounces at r-
> project.org] On Behalf Of Spencer Graves
> Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2013 9:19 PM
> To: R list
> Subject: [R] R for a stats intro for undergrads in the US?
> Hello, All:
>        Would anyone recommend R for an introductory statistics class
> for
> freshman psychology students in the US?  If yes, might there be any
> notes for such available?
>        I just checked r-projects.org and CRAN contributed documentation
> and found nothing.
>        I have a friend who teaches such a class, and wondered if R
> might
> be suitable.  The alternative is SPSS at $406 per student.
>        Thanks,
>        Spencer
> --
> Spencer Graves, PE, PhD
> President and Chief Technology Officer
> Structure Inspection and Monitoring, Inc.
> 751 Emerson Ct.
> San José, CA 95126
> ph:  408-655-4567
> web:  www.structuremonitoring.com
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