Saturday, April 13, 2013

The vast kindness of students

Tens of thousands of them all over the world, hugely generous to each other and to the staff ... it's humbling. 

And I'm not given to gratuitous humility.

One student asks a question about an exercise, and almost immediately there are several responses: somebody points out another way to approach the problem, somebody suggests R code, somebody points to a useful reference section in the text, somebody provides a diagram ... all thoughtful and effective, and, above all, selfless.

Stat 2X is an extraordinarily respectful and productive community. It has none of the rant-a-thons that plague other networks. Hysterical posts are few and far between, and dealt with calmly by students. I've disabled anonymous posting. It has no place in an academic setting, in my view, and I won't respond. So it's pointless, and it's gone.

I wonder if students know how much they affect the quality of the instruction. My lectures aren't "canned" or produced far ahead of release. I'm creating them as we go along. I have to, or else they'll be dry as dust. I don't know how to teach the non-existent student.

When I teach in a lecture hall, I'm continually making adjustments depending on how the class is responding. I can't do that in Stat 2X. So I have to find some other way of keeping myself from not feeling freeze-dried.

For this, I use the forum. I'll go quickly over some topics, and dwell on others, partly because I'm predicting student comprehension based on what I'm seeing in the forum. I know there's a huge silent majority out there, and they're likely quite different from those who are active on the forum, but the forum is what keeps the class alive.

As I record the lectures, I'm grinning to myself because I'm predicting that atopos will provide the R code for this, or that susanaust will be at hand with the necessary details about that, or that prasannasimha will notice that this connects deeply with that, or that pauljm will calm down any flurries of student anxiety, or that klionheart will explain this better than I've done ... the list is endless, and I will try to acknowledge them all as the weeks pass.

Thanks also to Lai Lai from Myanmar, for reminding us of things we take for granted. We should all be able to any line we want, and discuss its merits.

Jamie, thank you. The entire Stat dept office is thrilled. They arrived the day before my kid was due for major surgery (he's fine now, thanks); your timing couldn't have been better. 


  1. Ma,am Ani,

    It has been such a pleasure having you as a teacher, i hope that Junior is better now and will be back to full strength asap.



    1. Thanks, Nasir, he's doing very well. Best,

      Prof. A.

  2. Dear Ani,

    First of all, as many others I would like to express my gratitude
    This was one of best courses that I've ever taken, and certainly the most useful. It was also lots of fun :)

    Unfortunately, I might not be able to take the second part, I'll be busier than usual the next month and a half

    I'm wondering, If I'm going to able to join for the third part without taking this segment (with the probabilities, and etc.)

    Once again, Thanks a ton!!

    1. Hello Martin,

      I think you'll be OK if you keep track of the material in Weeks 3-5 of 2.2X (large sample theory) and work through a bit of it (e.g. the practice problems, if not the graded sets) at your own pace. It's mostly normal approximations, which you should find familiar from 2.1X.

      So I suggest staying with 2.2X even if you're not doing all the work, and then doing 2.3X in earnest. Cheers,

      Prof. A.

    2. Thanks a lot, Ani

      I'll do that for sure. Actually, what's expecting us in the 2.3X :)

      thank you

  3. I'm without words. Your kindness is much more than we deserve and "our kindness", the liveliness of the forum, all the synergy that has been created is the least you deserve for such a great course and attention and... everything.

    I'd like to confess something. Due to personal circumstances along with my 'endemic' lack of spare time I had almost decided not without sadness to drop out. But, what the hell! I have to stay here one way or another. This is a unique opportunity, it's a privilege.

    After taking the first iteration of 6.00x (what a course!) I thought that nothing could be so terrific. I failed. Stat2x is, being different, as incredibly wonderful as 6.00x. It's not only the subject, not only even your expertise, it's the engagement, that gives life to every word in every lecture. You are real teachers, Prof!

    Best to you and to your kid!

  4. It is indeed been a wonderful course.I hope your child is better.As a Father who had to operate twice his own child in an emergency(when everyone else were making errors in diagnosis and I persisted because I knew my child well enough and was both diagnostically and surgically correct and it would have been life threatening if I had not put my foot down and persisted and operated) I can understand your pain and anguish and am glad that your child has done well.

  5. Well, thanks for the name-check, I didn't think anyone every noticed me. I tend to work quietly along rather than going for dramatic gestures. This doesn't make for a high profile.