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How do our courses work?

There are four main components to our courses:

  1. Instructional materials (course text, readings, videos, slides – this varies across courses).
  2. Discussion with instructor and other students via daily web forum (asynchronous – you need not be online at any particular time of day).
  3. Homework (submitted online weekly, with individualized feedback the following week).
  4. Many courses include a final project or exam.

Learning Style courses have 3 main elements: (1) Weekly lessons with assigned readings (usually in a text, sometimes supplemented by additional materials online), (2) Private online discussion board for all students and the instructor, and (3) Homework assignments with feedback. On the first day, the private course web site becomes available to all students, and the course begins. You participate during the week at times convenient to you, as there are no set times when you must be online.

Post your questions on the discussion board, and the instructor, along with other participants, will respond with answering posts. The discussion board is the heart of the course.

At the end of the week, the homework is due and the assignment is closed. The model answers are then displayed, and feedback is offered on students’ homework individually. If you are not able to complete an assignment before it closes, there is no need to tell the instructor, simply continue to work on the assignment, and then compare your answers to the model answers when they are revealed. At the end of the week, the next week’s readings and homework are posted, and the process repeats itself.

On the last day of the course the instructor posts a concluding message. You will continue to have access to the full course (lessons, materials, discussion boards and assignments) for at least two more weeks, so that you may fully review it.

Note that in many of our courses, the instructor is, in fact, the author of the required text. Therefore, it is natural that many of our courses rely heavily on the required text and its exercises.

How to be a Successful Learner

The course model was conceived as a cross between the “buy a book and try to master the subject on your own” approach, and the “attend a class and receive concentrated instruction for 3-4 days.” Successful students are those who take an active approach to their learning projects, are comfortable working from written materials and “learn by doing.” There are no lectures, and much of the value of courses lies in doing the exercises, getting feedback, and interacting with your fellow students and the instructor. The ability to organize your time and effort with some discipline is also helpful. The flexibility to work at your own convenience is a great advantage; still, a regular, paced attention to the course over its duration allows sufficient turnaround time to address questions. The instructor and your fellow students will be attending the discussion board on their own schedules, and may not be available for an immediate response. The ability to “multitask” in your learning (by proceeding on to topic B while your question about topic A is resolved) is helpful in this respect.


All courses provide homework exercises to help students grasp the concepts being presented. They are open for a week, during which time students work and submit their answers. Then the assignment is closed and in most cases, model answers and/or feedback is provided. The closed assignment, it’s model answers, and feedback remains available to all students until the course ends. There is no need to inform the instructor or course administrator if you have not done an assignment by its due date.

Late Homework: If you cannot complete the assignment by the specified time, it cannot be “turned in” using our online system. But please do it anyway and save the document in which you record your answers. Then compare your answers to posted model answers. There is no need to tell the course administrator or the instructor that you are not turning in homework.

Time Requirements courses typically require about 15 hours per week. This is an estimate that is based upon a comparison between the material covered in a course, in a typical semester-length graduate course in statistics, and in a typical 3-day professional development course.

The amount of time you actually spend working in a course can vary widely, depending on your familiarity with the statistical underpinnings of the topic, your own comfort with the topic, and the depth to which you choose to study and explore the topic.

Some course participants focus intently on the topic and are careful to complete all assignments and participate actively in discussion, others are content mainly to observe, picking and choosing the individual parts of the course to which their interest draws them.

Communications with Instructors

Students attend classes from all over the world in 24 different time zones. Lessons are scheduled on a week-by-week basis, but there are no specific times of day when students or instructors must be available for “class hours” or “office hours,” Rather, students, instructors and teaching assistants participate on a continuous basis, around the clock, throughout the period of the course. Students post questions via the course discussion board, so all students benefit, as opposed to private individual student/instructor dialog. Instructors will check the discussion board at least every other workday, usually more frequently — for both instructors and students, one of the great attractions of this online format is that you need not attend the course at any particular time of day, which means some time may elapse between a posting and a response. There is a “Need Help?” contact form in every course – you can easily reach either the teaching assistant with a question about your own work, or the course administrator for questions about course access, payment, etc. Emails sent to these links are seen only by the course administrator or TA.

Asking Questions About Data That Are Not Part of the Course
You may have personal or work data that you want to ask the instructor about. Sometimes this offers the opportunity to discuss the course topics in the context of real problems faced by students. At other times, it may involve complexities that are more of a digression and distraction to other students. If your data are a suitable illustration or extension of one of the course topics, the instructor (at his or her discretion) may use them. When you supply your data, please also furnish permission from the appropriate authority for the data to be publicly shared. If your data cannot be shared publicly, or if your problem requires a more involved analysis that goes beyond the scope of the course, you also have the option of seeking a consulting arrangement. Some instructors will do this, others will not – contact for details.