A FIRST COURSE IN STATISTICS FOR COMPUTER ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
Polytechnic University of Valencia (SPAIN)
The Polytechnic University of Valencia (PUV) in Spain, has a special School of Engineering in Computer Science. The school has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering. A first service course in statistics is a compulsory subject for students in the first semester of the degree. The application of statistical principles and methods is necessary for effective practice in resolving the different problems that arise in the many branches of Computer Science activity. Statistical education for computer engineers tries to give them a solid foundation in statistics. An emphasis is placed on mastering a wide use of statistical methods in order to allow the students to apply these techniques in many fields of computer science.
The syllabus includes:
(i) measures of centre, variability, descriptive charts;
(ii) probability laws;
(iii) binomial and Poisson distributions;
(iv) uniform, exponential and normal distributions;
(v) sampling distributions and confidence intervals for means and differences, p-values;
(vi) one way analysis of variance, post hoc tests, and two way analysis of variance, and (v) simple linear regression.
About 400 students enroll each year in the subject. Basic knowledge is important, but not more important than creating in the student a positive attitude towards statistical methods. We must convince students of the great value of these methods as tools for data analysis and decision-making in real problems that will arise in their future professional work. The only way to succeed in this is through the formulation and solution of real, or at least realistic, problems of direct interest to students. This must be done using the scientific method and sharing the teacher's experience in real projects. To encourage the students' active participation, we have reduced the time spent in lecture classes and increased individual and team work and discussion. The role of the teacher has changed from that of "source of information" to "facilitator of learning". All class hours are divided into two types of sessions. The first session lasts three hours every week, and consists of explanation by the teacher and, individual study by the students and discussion of actual problems introduced by the teacher using the STATGRAPHICS statistical package. The second session lasts one and a half hours, and takes place in a computer room. There are 10 laboratory classes during the semester. In these laboratory classes the students work in teams of two or three. They carry out practical tasks using STATGRAPHICS to solve actual problems. An on-line evaluation must be completed by each team at the end of the laboratory session. This evaluation contains the results and discussion of the analyses done to solve problems proposed by the teacher. This teaching methodology has increased class attendance to 90%. Academic results have also improved, in spite of the difficulty and complexity of the evaluations questions. More than 90% of the students attend the exams and the pass rate is 80%. The most positive result of the experience, however, is the student attitude towards the subject. At the end of the year the students complete a survey on every subject. Statistics obtains very good results in these opinion surveys and is considered one of the most useful subjects because of the interest it arouses and its usefulness in the computer engineers' future careers.