I have a lot of fun teaching first year biology undergraduates but there are a few challenges in teaching data skills when they are not (perceived as) a student’s core discipline but instead required to carry out research within it. At this early stage in their higher education, Biologists can be surprised by the amount of their degree devoted to data analysis, reporting and presentation.
In my introductory lecture I use polling software to get responses from my students to:
As you can see, my students don’t mind making their feelings clear!
Those are the results from the last two years – if anything, this year’s students are more sure they won’t enjoy it! I suspect this is not the result my colleagues teaching Genetics, Evolution, Cell Biology or Development would get if they asked the same. And understandably, I think.
This year I set Essential Prior Independent Study using the ability to set “Assignments” for a team in my DataCamp‘ classroom. I had them do only the first two chapters (Intro to basics and Vectors) of Introduction to R. Last year I suggested DataCamp as an optional activity and used part of it in an introductory workshop.
I was delighted to see that well over half the class of 256 students had started or completed the assignments before the lecture despite the assignment deadline still being a day away. And there was more……..when I asked how they felt about R, they were more positive than last year:
How good is that? Many ‘Seems Ok’ and ‘Undecided’ and more students excited than terrified is a win!
Well done them!