Introduction to Statistics Goes Open

Two post-secondary institutes came together to create open resource course materials. 

Director of the Department of Mathematics and Science at the University of Calgary, Nancy Chibry, is currently piloting the open educational resource (OER) she created for her introductory statistics course. The OER includes an open source textbook, lecture notes, slides put together at the University of Calgary as well as a test bank of questions being developed at Mount Royal.

Chibry has been a professor since 1999, and she says her students often complained about the cost of traditional textbooks. Meanwhile, she says, some students said often times the textbook wasn’t even necessary. Chibry’s solution was to develop course supplement materials that could be revised at any time, and could be accessed anywhere there’s an Internet connection. It saves the 360 students in her statistics course $200 each.

So far, the pilot project is going very well. The resource is interactive, which is one of the features students especially like. “It’ll ask a question of the students. If they want to see the answer, they have to click on the question and they can check their knowledge along the way,” says Chibry.

Chibry first came across the idea of creating course materials as OERs when she attended a workshop where a physics professor was discussing the use of open source materials in physics courses. “I really liked the idea that they had more control,” says Chibry. The open resources team has been able to develop resources with information that is applicable to what’s learned in class. “We have this flexibility,” says Chibry. “We’re not committed to anyone. We can move around and find the best option for students.” 

In the coming months, Chibry hopes to continue promoting the resource. Currently, several instructors in her department are using the text, and she’d like to see those numbers continue increasing. Eventually, Chibry would like to continue developing open resources for other classes; she mentions a statistics class for nursing students and some upper level statistics courses that she would like to see benefit from OERs.

“Ultimately, I would love for all our textbooks to be open resource, if possible,” she says. She also says she’s happy to see the global expansion of open resources on the Internet, and would really like to continue contributing within that context.

One of the aspects of open resources that excites Chibry the most is the element of collaboration. “In terms of a publishing company, it may only be a couple of authors who are contributing to a book. Whereas, with open resources, many people are contributing and it can only get better with more people giving feedback and adding to the material as well.”