Disclaimer: I have read Using CV as part of a statistics course and believe I am asking a separate question.

I teach graduate Introduction to Biostatistics (for non-biostatisticians). I try to give my students lots of tools to help them integrate the subject matter, and, naturally think CV is tops. I am not interested in evaluating students' participation in or use of CV, but I wonder:

  1. What I might do to encourage the use of this resource, beyond plugging CV and its the link?

  2. Do you have ideas or experiences for creative ideas or experiences in integrating CV into curriculum?

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    $\begingroup$ What educational objectives would you have in mind? For instance, would you be hoping that interacting on CV would help students learn statistical concepts? Learn to ask relevant questions to clarify problems? Learn how to write clear explanations? Learn how to search the Web effectively? Learn how to ask clear, focused questions? Their use of CV could vary depending on the objective, leading to different options for how you choose to exploit it as a resource in your course. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Nov 21, 2014 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Those are all great specific objectives, @whuber mostly I am asking myself "is there an opportunity for my students here" in a broad sense. I am interested in hearing if and how people have used CV in courses. Narrow or specific examples or ideas welcome. $\endgroup$
    – Alexis
    Nov 21, 2014 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ I used some of the questions here as basis for test and homework questions in the past (in a MA course on data analysis most recently). $\endgroup$
    – user603
    Nov 22, 2014 at 9:06

2 Answers 2


I have pointed students here, as a way of finding answers to their more frequent questions -- especially when they needed information quickly (I'm just not around much at 3am on Sunday). In each case they were students with a couple of stats courses already, but I'd consider it with introductory level students if they clearly understood how to use it as a resource (i.e. mostly via search).

It can be a valuable source of basic explanations, intuition, examples and motivation.

It has many useful counterexamples to common errors of understanding.

These might be incorporated into learning in a variety of ways; it's hard to say more without knowing how your subject is organized and what topics you cover.

There are some excellent answers - mostly, but not all non-community-wiki - that provide insight on a number of topics. Both internal and external searches can turn up some very useful posts (I suggest using both, as they often tend to turn up different answers).

Some of those might be used as additional reference material, or supply you with different explanations that would be useful in cases where the more common discussion of an issue isn't working as well.

Some might suggest exercise-type questions for students to consider, or more extensive investigations.

Excellent questions and answers cover a variety of levels from basic (at least the questions seem so -- the answers usually reveal subtleties not obvious to the beginner):

Why square the difference instead of taking the absolute value in standard deviation?

Which "mean" to use and when?

through introductory-level but highly important:

confidence intervals

The meaning of a t-value and a p-value

CLT intuition

insight on covariance

centering and scaling

normal residuals vs normal y in regression

to numerous intermediate topics and beyond ...

You can also search up a tag or tags and find highly rated questions or answers.

For example, if you're discussing histograms, you can find the histogram tag, and click it to get a list of upvoted questions with the tag (though keep in mind that tagging is incomplete).

I can suggest:

1) rather than just plug it, suggest ways to make use of it (perhaps a one-page resource on using it)

  • explain how to search it both internally and via external search engines (such as Google).

  • explain how to use tags to search

  • point to information on how to ask questions if they aren't answered here

2) reference parts of it in materials where it's relevant

3) depending on how your subject is organized you may be able to base questions of some of the content

  • $\begingroup$ Glen it sounds like you and some of the other commenters would really encourage a responsible directing of students this way... as in accompanying that direction with instruction/modeling on how to be a "good citizen" on CV/SE. $\endgroup$
    – Alexis
    Nov 23, 2014 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ I would; I think it's a valuable learning resource that motivated students can benefit from. I benefit from it daily, I'd like others to benefit as well. What concerns me is seeing it as something it isn't (it's not a resource for getting your assignment work done, nor for posting questions you haven't at least checked Wikipedia on); like many good tools you need to understand how to use it to get real value from it -- and brief guidelines help. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Nov 23, 2014 at 3:52

Sincerely, I believe you should not point your students here, specially because they are starters.

There are good content on CV, but they are too loose in context. It is frequent self-learners here trying to jump right away in the answer/solution without showing sufficient effort (there are exceptions).

IMO, if you want to teach statistics, better stick to the classes, lots of exercises and a good book. If you are too busy, a graduate student to help others solving exercises during extra class time always help.

Maybe only after the course is finished you could introduce CV SE and challenge your students to master secondary (but not less important) skills. Some were suggested by @whuber:

  • how to ask relevant, clear and focused questions to clarify problems.
  • how to understand someone else's problem and write clear explanations.
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    $\begingroup$ Strongly disagree: to discourage (or refrain from encouraging) beginners in statistics from reading CV Q/As because some posts aren't at the right level, or writing their own Q/As because some aren't very good at it would be throwing the baby out with the bath-water. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2014 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Scortchi, ok to disagree but these were not my points. It was: "There are good content on CV, but they are too loose in context". It could be a distraction for starters, deviating them from the main sequence and topics of the discipline. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2014 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what "too loose in context" means then; I'd guessed it meant something like "not at the right level". In any case some posts here are in no way inappropriate for beginners - @Glen_b has listed several - either to consolidate understanding of topics covered in an introductory course or to extend it somewhat (which is what tends to make the difference between a good mark & an excellent mark in the exams & dissertation). Of all the ways students might get distracted, reading round the subject must be the least pernicious. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2014 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ I tried to mean the content is loose (i.e., there is not a logical sequence), and not that the students are loose. I agree with the last sentence from your last comment, and also think Glen_b's answer has useful hints for making it work. The value of information here in CV is incontestable. (@Scortchi) $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2014 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ Well it's to be hoped there's a logical sequence to the course they're following; given that CV is complementing rather than supplanting the course, I can't see any harm in there not being an l.s. to CV's content. $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2014 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ There should be something for everyone here given modest direction or at least guidance. Even the poor questions should be instructive as showing how not to ask questions, which is important at every level. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Nov 25, 2014 at 18:45

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