I admit it. I am a die-hard coder. I like writing computer programs and will sometimes do so just for fun. Data analysis is my favorite part of a research project because it involves writing programs, in most cases with SAS. I have never installed the SAS drop-down menus because I’d rather write the code. But earlier this year David Howard and I team-taught an advanced statistics course to executive Doctor of Business Administration students. In this concentrated class that meets one weekend per month, there wasn’t time to teach them how to code in R, SAS, SPSS, or other statistics software. David suggested we use JASP, and after he gave me a 5-minute demonstration, I was hooked. From the first session I realized that I like teaching statistics with JASP.
What Is JASP?
JASP is a simplified point-and-click interface for R. I have never been a fan of these interfaces for statistical packages because for me it is quicker and easier just to write commands. When I first learned SAS, SPSS and other packages, I already knew how to program, so learning was quick. Dropdown menus did not exist at the time, so there was no other choice but to learn the command language. Today, however, there are many options that do not require you to learn commands, even for the traditional statistics packages. The design of these interfaces is user friendly, none more so than JASP.
I find the design of JASP to be very intuitive. When you start it up, you see several categories of statistics across the top of the screen, including Descriptives, T-Tests, ANOVA, and Regression. Click one and a pull-down list appears with more choices. For example, if I click Regression, I will have choice of linear or logistic regression. Click linear regression and in the left-hand text box there will be a series of topics, such as model, plots, and statistics. Click one of these and additional options appear. As you click options, the analysis instantly appears in the right-hand text box. You can perform a series of analyses very quickly.
I Like Teaching Statistics with JASP
When planning the DBA course, David and I realized that the concentrated schedule didn’t leave enough time to teach both statistics and computing. JASP was a perfect choice because it had a flat learning curve that enabled students to focus most of their attention on learning the statistics without becoming overwhelmed by also having to learn commands at the same time. Learning both at once worked fine in the PhD stats class I used to teach where I had them in class twice/week to cover the statistics, and the programming was covered in a separate lab session. We didn’t have that kind of time in our DBA class.
As I reflected on how the semester was going, I realized that JASP is not only a good choice for executive education where there is a tight class schedule. It is a good choice for more traditional courses when learning a command language is not an important class objective. This would be the case with most undergraduate introductory statistics classes. I have found that learning statistics can be challenging for students, especially those who do not have a strong math background. Likewise, learning a command language can be challenging for students who do not have a background in computer programming. A better approach would be to limit the statistics course to the statistics, and if analyses are to be done with software, use JASP or other point-and-click options. This enables students to focus their attention on learning the statistics without the distraction, and potential frustration, of learning how to program at the same time.
Statistics is an important topic in many undergraduate and graduate programs in business, health science, natural science, and social science. In some cases, students need to also learn command languages so they will be prepared to handle complicated data analysis situations, such as merging data from different sources. Most students have no need for that expertise, so point-and-click interfaces like JASP are a better choice because learning the software does not steal time from the main course objective. This past semester I found that I like teaching statistics with JASP and that students liked learning it, as well.
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