My experience teaching Statistics at Stanford

This summer 2020, I had the opportunity to teach the class Introduction to Statistical Methods at Stanford.

Check out this video from the Summer 2020 lectures! Including a guest lecture by Rob Tibshirani.

This was my second experience as instructor (after STATS216V during Summer 2019), and it was thoroughly enjoyable. While my previous teaching experience at Stanford had primarily been as teaching assistant, I felt that designing and instructing the class from A to Z was much more rewarding and empowering. It was certainly more work, too.

The class happened entirely online, as has now become standard with the global pandemic.

With help from the CS229 teaching staff, I designed this fancy image to use as background for the Zoom lectures.

To give an idea about the flavor of the class, I have made a video recording available here, including a guest lecture by my advisor Rob Tibshirani. I also asked my students to put together a blog post summarizing the final projects they undertook.

Here are my tips to instructors who might be worried about teaching a class entirely online:

  • Be sure to clarify expectations and questions live during lecture. It will save you a lot of time and energy and help you avoid getting overwhelmed with emails from puzzled students.
  • Have a reliable, user-friendly platform for all course announcements and materials. I designed and made heavy use of the course website, which was updated with new material almost daily. This let me drastically reduce e-mail usage, which I reserved to private questions such as OAE accommodations.
  • Make lectures as interactive as possible. I made intensive use of Zoom polls and breakout rooms to let the students take an active part in the course. And I collected a lot of feedback from students every 3 weeks, and made sure students filled the feedback forms.

Acknowledgments: The course materials were built with help by Russel Poldrack and Kenneth Tay. They have evolved to a fairly solid and stable state. Some of it is still available on the course website.

I would be delighted for others to adopt from our work. Feel free to contact me at lemhadri@stanford.edu for more information and access to our private-facing material.