The Statistical Buffet

Date Entered: May 2, 2006
Award Winner: 2006 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award

Author Information
Author(s): John Sener, The Sloan Consortium
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: Ohio State University

Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice:
Ohio State University’s Introductory Statistical Concepts course employs a “Statistical Buffet” model which gives students a choice of content delivery strategies. By using automated course administration and individualized Web content, the model enables OSU to individualize instruction for students in a large multi-section course.

Description of the Effective Practice:
How this practice supports access: Large multi-section courses are often criticized for not addressing individual student needs. Ohio State’s Introductory Statistical Concepts course uses a “buffet model” which enables different course sections to accommodate different learning styles. The model gives students choices to create their own mix of activities for learning the same set of course objectives. using automated course administration and individualized web content optimizes each student’s experience and improves success rates. The buffet model thus uses large class size as a strength instead of a weakness by optimizing individual learning rather than group norming, and by integrating technology into the design rather than as an expensive add-on. The Introductory Statistical Concepts course enrolls 2,500-3,000 students each year, making this course a large-scale intervention.
Supporting Information for this Effective Practice

Evidence of Effectiveness:
Evidence of Effectiveness (or plan to obtain evidence): Improved Learning: Early results indicate that student in the pilot program had equal or greater success on common exams than students in traditional course sections. Since then, they have stopped giving the same common final exam and started giving a more difficult one. Improved Retention: When the buffet model was implemented in all sections during the fall 2002 quarter, the percentage of student withdrawals before the end of the quarter has been reduced from 11% to 8%; the percentage failing the course (or receiving a passing grade that does not satisfy a requirement of their major) was reduced from 7% to 3%; and the percentage of incomplete grades was reduced from 2% to 1%, relative to the previous four quarters before the buffet model was implemented. These low retention rates have stayed constant since the pilot quarter. The project is currently collecting evaluation data using a variety of other means. The Statistical Buffet was selected as a 2003 Computerworld Honors Laureate Awards winner

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice:
This course redesign was done with a Pew Course Re-Design grant.

References, supporting documents:
Center for Academic Transformation, Pew Course Redesign project results:

Other Comments:
Rather than categorizing a course as “online,” “blended/hybrid,” “classroom,” etc., courses can be offered so that students have some choice and control over the delivery mode they use. The OSU Statistical Buffet model is an early example of offering courses in multiple delivery modes, which is likely to become a major trend in the future… — js 8/17/06

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: Dennis Pearl, Professor of Statistics, Ohio State University
Email this contact: