Providing access to statistical analysis software to off-campus graduate students

Project Title: Providing access to statistical analysis software to off-campus graduate students

Project Lead: Jason Abbitt


Phone: (513) 529-0410

Affiliation: CEHS

Project Details: This project will provide an alternate option for off-campus students who are enrolled in an online/hybrid section of a course on statistics to use the statistical analysis software (SPSS) that is required for the course. The funding will support the implementation of a Virtual Machine (VM) that students will be able to login to and use the software without needing to install the software on their local computer. This project is needed in order to provide a solution to avoid the high frequency of technical problems that is typically encountered when students try to use the software from off-campus locations.

Problem Project Attempts to Solve: Graduate students who enroll in hybrid online sections of EDP/EHS 667: Behavioral Statistics are required to use SPSS statistical analysis software throughout the course. This software is available at many locations on-campus and can be downloaded for use off-campus, but must be used with the VPN client. The students in the hybrid/online sections of this course do not typically live near a Miami campus, thus the off-campus access option is their ONLY option. The installation process works for some students but there are also many students for whom this software is frequently problematic due to system compatibility issues, installation problems, or simply due to the complexity of using the software through the VPN. When these problem occur, student frustration quickly peaks. During the Fall 2015-16 term, I had multiple students who were never able to successfully install the software on their own and reported spending a large amount of time working with IT Help or other tech support in order to solve the problem.

Does this project focus on Graduate Studies?: Yes

If yes, explain: The project focuses on providing access to software used in EDP/EHS 667: Behavioral Statistics I. This course is a required course in the Online/Hybrid graduate program in Special Education as well as other graduate programs in EHS. There are approximately 50 graduate students who enroll in the online/hybrid sections of this course each year.

Does it meet tech fee criteria?: Troubleshooting these problems often uses valuable time for these students who are typically working full-time and also taking 2 online/hybrid courses at the same time. Technical problems have negatively impacted student progress in the course, thus I NEED to solve this problem. This project will provide an alternate means of accessing the software that is used in the course. The solution of using a Virtual Machine-based system is distinctly different from the other solutions that are available and will ultimately reduce the likelihood of technical problems preventing access to the software.

How will you assess the project?: The assessment of the project will initially focus on frequency of student use of the VM-based system in comparison to other means of accessing the software. Additional student feedback will be solicited each semester to determine the frequency of use of the VM, the quality of experience in using the VM, and also the frequency of technical problems when using the VM as compared to other means of accessing the software. Lastly, the ways in which the VM can be configured in order to promote student will be explored and evaluated. For example, datasets that are used in the class could be pre-loaded onto the VM or made available through other means. Multiple ways of configuring the VM will be explored in order to determine the optimal configuration that leads to developing transferable skills in using SPSS for statistical analysis.

Have you received tech fee funding in the past?: No

What happens to this project in year two?: The only cost for this project are related to the annual cost for hosting the Virtual Machine. There are no additional software licensing costs as the result of this project. The budget request of $2,000 would provide service for 2 years of the VM, thus enabling use in 4 different terms in which the course is currently planned. A 2-year agreement is required for this project in order to prevent disruption of the service during the middle of a summer-term section of the course that would occur with a 1-year agreement. It is likely that this project could be expanded to provide access to similar courses that are offered by other departments. If the results of the evaluation of this project are promising, funding for future years will be solicited through departmental, divisional, and/or university resources. This could include future competitive programs or more permanent funds.

Contracts: Service provided by Miami IT Service, $2,000

Total Budget: $2,000

Comments: In consultation with IT services, it is estimated that the cost of the implementation would be approximately $1,000 per year to provision the VM for this course with the necessary memory and CPU allocation for optimal use the software.