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In 2016 the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon sought to update the introductory statistics course. Previous pedagogical research indicated that analysis of complex datasets for introductory statistics courses were hampered by the cognitive load of using the tools necessary to load, analyze and visualize the data. For example, an introductory student tasked to examine a csv file in R will have their mental capacity split between performing statistical analyses such as exploratory data analysis and knowing which R functions to employ.

The Integrated Statistical Learning Environment (ISLE) seeks to bridge this gap by creating a point-and-click interface allowing students to focus on the statistical questions appropriate and minimizing interface overhead. Under the direct supervision of Dr. Philipp Burkchardt we allowed ISLE to house all steps of the data analysis process within a simple interface that allows students to focus on statistical questions.


I was brought into the ISLE project first through my experience as a teaching assistant for 36-200: Reasoning with Data in July 2017. After two semesters as a teaching assistant Philipp further included me as a research assistant writing relevant functionalities.

The development process revolved around our goal to make ISLE a first-class data analytics platform with every functionality needed. Given our reliance on the stdlib-js Philipp and I developed both back-end implementations and front-end interfaces to common statistical functionalities. The new functionalities were inspired by leading statistical interfaces, such as R and MiniTab, and situations that would be used by analysts.

I focused on the development of the report editor. Using an open-source markdown editor I enhanced and integrated it into the larger data explorer component. The report editor gave students the ability to document their analyses, drag and drop graphs and tables, format findings using an interface inspired by Microsoft Word and export the findings as posters or reports.

My contributions to the ISLE proejct are summarized below:

  • Intuitive and Powerful Interface: We built ISLE with a belief that a data analysis platform could be incredibly powerful and useful without being complicated.
  • Data Explorer: The crux of ISLE is a point-and-click interface to examine the data. One portion of the data explorer is an excel-like table display of the data with the ability to sort and filter the values. The second component of the data explorer is a display of the various graphs and tables produced.
  • Report Interface: The report editor represents the final step of the data analysis process that allows students to document and present their results.
  • Classroom Implementation: In my role as a teaching assistant for 36-200: Reasoning with Data I was able to assess the effectiveness of ISLE in real time. I incorprorated explicit and implicit feedback from students and other teaching assistants to best use ISLE in the classroom.

Skills Used

  • JavaScript
  • Node-JS
  • Statistical Pedagogy
  • Software Engineering
  • Networking and Signal Processing
  • Integration of Feedback


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