Free Online Course: Evaluating Social Programs

MITx (in partnership with the online education program EDx) is hosting a free online course called Evaluating Social Programs. Here‘s some information on the course:

“This four-week course on evaluating social programs will provide a thorough understanding of randomized evaluations and pragmatic step-by-step training for conducting one’s own evaluation. Through a combination of lectures and case studies from real randomized evaluations, the course will focus on the benefits and methods of randomization, choosing an appropriate sample size, and common threats and pitfalls to the validity of the experiment. While the course is centered around the why, how and when of Randomized Evaluations, it will also impart insights on the importance of a needs assessment, measuring outcomes effectively, quality control, and monitoring methods that are useful for all kinds of evaluations. JPAL101x is designed for people from a variety of backgrounds: managers and researchers from international development organizations, foundations, governments and non-governmental organizations from around the world, as well as trained economists looking to retool.”

You can sign up for the course (running from 1-30 April 2014) here.

If you are considering taking the course, please let me know (email, and maybe a group of us can meet at some point for discussion.

Statistics One MOOC

Andrew Conway from Princeton psychology teaches a massive open online course on statistics. The course is meant to be comprehensive. I see they are using R and covering many of the concepts that would lay the foundation for our discussion of research design in the phd 724 class. For example, the course covers from null hypothesis significance testing to multiple regression. At least one first year PhD student is taking the course.

Statistics One by Andrew Conway

Another option on the edX MOOC is Stat2.1x: Introduction to Statistics offered in January 2014.


Teaching Good Research Practice

I attended a webinar on how to teach students to document empirical research by Richard Ball and Norm Medeiros from Havorford College and hosted by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). This idea aims to counter current norms, policies and practices in teaching empirical research by having students submit all their statistical analyses with their final project. This should include all the necessary documentation to allow a third-party to replicate all statistical results, what Ball and Medeiros call “a soup-to-nuts approach”. This approach in turn enhances professional norms and practices through a trickle-up effect, students actually understand what they are doing, and students know they are being held accountable. The webinar used an example from an economics course, but it is easy to imagine the potential for social work education and research.

The slides are available on their YouTube channel. It’s worth checking out and rethinking how we can use this in our classrooms and research.

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