[R] re: GUI's for teaching

Frank E Harrell Jr fharrell at virginia.edu
Tue Jun 25 14:12:15 CEST 2002

On Tue, 25 Jun 2002 17:31:08 +0800
Rohan Sadler <rsadler at agric.uwa.edu.au> wrote:

> Dear All,
> This is a question to sound out possibilities.
> I am with the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the
> University of Western Australia, representing a few of the more
> statistically minded in the faculty. Essentially, there have been
> problems in the past with software support, changing over statistical
> software, and paying lots of money for it. In R you have an advanced
> statistical software package, it is free and it is adaptable. Also the
> maths department at UWA is using it on an informal basis and so support
> over the long term is available. The only reason why the faculty is not
> using R as a whole is because there is no GUI equivalent to
> Minitab/SPLUS/Genstat in R that can be used for undergraduate teaching
> purposes (unless I'm seriously mistaken). In RWindows there is the GUI,
> but it is not designed to carry statistical functions with buttons for
> options and this is what is needed for low statistical level undergrads.
> There is RWeb, but at this stage of development you wont find many
> takers in the faculty.
> What I want to know is this: can anyone give me a quote on what it will
> cost to develop a RWindows clone of the Minitab GUI. This GUI would
> support initially the simple six (EDA, probabilities and quantiles of
> distributions, t-tests,one-way anova, chi-square, and simple linear
> regression), and have the potential to develop into the next level of
> statistical analysis (glms, multivariate methods, time series and
> spatial - analytical problems common across our faculty). If the cost of
> development is comparable to present licence maintenance fees at FNAS
> then I think our small group can argue for its adoption. Not only that,
> the benefits to undergraduate teaching in other universities would be
> immense. If development costs are high then other faculties at other
> universities, where the software licencing arrangements are also
> troublesome, are also invited to participate in this potential project.
> I imagine this question has been discussed before, but I hope to have
> but an interesting turn to it.
> Regards
> Rohan Sadler
> Ecosystems Research Group
> School of Plant Biology (Botany)
> Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
> +61 8 9380 7914
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I teach new students using primarily commands.  The first 3 weeks are tough, but then the use of commands over GUIs starts to pay off.  So I don't think it is worth a major effort to implement GUIs, and the GUIs would always lag behind R development.  A better approach would be to implement the most often needed analyses on a Web server using R and Perl etc.  See http://hesweb1.med.virginia.edu/biostat/teaching/statcomp for links to some good examples (although for more complex analyses than you need).  -Frank

Frank E Harrell Jr              Prof. of Biostatistics & Statistics
Div. of Biostatistics & Epidem. Dept. of Health Evaluation Sciences
U. Virginia School of Medicine  http://hesweb1.med.virginia.edu/biostat
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