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Practical modern statistics

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The module introduces four major topics of modern applied statistics: medical statistics, time series, multivariate analysis, and Bayesian statistics. It’s ideal if you’ve already studied a general introductory statistics module and wish to broaden your knowledge of the field. The module emphasises underlying principles and practical applications rather than technical details. Use of a computer is an essential component – the module includes SPSS and WinBUGS software, which you’ll use to analyse data and develop your understanding of statistics. To study this module you should have a sound knowledge of basic mathematics as provided by the appropriate OU level 1 module, and statistical competence at the level developed by the appropriate OU level 2 study.

What you will study

The module begins with an Introduction to statistical modelling in which the statistical prerequisites are reviewed and the statistical software package SPSS is introduced. Then the four topics of the module are introduced in successive books, each with associated computer material.

Book 1 Medical statistics

The first book describes how to identify factors associated with disease, and includes topics such as cohort and case-control studies; investigating sources of bias; randomised trials; and meta-analysis.

Book 2 Time series

The next book covers methods for analysing data collected over time, and forecasting future values using exponential smoothing and ARIMA models.

Book 3 Multivariate analysis

The third book discusses statistical methods for presenting and analysing data on several variables, with sections on principal component analysis and discrimination.

Book 4 Bayesian statistics

Book 4 introduces the Bayesian approach to statistics, in which expert knowledge can be incorporated into statistical models. This approach has become very popular in recent years, in part owing to the availability of special statistical software such as WinBUGS, which is used in this module.

Review unit

The final unit takes a look back at the module as a whole.

The module is illustrated with practical examples and real data sets from a range of subject areas, including epidemiology, economics, education, genetics, and environmental science. Numerous activities and exercises, also based on real data, are used to illustrate the methods and develop statistical modelling and critical assessment skills.

Read the full content list here.

You will learn

Successful study of this module should improve your skills in analysing and interpreting data, communicating statistical ideas clearly and succinctly, and in using professional software.

Professional recognition

This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.

This module may also help you to apply for the professional award of Graduate Statistician conferred by The Royal Statistical Society (RSS).

Entry requirements

There is no formal pre-requisite study, but you must have the required statistical skills.

You can check you're ready for M249 and see the topics it covers here.

Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure you’re ready.

Preparatory work

You should aim to be confident and fluent with the concepts covered in the Are you ready? quiz here, and follow the advice in the quiz.

The key topics to revise include:

  • algebraic manipulation
  • logarithmic and exponential functions
  • graphical and numerical data summaries
  • basic statistical distributions
  • confidence intervals and significance tests
  • correlations and contingency tables.

Analysing data (M248) is useful preparation but can be studied alongside M249.

What's included

You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details, instructions and guidance
  • online tutorial access
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

You'll be provided with printed module books, each covering one block of study, with many worked examples and exercises. You'll also receive a printed module handbook.

You will need

A calculator with basic mathematical functions (log, exp, etc.), but not necessarily with statistical functions.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows.(a Mac is unsuitable – LearnBayes, SPSS and WinBUGS (the supplied software) is not compatible).

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and who you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor can also provide additional assistance with your study skills, especially if you're new to OU study.

Tutorials are designed to aid student success by providing help and guidance with your studies, including hints and tips to improve your understanding. You are encouraged to attend as many as you can – whether face-to-face or online they are an informal way to ask questions and to feel part of a student community.

We aim to provide face-to-face tutorials in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. An online alternative, covering similar content, is usually provided, typically with a recording of at least one such online tutorial being made available.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect which tutor may lead a particular tutorial, the locations of face-to-face tutorials, and what online alternatives are offered.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

Although your scores on the TMAs will not contribute directly to your final grade, you will need to successfully complete three of the four TMAs. You will be given more information when you begin the module.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying M249 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Practical modern statistics (M249) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2021.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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