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Course gets students in touch with their statistical side

April 25th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Cathy Morgan

LOGAN—With the spring semester coming to a close, so is the first semester of the new JCOM premajor requirement, JCOM 2020—Communication Research Methods.

The course marks a change in JCOM requirements—a major change for those  JCOM students who are “math-phobes,” and who must now complete STAT 1040 as a prerequisite.

The class was designed by Professor Cathy Bullock, who says that learning to read and understand statistical data and research is an important tool.

“Every stats class I took seemed to help me,” said Bullock, who once was an editor for a magazine aimed at peanut farmers in Georgia. “It’s practical and seemed to always come in handy.”

Other JCOM faculty agree that understanding numbers is an essential skill.

“I’m very wary of journalists who are statistically illiterate,” said Penny Byrne, a longtime JCOM professor who retired last year. “It’s time we take this problem into our own hands and educate our students on what we can.”

Bullock’s research methods class was developed both to fulfill the university’s General Education requirement for a quantitative-intensive class, and to make journalism and public relations majors more numerically literate.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” said Jeff Elison, who is taking the class. “The expectations and demands of the course were intense.”

Brianna Petersen agreed. “Stats in general are challenging, ” she said, “but I think Cathy’s enthusiasm helps me become more interested even though I don’t really like the subject.”

The class helps students understand how to read and understand mass communication research, gives them enough understanding of research to be able to critique the methodology, and the tools to interpret and understand numbers—important skills for communication professionals.

“The structure of the class makes it so you have a reason to go to class every day, pay attention and read the book,” said student Cesar Abbot. “Cathy really knows how to appeal to students.”



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