data analysis software for classes

Eric Ribbens E-Ribbens at
Wed Oct 4 11:08:38 EST 2000

Excel is one of the standard computer programs that every educated person 
should be able to use. In my opinion, you do your students no service if 
you seek a "simpler" program. In my experience, they acquire Excel skills 
quite quickly.

You may want to talk to your Information Systems support people about 
having them provide an auxiliary training session for those students who 
are not already familiar with the program. Also, many schools have courses 
in which Excel, Word, and a few other essential pieces of software are 
taught. Perhaps such a course should be a prerequisite.

Now, I have a colleague who firmly believes that computers are too 
difficult for students to use until they are juniors or seniors. I on the 
other hand have expected my incoming bio freshman students to build Excel 
spreadsheets of Lotka-Volterra systems outside of class, and in another 
situation I designed and taught a lab in which students built Excel 
spreadsheets to analyze some of the basic population growth models. Some 
students handle it easily, others needed to take a lot more time. But isn't 
that how all of life is?

At 04:34 PM 10/4/00 +0100, Jon Monroe wrote:
>Hi all,
>In undergraduate labs we often want students to collect, analyze and think 
>about data.  In reality they often spend a lot of time just figuring out 
>how to use the software (e.g. Excel is powerful but there is a steep 
>learning curve).
>Can anyone recommend a software package with spreadsheet, statistics and 
>graphing capabilities that is easy to learn and use in an undergraduate 
>laboratory setting?  I'll post the responses.
>  Jonathan D. Monroe                 Associate Professor
>  Department of Biology, MSC 7801   office: 540-568-6649
>  James Madison University             fax: 540-568-3333
>  Harrisonburg, VA 22807         email: monroejd at


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