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I love this topic! When I teach it in person, I give my students a tape measure and everyone gets the chance to go out into the hallway outside of the classroom and try their hand at measuring the width of that hallway. They’re tasked with measuring it as carefully as possible and our goal as a class then becomes trying to land on the best estimate possible of the actual width of that hallway.
I find that looking at the measurements themselves and our subsequent discussion always ends up providing a fascinating first exploration of some of the following fundamental concepts:
  • Parameter
  • Observable
  • Measurement
  • Observation
  • Data
  • Statistic
  • Estimate
  • Error
  • Residual

This module shares that experience with you.

Getting these concepts clear in your mind is an important first step that will get you ready for what’s to follow when learning about probability, statistics, and estimation for spatial applications – whether it’s future courses in this area, your first job, or a project of passion through which you put your spatial knowledge to work for others.

Plus, I’ve met some pretty senior folks in our field who still stumble over being able to define and distinguish between all of these. You want to make sure you’re not one of them! They can look silly from time to time but they’re also less efficient and make more errors in their work.

My own notes and the desired learning outcomes

I assume you’ll be building your own “perfect set of notes” as you go through this material – to make sure you have a succinct reference to help you be efficient on a test or in your future work. So, I’m sharing my own notes here with you to help with that.

I’m also sharing the desired outcomes. As in our previous modules, there aren’t cast as true learning outcomes, despite the title. Rather, I want you to think of the second document below as a list of questions and actions you can use to check yourself as you go through the learning process.

My own notes
The desired learning outcomes
The self-assessment problems

My practice in a course like this is to share with you two sets of problems so you can assess your understanding of the material. After the lessons below you’ll find some conceptual self-assessment problems to help you make sure you’ve got the fundamental concepts down. You’ll also find some applied self-assessment problems so you can round things out by putting your new knowledge to work.

If you’re taking this course from me as part of a university class then these self-assessments problems are the best way to study. I can’t ask exactly the same questions on a test, of course, but I do commit to you that I’ve designed the problems in a way that you can expect to do as well in the formal assessments as you can do on these self-assessment questions.

So, dig into these problems either after you’ve finished looking at the material or as you go. Hustle to figure out the answers. Leave no stone unturned. Get help if you need it. Like the notes, I’m going to assume you’re building the “perfect set of reference problems” to help you be efficient in a test or to look back at in practice.

Okay, now get started by clicking through the lessons below!