Friday, November 01, 2013

R commander: why is clicking better than typing?

I came across a GUI for R called R commander. It resembles a typical, more user friendly, interface where users can explore the drop down menus and select (basic) things they can apply to their data. I do not find it easier than writing my own R script. But I think this can actually be a blessing to people (i.e., students) who have not written a single script in their life before coming into an Intro Stat class.

I think the main reason why this makes life easier for certain user group is that you don't have to remember much to get started. The interface has the same structure as the other interface used by a personal computer (PC or Mac)'s operating system. Therefore, you understand what you are supposed to do, more or less. Therefore, most students should have had the required essential skill set to use R commander before taking the intro stat course, even not R itself.

The regular R console is another story. You can copy-paste the examples in a teacher's lecture notes without having a clue about what you are doing. This is understandably frustrating. If a student in an intro state class decides to go deeper into statistics, s/he eventually would need to learn how to program (R, C, Perl, Python, or whatever). This will naturally become more interesting (or less frustrating) once the student is into statistics already.