Monday, June 20, 2011 Review

Disclaimer: All prices and classes are approximate and should be confirmed at as they can change.

A comment from my previous post asked me about the experience I had in taking courses from ( To help understand how I am critiquing the courses I took, I have been teaching myself R for the past 2-3 years, and I was doing fine, but I was growing frustrated at the lack of accomplishment and growth. The straw that broke the camel's back came when I spent 3 hours trying to figure out the mar() function in graphs.

Thankfully I looked on the R-blogger site and found an example and was able to do what I wanted. Nevertheless, I come to a crossroads of sorts and I needed some help. I had found the site before and had looked into the courses. I wanted to play it safe so I took one of the introductory courses at first to see if I liked it and then I took several others. My purpose was to improve my R skill to the point where I could be a contributing member of the R community as well as figure out code without spending an entire afternoon.

Should someone take classes from

If you are a beginner, or even an intermediate to advance user looking to improve on particular area or skill set....YES


1. Excellent instructors- often times the instructors for these courses are the actual writers of the code, or book, or package. For example the instructor for the graphics class is Paul Murrell the author of the textbook used.

2. Good format- the 4 week format is intense but efficient. These are get in and learn fast classes, they are not going to cover all the possible topics (they just can't), but they will cover many of the most important. For example in the statistics class we covered many of the primary tests used in statistics. Did we cover all of, but we did get a flavor and understanding of the primary, which will allow students to go out and figure out the rest.

3. Good price- the price was reasonable for the course (see the website for actual pricing), about $300-$400 per class. I found this reasonable and affordable considering the instructors were such high caliber.

Side note here, I just took the R classes, I did not get a certification which requires a series of classes and are much more expensive as they are like getting an MBA then going back taking a few extra classes to get a certificate in HR. There is some confusion in that each class gives a certificate of accomplishment for each completed class, but for those taking just the R courses they are just saying you completed the course.

4. Textbooks- the textbooks were affordable when required, of the 4 course I took I only needed textbooks for two of the courses, the rest had on-line materials. For the courses with a textbook the books were ~$80 for the R Graphics (Murrell, Paul) and ~$50 for Using R for Introductory Statistics (Verzani, John). Compared to the cost of other R books and especially textbooks this is not a bad price.

5. Good examples- for the most part the courses gave excellent lessons, with good examples, where the student could accomplish the assignments, while still being challenged.


1. Not enough time to dive into some of the more interesting topics. The balance between time and cost is always in question, and for the price there is a good balance, I just wish to have more time to ask more questions and to really understand the material better.

2. 1 week for each assignment- There were several times through the course where I wanted to have more time, or to work a head on the assignments. The problem was the assignments would show up on a Friday ad would be due 10 days later on a Sunday. I see no reason why they cannot have the due dates stay the same, while allowing all the assignments to be open from the beginning.

Overall I am impressed by the courses and would recommend them to any R programmer who wants to develop or enhance their skills.

Below is a list of various classes available for those who want with the website.

* Clinical Trials - R
* Data Mining - R
* Microarray Analysis
* R Graphics
* R Intro (data)
* R Intro (stats)
* R Modeling
* R Programming Advanced
* R Programming
* R ggplot2
* SVM in R
* Spatial Analysis in R


  1. I was interested in attending an advanced R class on and was happy to see a review. But your review doesn't say all that more than what is already on their site (which looks like it belongs in 1995).

    How *exactly* were the classes taught? By video? Chat? or did you just get a pdf of the lesson in your email? How did you interact with the instructors? A forum or one on one by email?

  2. Maiasaura,

    Thank you for the comments. Here are the answers to your questions.

    How *exactly* were the classes taught?

    The classes were taught in two basic formats. The first and most common (graphics, intro to stats, and intro to data), had pdf or html tutorials with examples and answer code for each lesson. This gave the basic information then there would be an assignment due at the end of the week, based on the lesson provided. The second was a list of packages, and webpages, then the student was required to weed through it (R programming).

    Each week a lesson was provided and an assignment was due, for the 4 weeks of each course. Make sure to check the due time and upload early or else the assignment closes and you get a 0 for the assignment (happened once).

    By video? Chat? or did you just get a pdf of the lesson in your email?

    The basic delivery system is a learning management system (LMS) called moodle, an open source LMS like Blackborad, or Angel, but open source. Here the materials were downloaded, assignments were uploaded for grading, and there was a discussion area.

    How did you interact with the instructors? A forum or one on one by email?

    As mentioned above moodle was used to to interact with students, the discussion board was the primary means of communication. Questions ranged from questions about the assignments to questions about outside problems or challenges with R. I often found the discussion board as informative as the material covered.

    I hope this answers your questions. Good luck with the course.