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Towards Improving Stochastic Awareness

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Innovative IE Course Content

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Engineering Economy, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1255.1 - 23.1255.10



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Paper Authors


John P. Mullen New Mexico State University

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Dr. Mullen has been an educator for a total of 29 years, the last 21 at New Mexico State University. His areas of interest are in operations research, including stochastic analysis. For the last 17 years, he has been heavily involved in graduate-level distance education in operations research.

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Towards Improving Stochastic Awareness.It is possible for a student to pass a course on stochastic analysis without actually understandingthat W = 1/(μ - λ) is not the same sort of equation as F = ma. That is a student might grosslyunderestimate the role of variability in stochastic systems. Failure to grasp this concept earlyenough in a course can lead to a student to mischaracterize much of the presented information.This is especially an issue in distance courses because students do not interact as much as inresidence courses. To avoid this situation, I have developed a series of exercises intended tobuild a student’s stochastic awareness early in a course so that he or she will better appreciate therole of randomness and correlation in such systems.The exercises involve a number of computational problems, interactive discussions of key topics,and simulation in MatLab. They necessarily involve everyday situations and very little jargon sothat students can access them early. I have used and refined these exercises over several yearswhile teaching graduate-level online courses in queueing systems, stochastic processes, andstochastic simulation. I also use some in an undergraduate face-to-face first course in dataanalysis.Because I’ve used these exercises in several different courses over a number of years and, morecritically, because student’s previous experience with stochastic systems varies greatly,measurement is limited to an initial survey and a later survey of student’s understanding ofstochastic behavior.

Mullen, J. P. (2013, June), Towards Improving Stochastic Awareness Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22640

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