STA1: Introduction to Biostatistics - Course Outline


The overall purpose of this course is to give you a basic understanding of statistics so you can read articles and do simple statistical analyses of common public health data. Learning materials focus on providing a common language and understanding of statistical concepts and not detailed mathematics. If you have already taken one or more courses in statistics, you may wish to use this course as a refresher.

Completing this course does not make you a statistician nor does it exempt you from ever consulting one. The intent is to provide you with the language and basic concepts of statistics and to enable you to know when and how to communicate with a statistician in a way that is beneficial to both of you.


EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts is the only prerequisite for the course.

You will need a basic understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology and an understanding of high school mathematics. You will be working with rates, and so will require some knowledge in the use of ratios, proportions, crude, specific and adjusted rates; incidence and prevalence; defining health and health status; assessing the health of a community using selected indicators of health status; and preparing, analyzing and interpreting various types of data and of presentation tools, including tables, graphs and charts.

If you are a beginning practitioner or would like to refresh your knowledge of the fundamentals of epidemiology you are encouraged to take the first three introductory courses: EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts; EPI2: Measurement of Health Status and EPI3: Epidemiological Methods before registering for this course.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will:


Successful completion of this course contributes to the attainment of the following Core Competencies for Public Health In Canada:

The Learning Process

This course is divided into seven lessons, and includes assignments and discussion forum activities. Each lesson ends with a self‐assessment test. You will have eight weeks to complete the 22-30 hours of work required (about 3‐5 hours per week is suggested; see the learning schedule below).

A trained online facilitator, knowledgeable in public health, is assigned to your group to provide support and guidance. The facilitator is available to answer content‐related questions, provide feedback on assignments, and encourage discussion among participants through discussion forums.

STA1 Learning Schedule

This schedule is a guide to help you pace yourself as you go through the course. Please aim to complete the discussion activities "in sync" with the other learners.

Time Period Course Work Estimated # of hours
Week 1

Getting Started: what you need to know and do

  • Check to make sure you can access all parts of the course site.
  • Review material
  • Introduce yourself and respond to fellow learners on the Discussion Forum: Class Introductions

Lesson 1: Main Concepts in Statistics

  • Start Lesson 1
1-2 hours
Week 2

Lesson 1: Main Concepts in Statistics

  • Finish Lesson 1
  • Complete Assignment 1
3-4 hours
Week 3

Lesson 2: The Language of Statistics

  • Complete Lesson 2
  • Complete Discussion 1

Lesson 3: Collecting and Understanding the Data

  • Start Lesson 3
2-3 hours
Week 4

Lesson 3: Collecting and Understanding the Data

  • Finish Lesson 3
  • Complete Discussion 2
  • Complete Assignment 2
3-4 hours
Week 5

Lesson 4: Descriptive Statistics

  • Complete Lesson 4
  • Complete Discussion 3

Lesson 5: Research Question and Hypothesis Testing

  • Start Lesson 5
2-3 hours
Week 6

Lesson 5: Research Question and Hypothesis Testing

  • Finish Lesson 5
  • Complete Discussion 4
  • Complete Assignment 3
3-4 hours
Week 7

Lesson 6: Statistical Analysis

  • Complete Lesson 6
  • Complete Discussion 5
4-5 hours
Week 8

Lesson 7: Interpretation - From Statistics Back to English

  • Complete Lesson 7
  • Complete Discussion 6

Finishing Up

  • Ensure you have completed all parts of the course, have submitted all assignments and completed discussion activities.
  • Complete final Feedback Survey
4-5 hours
Total: 22-30 hours

Course Features


The lessons in this course can be seen as iterative steps; you may need to go back and forth a few times. You can also view the lessons as a spiral where you repeatedly visit the same lessons but at an increasingly higher level of complexity. Each lesson is a mixture of text, figures, and links to websites, introducing you to the following concepts:

Discussion Forums

Discussion forums are integral to the course. Messages can be posted and read on the forum system whenever convenient — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Assignments feature in all the courses, allowing you to reflect on the course content and to apply some of the concepts and principles to your work as a public health practitioner.

The assignments in this course ask you to work with selected concepts and apply them to the data in three different scenarios:

  1. to determine if a causal association exists by critically analyzing the content of a published article using the Bradford Hills Criteria;
  2. to identify appropriate options to present data and demonstrate an understanding of the comprehensive application of data in a graphic form;
  3. to clearly identify a research question, variables and hypotheses based on a realistic scenario.

Assignments are usually one or two pages in length. Your facilitator will review, grade and provide individual feedback for each assignment. An incomplete assignment is returned with your facilitator’s comments and a request to resubmit.


Following each lesson you will be able to complete a short quiz to evaluate your understanding of the subject matter presented within each lesson. You will receive automatic feedback on your performance.


Successful completion of this course requires you to:

  1. complete all activities within the prescribed time frame for each;
  2. receive a satisfactory rating for all three assignments;
  3. participate in each of the six discussion forums;
  4. complete the final feedback survey questionnaire.


Participants receive a certificate from the Public Health Agency of Canada upon successful completion of the course.

Registration information is available at Skills Online-Register For Courses page. Note: you must be registered and logged in to access the registration page.

Note: Completion of this course contributes to the following Learning Pathcertificates: