Dr. Prabhani Kuruppumullage

Prabhani Kuruppumullage photo
Dr. Prabhani Kuruppumullage  Contact

Dr. Prabhani Kuruppumullage

Online Courses
Areas of Interest

Statistical Genetics, Computational Statistics and Statistics Education

Introduction

I first arrived at Penn State in 2008 as a Statistics PhD student from Sri Lanka. With nearly 6 years spent as a graduate student, State College became home away from home. I moved to Boston for my postdoctoral training and spent two years in Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In 2016, I started working as an Assistant Professor at University of Rhode Island (URI).  

In 2018, I found the opportunity to come back “home” when Penn State Statistics department opened a search for a faculty position with additional responsibility to oversee its online programs. I am glad to be back in a place more familiar to me, with friends who have become family over the years.

Currently I am a Research Assistant Professor of Statistics at Penn State. I also serve as the Assistant Director of Online Statistics Programs. I teach resident as well as online classes, work on couple of interesting research projects, and oversee all functionalities related to our online programs. My research interests are mainly the areas of Statistical Genetics and Computational Statistics. Recently I also got into exploring some areas of Statistical Education.  

In my spare time I love to travel usually with my brother and my best friend. Few places I enjoyed very much in last two years are Acadia National Park, White Mountains, Grand Canyon, and very recently Shenandoah National Park. 

How did you get started with teaching online for Penn State?

The nature of my current position sort of opened the doors to teaching online at Penn State. I figured the best way to learn about the process of teaching and managing programs, is to teach online myself.

My first online class however is not at Penn State. At URI, I taught online Introductory Statistics classes, and received excellent training in designing online and blended courses.

I am fairly new to teaching online for Penn State. But I love the flip-classroom structure of the classes. Since the day I started here, I am learning many best practices from my colleagues in the department.

What do you like best about teaching online?

Diversity of the students and the flexibility it provides. Many of online students are adult learners who have full time jobs and family responsibilities. I am amazed to see how hard they work around these day-to-day engagements to enhance their education. Many come from different backgrounds and bring various experiences to the class. I am strong believer of the quote while we teach, we learn. The strong diversity of the students forces me to think of concepts in various angles. I also enjoy how every day I get to hear and learn about new technologies – it helps me feel young.

How do you engage online students with statistics?

I try to be very active in the class – I think it’s easier for students to “hide” in an online setting. So, through quick responses to their questions and comments, I try to show them that I am active and present in the class. Discussion forums are great source in online classes, but sometimes video chats help as well.

What is your best advice to students in order to be successful in an online statistics course?

Start your weekly lesson early. If you wait till the last moment to start it’s hard for an instructor to help you effectively. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter how simple you think the question is, the chances are, there are many others wondering the same. No harm in asking. Also when possible help your classmates – we learn best while we teach.