April 15, 2018 (Vol. 38, No. 8)
Strong Points: Teaches R from within R, good course selection
Weak Points: Not much of a help section on website
The R programming language remains a favorite among bioinformaticians and statisticians, and it is commonly used by researchers in many biological disciplines to analyze next-generation sequencing data. The Swirl R package (downloadable from the Swirl website) offers R neophytes a handy introduction to the language by providing a number of “courses” within the R environment directly. Thus, from the moment of installing Swirl, users are interacting with and learning the language. The Swirl website has useful instructions for students about how to download the package and get started, as well as information for instructors about how to create their own Swirl lessons. Once Swirl has been downloaded, users have access to seven Swirl courses, each of which is divided into smaller lessons. There are four beginner courses (R programming, data analysis, mathematical biostatistics bootcamp, and open intro), two intermediate courses (regression models, getting and cleaning data), and one advanced course (statistical inference).