Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Spring 2011 Course Over

The Spring 2011 course is now over! We had a wonderful time, learned a lot, and hope the same is true for everyone who participated in the course.

We would love it if you would take a minute or two and give us any comments, feedback, and suggestions you have regarding the course and your experience in it.

To start the ball rolling, Erin Osborne gave us some awesome feedback, posted with permission:

Orion,

I'm really glad I took this class. I often had experiences where something that we covered in the Software Carpentry course was brought up in a lecture or in lab the following week. Lucky me! So I think I was at the perfect level to benefit from the class.

I think the most difficult lectures for me were:
— Python
— Testing
— Objects and Classes — This one was challenging, but I was used to the pace by the time we got to this part of the course.

The easiest lectures for me were:
— The shell command
— Regex
— mysql

I think the biggest determining factor as to whether a module was easy or hard for me was based on previous experience. This must make it challenging for you guys to teach this class since everyone has some different set of previous experience.

I don't think I would have been able to get through the course without 1) the TA's and 2) outside reading materials. Once I realized I was in for more than I expected, I went to the library and rented a lot of books listed on the web pages... especially python books. These were really helpful.

The sections I will make use of most from here on out are:
— svn — A lot of my programs were already set up by labmates using SVN, but I wasn't taking full advantage of SVN's capabilities.
— regex — I use regex all the time, but some of the themes covered in the regex lecture helped me to branch out of my typical searches.
— piping in the shell — My shell commands are much more streamlined and efficient now
— testing — I have incorporated tests into some of my existing programs
— sql — I would really like to use this more, and there are some existing sql databases available in my field!

Though I really don't think I'll be using python too much after this class, I'm glad I was exposed to it and I wish I had learned it earlier. My lab is deeply entrenched in perl, so I'll probably stick with that. However, I really found it fascinating to understand the python way of thinking. Very elegant and nice! Thanks for sharing.

I tried to think of a things that could make the class more effective. Some of these issues may purely have been me missing something obvious, but it may help.

— A clear syllabus with dates on it. I didn't know until the end what the syllabus was. Maybe it was just somewhere obvious but I couldn't find it.
— I could have really used the answers to the previous week's homework at some point. I think I learn a lot from reading other people's scripts and from deciphering how the codes are different from my own. In previous courses I have taken, the TA's just dumped a selection of different students' work into a folder for perusal. It was nice to read the different strategies.
— I could have used a little more intro and instruction into python and in the testing lecture. At the very least, some links to web pages or materials with background would have been helpful.

You guys did a great job. Thanks so much!
Erin.

This is exactly the sort of information that is crucial to making this course as beneficial as it can be. What worked? What didn't? We intended to highlight a variety of student solutions on the forum each week, but it never ended up happening. What else did we miss that would have helped you?

Thank you all again. It has been a pleasure,
Orion

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