Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

2015 Post-Workshop Instructor Debriefing, Round 10

The mentorship team ran the 10th round of instructor debriefing session on May 26. Thanks to David Dotson, Daniel Chen, Sahar Rahmani, Christina Koch, David Merand and Laurent Gatto for feedback on their workshops. Rémi Emonet and Fan Yang, instructors at upcoming workshops, also attended.

This round of debriefing covered seven workshops. We had a good discussion of core curriculum, installation topics, timing, and so on. Several of the workshops were a bit departure from the normal run of two-day workshops and I will highlight some points below.

R workshops

Two common problems when running R workshops:

  • Check install confuses learners that sometimes email the leader instructor. The confusions is created because the check install script requires Python.
  • Installing R packages was problematic for some learners when the wireless network was very restrictive. Requiring that learners install R packages before the workshop or at the begin of it would solve the problem.

Western University

This was a three-day workshop that covered an unusual breadth of topics. They covered Shell, Git, Python, R, SQL and MATLAB, with two rooms and concurrent sessions for Python and MATLAB. R was very popular and was covered for all of the 30 participant. They used the standard lessons, for the most part, and the workshop went very well, with only a few R installation issues.

Stellenbosch University

This was and R-focused workshop. The lead instructor taught remotely. Remote workshops have to be handles differently. Some observations:

  • The audio and video need to be fast.
  • The experience with this workshop was that the participants didn't interact very much.
  • Instructors and helpers need to mindful that learners need to ask questions.
  • The local instructors played an important role in improving the interactively of the lessons.
  • It would be helpful to have more interaction between remote and local instructors.
  • They used Google Hangouts, with the local instructor's laptop connected to one TV and audio system. The resolution of the TV was OK and the sound was also OK but in the feedback some people mention that couldn't hear the instructor.
  • The etherpad was not used very much. They used a second monitor with one for the etherpad and one shared for other purposes.

Overall, the remote remote teaching outcome was not entirely satisfactory and, for an optimal experience for the participants, the main instructor should not be remote.

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