Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing


Today was the last day of the course, so we spent the morning talking about what had gone well and what had not. The high and low points were:


  • The course was fun.
  • The TAs were fantastic.
  • The format (one hour of lecture plus two hours of lab, twice a day) worked well.
  • Enjoyed the parts where the instructors programmed live.
  • Liked the emphasis on working practices that complement coding.
  • Liked the spread of topics, and the variability of things that are useful in all the different fields.
  • Liked the pair programming.
  • Welcomed exposure to standard libraries that weren't necessarily covered in the course.
  • Liked the pre-arrival questions about what people knew, were doing, and wanted from the course.
  • The examples were good.
  • So were the donuts.


  • Three weeks is too long.
  • Some of the later topics were not as useful.
  • Would have preferred to use standard libraries for the image processing lecture and exercises instead of simplified libraries.
  • Too little coverage of too many subjects.
  • The formatting of the slides leaves much to be desired.
  • Too many lectures ran over time (which was particularly hard in afternoon sessions).
  • Divided attention in FriendFeed is a problem.
  • The less applied stuff (e.g., computational complexity) wasn't as useful or as interesting.
  • Students weren't given enough time to work on their own projects.
  • Didn't feel encouraged to make suggestions or provide feedback.
  • Not enough on shell programming.
  • Too much shell programming.
  • A/V between Toronto and Edmonton was crude by modern standards.


  • More on object-oriented programming.
  • More feedback on the students' solutions to the exercises—they didn't get the equivalent of grading.
  • Put the exercises up before the class, so that students know what the lecture's going to be leading them to.

It's been a good three weeks—I enjoyed getting to know the students, and look forward to seeing what they do with what they've learned.


Dialogue & Discussion

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