Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Helper Checklist

Helpers provide assistance to workshop learners during practical sessions. They can be alumni of previous workshops or locals who have the right skills to help out. Helpers are typically not reimbursed for travel expenses or incidentals.

As a helper, your job is to help the attendees during practical sessions and to help the host and instructors with everything from missing extension cords to data files that won't download. Helping at a workshop is also an opportunity to learn the material well enough to teach it yourself in future.

Helpers are the unsung heroes of Software Carpentry. They need to have not only technical competence but also the interpersonal skills to spot people who are confused and help them get unstuck. Helpers are vital to keeping workshops flowing smoothly.


  • Let the lead instructor know what topics you'd like to help with. (The lead instructor will distribute a curriculum and schedule at least a week in advance of the workshop.)

  • Read over the material the instructors will cover in the sessions you're helping with.

  • Make sure you are listed on the workshop's web page. (The lead instructor can help you with this.)

  • Work through the setup instructions for the workshop: the first thing you will encounter on the first day will be setup problems.

  • Sign up to participate in a pre-workshop discussion with the mentoring committee.

  • Read the blog posts by Katy Huff and Aleksandra Pawlik on how to be a helper.


  • Help learners with setup problems.

  • During exercises, walk around the room and look for learners who need help. They may have posted a red sticky note on their laptop, but they may also just be staring hopelessly at their screen, so pay attention to body language.

  • If you can't answer an attendee's question, tell them so and ask an instructor for help. Do not dive into a 20-minute debugging session.

  • Between exercises, answer questions and take notes (if required) on the workshop's Etherpad.

  • Help the instructors and host distribute sticky notes, feedback cards, sign-in sheets, and photo release forms.


Dialogue & Discussion

You can review our commenting policy here.