Learners give high marks to coding skills workshop

January 28, 2019
Amy E. Hodge
students attending the workshop

Last week, Stanford Libraries hosted our 10th two-day Carpentries workshop (I think -- I'm starting to lose count!). These workshops are designed to teach foundational coding and data science skills to graduate students, post-docs, research staff -- really, anyone on Stanford's campus who is doing research and needs to develop computational skills to help them get their tasks done more efficiently and less painfully. 

This workshop focused on the open source tools of shell, Git, and R, and focused on tasks like automation, version control, and modular programming. We had a fabulous all-female instructor team that included the Libraries' Claudia Engel, Mary-Ellen Petrich from LOCKSS, and Melissa Ko, lecturer in the Thinking Matters program. Our instructors were assisted by helpers John Borghi, Max Czapanskiy, Edgar Vivanco, and Amy Hodge.

The Carpentries (and the Libraries, for that matter) are very interested in assessment so that we can check how good a job we're doing. Fourteen of the nineteen attendees at our workshop filled out our survey at the end of the event, and here's what they had to say:

Great learning environment with friendly, helpful instructors

Learners at the workshop commented repeatedly about how helpful the instructors and helpers were, how they felt encouraged to ask questions, that it was great there were so many instructors and helpers available, and about the overall great learning environment.

  • Everyone agreed/strongly agreed (+1 neutral) that they were comfortable learning in this workshop environment.
  • Everyone agreed/strongly agreed that the instructors were enthusiastic, that they felt comfortable interacting with the instructors, and that the instructors were knowledgeable about the material.
  • Everyone agreed/strongly agreed (+1 neutral) that they were able to get clear answers to their questions from the instructors.

"Teachers were very clear and helpful - I felt comfortable asking questions."
"Questions were tackled in a fast and efficient way."
"People would help whenever I needed it!"
"Lots of people to help you when you're lost or behind! So helpful."

Great material and instruction style

Learners also liked the course materials and that they are all available online, as well as the participatory live-coding instructional method used by the Carpentries that ensures everyone is working along with the instructor.

Strengths listed included having to work through examples and the hands-on step by step methodology.

"The examples and exercises we had to complete were very helpful!"

Useful and recommended

In the end, everyone who filled out the survey indicated they would recommend the workshop to a friend or colleague, and 78% agreed/strongly agreed that they could immediately apply what they learned in this workshop.

"Starts from the very basics to a level where I can work with R, git, shell etc."

"Very helpful introduction to new languages."

What's up next?

Stay tuned to events.stanford.edu because we are planning another workshop for April 16 & 17. This one will also teach shell and Git, but we haven't yet decided whether the programming language will be R again or Python.

Stanford Libraries has a membership with The Carpentries and we have run many workshops collaboratively with various campus groups and departments. If you're interested in holding a Carpentries workshop, please contact Amy Hodge at Stanford Libraries (amyhodge@stanford.edu) to talk about how to go about doing this.