The CodeRefinery teaching style
I attended several "top" conferences/workshops/seminars as well as
videolectures this past year in their virtual implementations, and
this event is easily the best out of all of them when it comes down
to presentations and audience participation!
[Feedback, online Scientific Computing kickstart, June 2021]
In-person workshops are taught in the Carpentries style. Our lessons
would fit in a Carpentries workshop, and we welcome such collaboration
or even joining the Carpentries.
In March 2020, CodeRefinery moved online like many others. While at
first, we taught the same way as everyone else did, we were bold
enough to go farther and eventually found something special.
Listening to one person is usually monotonous, even if they are an
above-average speaker. Speakers usually try to create engagement by
having the audience speak as well, but quite often the audience is too
quiet, or a few audience members dominate.
Instead, we do co-teaching: two instructors teach as a discussion
between them. For example, at certain times, one may assume the role
of the explainer and one the role of the one doing the demos. A
conversation is much more engaging than a lecture, and in addition,
this greatly reduces the preparation effort, since the team can fill
in any gaps together.
Asking for questions by voice rarely gets many. Even when it does, a
few people often dominate. Using a standard chat in an online course
scrolls too fast and many questions get lost.
Parallel chat is basically "google doc" but for questions.
Questions and comments are always added to the bottom, and answers
come as needed. We have many helpers around to answer all the
questions, the point that learners sometimes complain about
information overload. Many others have tried to do something similar,
but our implementation seems to be the best.
With the above developments, we don't actually need all the learners
in one "meeting". Instead, we can run the course as a livestream, and
then we can literally reach everyone who might want to attend.
Personal data for registering isn't even needed (but we do take
registrations for access to the parallel chat and other support).
Once the course is a livestream, it is trivial to release videos of
the course - there is no privacy risk, since there are no audience in
the livestream production room. These videos aren't just released,
but the streaming site provides immediate access to them, so that
learners can immediately review or catch up with things they missed.
This extra flexibility helps many more people make the most of the course.
Just because a course is online doesn't mean that people can't
interact in-person: many do, by watching the course together in
their own space (where people can be more comfortable). Many
partner organizations run in-person breakout rooms where professional
support is provided. We call this reverse hybrid.
The best interaction is in small groups - this is the benefit of
in-person, isn't it? We support learners in forming these teams and
training team leaders for them, in addition to providing expert
helpers for additional support. These teams could meet in-person (see
"reverse hybrid" above), or online.
At the scale we can reach above, we have a new level of openness. Not
only are the lesson materials open, but our very partnership in
putting on the courses is open. We often organize courses in
partnership with several organizations, with co-instructors and
helpers coming from all around. In addition to providing a higher
quality workshop for learners, this provides a more engaging and
education experience for the staff putting on the events.
Open collaboration allows us the resources to do all the things above.
Accessibility to more learning styles
Put together, we don't just reach more people, but we actually are
able to teach to many more learning styles. Whether you are a quiet
person and would rather ask questions anonymously (without taking time
from someone else), need to attend from your own spaces, need more
time to review after the teaching period, or more, we can do better
Our techniques and tools are as open as our teaching. Read more in
the community teaching
training or read technical
descriptions in our manuals.