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.
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 than most.
Our techniques and tools are as open as our teaching. Read more in the community teaching training or read technical descriptions in our manuals.
CodeRefinery is a project within the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC). NeIC is an organisational unit under NordForsk.