Mark Crowe

29/05/2020

By Mark Crowe, QCIF Training Manager

QCIF’s busy and popular program of data science training courses was hit hard earlier this year by the social distancing and work from home measures introduced in response to COVID-19.

With all large gatherings banned and face-to-face interaction discouraged, all our workshops were immediately shifted to an online format. Although this posed more than a few challenges for learners and trainers alike, there have also been some silver linings to emerge from this change in format.

One of the most important of these benefits has been that with online training, location is largely irrelevant. 

In somewhere as big and sparsely populated as Queensland, with many small regional and remote campuses, this has significantly increased opportunities for researchers to participate in workshops. 

And it’s not just trainees who have benefitted; researchers and students at these sites who have an interest in instructing have also been able to take part and co-instruct with colleagues from around the state.

To build on this success and opportunity, QCIF is establishing a regular, state-wide, online collaborative training program based on Software Carpentry’s introductory programming workshops. (QCIF is a member of The Carpentries organisation, which teaches foundational coding and data science skills to researchers worldwide.)

Every month we will run two of these workshops online (one each of “R for Reproducible Scientific Analysis” and “Plotting and Programming with Python“), with registration open to any researcher at QCIF’s member institutions (UQ, QUT, Griffith, JCU, USQ and CQU). These will be delivered by teams made up of people from across those universities, including instructors and helpers.

The benefits to trainees are that they no longer have to wait potentially months before their workshop-of-interest is run near them — instead there is one coming up each month. 

For the instructors and helpers, it means they have a lot more flexibility in opportunities to instruct – from as little as half-a-day here or there, to regularly contributing for the full two days of training. Would-be instructors can even drop in for an hour or so just to see what it’s all about. 

Instructors will also get to teach alongside and share ideas with colleagues from across the state who they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to work with.

In future, we are also looking at running more varied delivery options, for example workshops broken up over a number of days or weeks. 

Not requiring rooms or travel and a big pool of instructors makes many of these options much more achievable and can support access to training for researchers who might find standard full-day options unsuitable.

We welcome anyone with an interest in supporting their colleagues with introductory programming training to join in this scheme. There will be plenty of support for new or inexperienced instructors, and we also hope to offer some formal instructor training later in the year. Please contact training@qcif.edu.au for more details or sign up direct.