Sheffield RSE team collaborates with lecturers to teach computation

Mike Croucher
11 April 2016 07:26


Last year, I worked with Dr Marta Milo of the Department of Biomedical Science to develop a new course that taught the basics of Bioinformatics to biology undergraduates. Marta took care of the subject matter while I took care of getting it all to work in the Jupyter Notebook in Sage Math Cloud. I also gave crash courses in Jupyter, git and SageMathCloud to support staff.

The course was a great success and demonstrated what can be achieved when academics partner with Research Software Engineers to deliver top quality computational teaching. My favourite comment from student feedback was The hardest thing ever, stressful, frustrating but very rewarding. – welcome to my life!

This success has led to me being invited to departmental teaching away days for subject areas that include a lot of computation in their syllabus. The most recent of these was with the Department of chemical and biological engineering. I only had ten minutes but managed to include an introduction to the Sheffield RSE group, a quick demonstration of the Jupyter notebook, a discussion of the benefits of using SageMathCloud instead of the local managed desktop and the possibilities offered by this combination of technologies.

Sometimes, it’s useful to be able to talk quickly!

Other discussions in the session I was involved with included a fantastic overview of flipped classroom teaching by Siddharth Patwardhan and some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities in the higher education teaching sector by Wyn Morgan, Sheffield’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching.

Channeling my inner Ferris Beuller, The world of research software moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it. It was a pleasure to show off some of my favourite technology to the chemical and biological engineers and I look forward to working with them all in the future.

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