Teaching Open Source at UC Davis

by Shauna June 8th, 2014

Students at UC Davis

On Saturday, May 10th, we held our twenty-seventh Open Source Comes to Campus event at the University of California-Davis.  The event was organized by the Davis Computer Science Club and sponsored by Rackspace.  Many thanks to our amazing mentors: Thomas Kluyver, Britta GustafsonCharlyn Gonda, Conrad Fay, Kevin Liu, Michael Seydel, Jackie Zhang, Timothy Tong, Alex Mandel, Mike Covington and Asheesh Laroia.

At the event, we used the Software Carpentry sticky-note method for gathering feedback.  We asked students to tell us one thing they learned and/or enjoyed, and one thing we could improve on.

Sticky Notes at UC Davis

What Students Learned

Many students talked about the open source tools they used at the workshop:

* How to use git; Install IRC; Learn some commands
* GitHub. How to pick a project.
* Learned more git!
* I learned how to use IRC chat.
* I learned that you can tag git commits and use them to reference commits.
* IRC. Never used it before, and it looks like there are awesome channels for webdev.
* I learned about git revert, and how totally kick ass it is.
* I learned how to use git better.
* Learned how to navigate git.
* What branching in git actually is.
* How to collaborate using git.
* Git.
* How to use git; how open source software works.
* I learned how to set up git, and get little familiar of open source project.
* Git commands.
* Awesome way of interacting with tools while listening to lecture.

A couple of students mentioned types of open source projects they were excited to learn about:

* Open source possibilities for designers.
* Open source can be used for good (humanitarian projects)!

Others learned about how to find open source projects and get involved with them:

* Learned: how to get involved with open source projects by Googling information about the project and lurking the repository for information.
* How to properly find open source projects.
* I learned how to find projects to work on.
* I learned a process to start on open source projects.
* How easy it is to search for projects and find important contacts.
* Learned how to gain credibility.
* Learned how to gain exposure in open source projects.
* Found some cool open source projects that relate to my interests.
* I get to know more about open source projects! Found some cool projects and want to try to explore them. 🙂 Thank you!

And others learned about open source generally:

* How many open source projects are out there.
* How open source projects work.
* Open source is actually a big thing.
* Open source/free software doesn’t necessarily mean free as in $0.00, but it means that the source code is freely available to the public & changes can be made.

More students at UC Davis

Things To Improve

Some students felt that the event didn’t challenge them or teach them anything new:

* I only learned about the /me command in IRC. Too easy. 🙁
* Too easy. 🙁 Since this was tailored to CS students, the materials should be a little more intermediate.

While another would have liked more preparation:
* Learning the basics of git beforehand!
A couple students asked for more examples and demos:

* run through an example open source project we edit.
* Thanks for holding this workshop. If you could have a project demonstration set up and we can see how it is edited, that would be great.

Some students wanted more explanation for why open source is relevant:
* Maybe explain how this is important in today’s world. Make this event accessible to everyone on campus.
* Question: How has open source been profitable to developers when people are able to download it?
* Maybe give some extra info about why open source is good, why we should open source code.
And there were some logistical issues, which we’ll keep an eye out for next time:

* Sound system for louder speaker.
* Have donuts and coffee at the time mentioned.
* Organization of the event should be better. We had no schedule. We did not know what to expect, when the breaks are, are there breaks? Lunch at 1 pm is too late.

Finally, some folks had suggestions for improving the curriculum:

* Want to learn about how people contribute to Python.
* Workflow to using git and GitHub
* Like to learn more about popular tools.
* Suggestion: during the git portion, explain what each command is for more thoroughly.
* OpenHatch: who are you? You never explained! How to get involved in projects other than finding bugs? What was the point of git exercise? It did not make sense. Also without looking at the hint, it was not clear at all.

event more students at UC Davis

We highly recommend the sticky note method!  We’ve had very little luck getting students to fill out exit surveys.  Writing some short, anonymous notes seems like a much better way of learning how your event went and what you can do better.  Thanks, Davis attendees!

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