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2  Admin and running a workshop 🏫

The r3admin R helper package automates many aspects of running the course, at least at the administrative and coordinating side of things. Read the documentation there to see how to use that package to streamline admin tasks.

2.1 Instructor and helper number

  • The recommended number of instructors for a 25-35 class size is about 3-6 instructors (~1 instructors for every 1-2 sessions). If there are more instructors, than less helpers are needed.

  • A recommended ratio of instructor/helper to participant is about 1 to 4-6, which we’ve found ensures the smoothest learning experience.

  • Once you have confirmed your team of instructors and helpers, use a messaging app (WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, or Slack) to set up a group chat that supports easy communication.

2.2 Before the course

  • The function r3admin::admin_create_planning_issue() in the r3admin package creates an issue to help manage the course. Check the r3admin package for documentation on it.

  • Setup the course R Project beforehand so that the instructors can use it. Create as a Git repo and push up to GitHub, so instructors can clone the project before their session.

  • If there is group work, keep group size to 4 learners per group. Any more and they end up starting to split into smaller groups within the group. Plus, 4 learners per group is a good way to arrange learners in the room and at the tables.

    • If there are groups, randomize it so participants go with random people. Since courses are also a chance to network and meet new people, forcing them into groups with new people helps to set the atmosphere so that everyone intentionally doesn’t know the others (though they might by chance). Having people randomly assigned to groups also reduces the anxiety associated with “having to find or make a group”.
    • There are often R scripts in the course repositories that help with making these groups, usually in R/create-teams.R or something similar.

2.3 The first day

  • Make sure the tables are arranged to participants are facing the projector, so they don’t twist their necks

    • If there are groups, keep groups connected together in tables, have space between the groups for instructors and helpers to walk through
    • Arrange it so participants go to their assigned tables as they enter by putting their, for instance, name tags or names at the table.
  • During the introduction, don’t forget to introduce all the instructors and helpers.

  • In the room, arrange the tables into groups for each of the teams. As participants come in, get them to sit in their assigned team by referring to the team lists placed in the middle of each table.

  • (Optional idea) Before the lunch break, get the groups to have lunch together and introduce each other more. Get them to say their program, if they’ve used R before, some struggles they’ve had with R and with data analysis in general, and/or why they want to learn R.

2.4 During the course

  • Be more strict about time management of exercises (move on even if they don’t finish).

2.5 End of the course

  • End of course: Ask if any participant would like to be involved in next year’s teaching, or in making the material, or in being a helper.

  • It’s a good idea to do a debrief with all the instructors on what worked and what could be improved after the workshop finishes. It’s also a time to give peer feedback. Workshops aren’t just a source of learning for the participants, but also for the instructors! So, while you are teaching or helping out, keep note of any feedback or comments you could give to improve the other instructors’ (and your own) teaching. During the debrief we’ll each say one thing each of us should continue doing and two things that they could improve on.

2.6 General course admin

2.6.1 About using surveys

We used Google Forms to create surveys for pre-, during-, and post-course feedback and questionnaires. The purpose of using surveys in the current context is purely to gain feedback on aspects of the course that could be improved in future iterations, such as the “pace” of material being presented.

The interface for creating surveys is quite clear and functions are very intuitive. You will see a floating menu to the right of your template where you can add questions etc. One particularly useful tool is the ability to duplicate question and answer matrices. If you are using this course material to run your own independent workshop and want the surveys to use as a template that you can then customize, create a new issue to request access.

We included survey links as a function within the r3 package so learners can quickly access the survey. Creating surveys is quite easy with Google Forms. Below are a list of questions to include (depending on the survey):

  • Pre-course:
    • Basic questions about the participant (position, name, place of work).
    • Questions about perceived skill/knowledge on using R, programming, data analysis, and version control.
    • Questions related to their pre-course tasks.
    • Feedback on the pre-course tasks, like: What worked well? What could be improved?
  • Daily feedback:
    • For each session, we asked: What worked well? What could be improved?
    • For final session, we asked broader quantitative comments like: I think I learned a lot; I think the instructors communicated clearly; I think there was good alignment between content and delivery.
  • Post-course:
    • Basic questions about the participant (like in the pre-course survey).
    • Questions about current usage of the tools they learned during the course.
    • Questions about and reflections on the course.

2.6.2 About the r3 package

The r3 package is used as a companion and helper throughout this course to making it easier to do certain tasks like go to the survey or install packages necessary for the course. Considering this, if you want to use this course material and run a course like this on your own, you can clone the r3 package and modify it as necessary for your own purposes. See the README of the r3 package for more details.