Coding Club progress so far

2016 has been a great year for dreams coming true – one of them being getting the chance to teach! Back in November 2016, together with a great team of graduates, PhD and undergraduate students, and researchers, we launched Coding Club. Coding Club is a peer-to-peer learning community aiming to develop quantitative skills, in particular fluency in statistics and programming. Our goal is to turn statistics anxiety and code fear into motivation and inspiration, and we are working towards creating a supportive learning environment. Since it’s the start of a new year, and it is way too cold outside, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on our work so far.

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We’ve been pairing up coding knowledge with cookies (of course!) – a year ago, I certainly wouldn’t have thought I’d be decorating cookies with “Yay R!” – now I’m entertained by the fact that I piped a pipe on a cookie.

So far we’ve focused on data exploration and visualisation, troubleshooting in R, and writing reproducible code with Markdown – we are looking forward to tackling mixed effects models, maps, Shiny applications, Github and more in 2017! All of the materials from our workshops are freely available online, so everyone can go through the
different tasks in their own time as well. If you are going through the tutorials remotely, we are very happy to answer questions at ourcodingclub@gmail.com.

Positive feedback from students has inspired us and given us incentive to be even better this year – as our workshop attendants are learning how to code, we are learning how to teach coding (and learning how to code on the side, there is always something new to learn). We’ve all enjoyed teaching, and in particular seeing students leave our workshops with a confident smile. With next semester being dissertation season for some of Coding Club’s members, we are super excited to see how they analyse their data and report their results.

We had our fair share of hurdles along the way – our workshops literally started with a bang – that is, an electricity bang that left the entire building without power. Fortunately, I had already been through the scenario of having to teach coding with no electricity in my dreams, and students weren’t thrown off by the technical issues, so we managed to complete our tasks for the day! The following week Github got hacked, so our website was down, but thanks to Github’s quick response, the issue was fixed in time for our workshop. Uni computers not having a recent version of R and RStudio has caused a few problems, but they have also prompted some creative thinking when we couldn’t use our beloved dplyr package.

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Most importantly though, we have seen people who have never used R before write code and make figures, and people who already knew a bit of R further their skills. We will work more on promoting Coding Club this year and hope to see new faces join Coding Club – everyone is welcome, and we are particularly keen to bring together people at different career stages.

Coding Club has also been featured in the university’s Teaching Matters blog under the theme of Inclusion, Equality and Diversity – you can read our blog post, which includes student comments, here.

Here’s to a year full of exciting research tackled with tidy and reproducible code, beautiful figures, and well-communicated science!

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