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July 03, 2014

Github for Education

Github Education

Screengrab from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I'M THINKING ABOUT Using Github Repositories in the academic year ahead. And I wonder if the process has some #icollab potential by connecting educators in four other countries.


For me, the process starts at the end (at the point of major assessment) and that means setting up assignment repositories. That means creating a few repositories for different academic modules and seeding them with boilerplate content. My first seeds are README.txt items containing Evernote, Google Drive, Flickr and Dropbox credentials. My most advanced students will get starter source code for a Drupal site.

Project pages

My Github project pages incorporate background materials, documentation, short texts, photo captions and 30-second scripts related to major deliverables. These taskings involve:

  • Committing Markdown files directly to the repository.
  • Editing the repository wiki
  • Creating a group project page using Drupal.

Automated testing

Automated testing  is part of continuous assessment in my academic modules. I use this mechanism to assess whether students have completed deep dives into essential textbooks and to ensure they are listening to professionally produced audio material. I write these unit tests using a suite of different tools and administer some of thes tests through Socrative while in classroom settings.

Other automated testing tools can be configured to run every time I push new code up into a student's respository through the use of webhooks. These testing tools include:

Collecting assignments

I don't know if I will use fork or sandbox strategies to collect assignments. If I do this (instead of our standard Moodle collection method), I can offer feedback inline in pull requests or commits, or by opening issues in the student's repository for them to fix. I believe I will reserve this kind of feedback loop to the major project work that I specify for students. I might incorporate peer code review as a way for students to practice giving and receiving feedback. That would mean offering read-only access to students so everyone can see related repositories and leave comments.

One GitHub feature that may come in handy is using the Network and contributors graphs, as well as the list of commits. Github Analytics quickly display a graph of contributors and I can quickly scan the commit logs to see who did how much. Github Analytics also display the ebb and flow of work of project work--but those analytics are only part of the sophisticated analysis that must be done when assessing the relative strengths of a group contribution.mestamp(s) after the fact.

I'm setting aside significant planning time to make Github for Education a centrepiece of my third level teaching and learning practise. For more than 12 years teaching young college students, I know that when I'm in front of a group of students who aspire to earn a Bachelor of Science degree, they need to be able to complete sophisticated work. Moreover, because I am generally relegated to teaching the softer side of our BSc in Creative Multimedia, I want to be able to offer clear evidence of a student's deep thinking skills to external evaluators and recruiters. Merely mentioning my part of the curriculum in the context of a Github repository can elevate an applicant's CV to the "call for interview" pile. Knowing that motivates me to tightly integrate Github into my teaching and learning practise.

[Bernie Goldbach is the longest-serving frontline creative multimedia lecturer in the Limerick Institute of Technology.]

More: https://education.github.com/guide/assignments


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