Transitioning from physical to digital seminars: a personal lens

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2020

Author: Jarno Van der Kolk, Senior Scientific Computing Specialist

One of the services we offer at Information Technologies is training, where we teach researchers how to use the various tools that are available to enhance their research. Topics include programming in R or Python, Digital Self-defence, how to use NVivo, or getting access to high-performance computing clusters.

Most of these training sessions used to be in-person which is unthinkable these days. While some early sessions were cancelled, we quickly adapted to hosting these sessions online on Microsoft Teams and we found that although the human contact is reduced, that there are advantages too. We no longer need to book rooms far in advance, recording sessions is very easy, and participation rates have increased from 40% of registered participating to 60%.

Personally, the full-day Python workshop was my first foray into online teaching which I planned conservatively with just sixty participants. We used Teams and I had helpers in the chat so there was always someone available to help out participants who got stuck while following along or during the exercises. This worked very well and no participant was left behind. I hosted another session for 120 participants soon after.

While it is sad that we cannot see each other face-to-face in a classroom setting for some time to come, with the agility in our work and the tools we have we can continue our training program with even some advantages over traditional teaching. 

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