On August 22-24 we held the first ENCCS Training Material Hackathon. Initially intended as an internal event where we could dedicate 3 full days to focus and collaborate on improving our existing ENCCS lessons, the hackathon developed into a more open event with the participation of three external collaborators who volunteered their time to get involved in ENCCS training material development. One of them, Stepas Toliautas (NCC-Lithuania), visited us in person from Vilnius University, where he is teaching a few related courses as part of the academic curriculum, as well as NCC-Lithuania training portfolio. Stepas’ visit is part of a new collaboration between ENCCS and NCC-Lithuania and was funded through the CASTIEL twinning programme. We are happy to have joined forces with Stepas and NCC-Lithuania and look forward to future collaborations on developing lessons and giving workshops!
During the hackathon, we set to work on reviewing existing lessons and discussing and implementing possible improvements. We also brainstormed and outlined a structure of a new overview lesson on GPU programming which we hope to teach early next year, and drafted instructor guides for existing lessons to make it easier for our collaborators to include ENCCS material in their own training.
Indeed, the development of training material can benefit greatly from collaboration. The material will normally be of higher quality, more coauthors means a greater chance that the material will be reused and improved over time, knowledge gets exchanged between contributing experts, and there will be less work to do for any single contributor.
But what is the added value of organising a training material hackathon? Asynchronous collaborative work works well for the development of new material, but after a lesson reaches version 1.0 and is taught in a workshop, the incentives to continue improving, refactoring and extending the lesson drop. A training material hackathon can be a great way to dedicate time and mental energy to the important task of lesson maintenance. Also, most ENCCS lessons have one or two main authors, but taking the time during the hackathon to dive into material developed by other experts was very valuable to the entire team. And finally, it’s fun to discuss and collaborate with others on training!