The Carpentries: Second Online Workshop

Author: Mieke Hofmeyr

During the week of 1-5 June 2020, SADiLaR collaborated with The Carpentries again and hosted another online workshop. The daily sessions during this week started at 09:00 until 13:00 and a detailed schedule was followed to make sure that those who attended the workshop received all the knowledge and skills that the workshop promised to deliver.

The workshop aimed to develop and teach the fundamental data skills needed to conduct research, which included data organisation with spreadsheets and OpenRefine as well as data analyses and visualiation with R. The target audience for the workshop was mainly researchers and postgraduate students who have little to no prior computational experience, and its lessons were domain-specific, building on learners’ existing knowledge to enable them to quickly apply skills learned to their research. Participants were encouraged to help one another and to apply what they have learned to their research problems.

Angelique van Rensburg, the Regional Consultant for Southern African with The Carpentries , says that they learnt a few new lessons during this first, week-long workshop, that they want to apply to future workshops.

“During this workshop we saw that we should implement short, but more frequent sessions during the workshops and by giving the participants prior readings to do as preparation for the workshops, will also be helpful.”

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the social, economic and business environment that all organisations function in and everyone needed to adapt in some way or another. Angelique states that there are both positive and negative elements connected to the online shift, that a lot of organisations had to make. When it comes to online workshops, she says that this can be a positive change, because it gives organisations like SADiLaR and The Carpentries a chance to transfer knowledge even though in-person workshops aren’t possible.

“The negative aspect on the other hand of this shift to online is that it might limit the number of learners attending the workshop due to the digital divide, we regularly experience in our society.”

She further states that this digital divide and other exclusions that come with it is one of the biggest challenges that The Carpentries had to face during the new reality brought on by Covid-19 in Southern Africa. The Carpentries continue to work with a variety of partners and supporters, like SADiLaR to continue the work that they set out to do. They will keep learning from each event, to make sure that the next offer even better opportunities.