How to Run a Bootcamp
With so many people setting up and running Software Carpentry workshops, I thought it was time to put together a more complete how-to. If I've forgotten anything, please let me know. (Later: please also see this PLoS paper"Ten Simple Rules for Developing a Short Bioinformatics Training Course".)
- bootcamp is 2-3 days long
- For 20-50 learners...
- ...who are typically grad students in science and engineering
- There is 10:1 ratio of helpers to learners (or better)
- Learners leave with a basic set of skills...
- ...and a big-picture view of how to apply them
- A handful of learners/helpers are ready to run workshops on their own
- We have feedback on how to improve content/format
- Prefer flat seating to banked seating (makes it easier for helpers to reach people)
- Power, network, and air conditioning
- 40 people plus laptops generate a lot of heat
- Prefer places where people can drink coffee/eat snacks while they're working
- Note: make sure venue is accessible to people with disabilities
- Weekends, weekdays, and splits have all worked (adjust to local needs)
- Start of term works better at universities than end of term
- Start of second/subsequent term works better for grad students than start of first term
- Too many other things going on at the start of a new academic year
- By second term, people know whether they need this or not
- Mid-term breaks (reading weeks) have not worked well: very high no-show rate
- Can also schedule bootcamps right before/right after major conferences
- Usually means extra accommodation expenses for participants...
- ...but can be easier to teach when all learners are from the same community
- We typically run 9:00-4:30, but this will vary to meet local needs
- Note: remember to take childcare needs into account
Instructors and Helpers
- Recruit instructors beforeannouncing event
- We're happy to help
- Recruit helpers locally
- Typically grad students who already know this stuff...
- ...who might be thinking about becoming instructors themselves
- Remember:one person can't talk eight hours straight for two or three days
- Not coherently, anyway
- Your institution/venue may insist you use their system
- Otherwise, we use EventBrite
- We're happy to host registration (just ask us for access)
- Make sure to allow a waiting list
- Note: usually best notto charge even a nominal amount for registration
- As soon as any money is changing hands, academic institutions will often charge for space
- Create a page with bootcamp details
- Usually separate from the registration page (to give more control over content and style)
- We're happy to host this...
- ...or to link to your page if you'd rather host it yourself
- Tweet and blog about the event
- Send mail to departmental mailing lists, disciplinary mailing lists, and specific specific people (e.g., lab directors)
- Note: remember to include links to the advertising page and the registration page!
- Note:notify participants if the event is being broadcast or recorded
- A signed photo release will be required from each participant if pictures are being taken
- Decide whether to provide coffee/snacks at breaks and/or lunch
- Typically budget $5 per person per snack, $12-15 per person for lunch...
- ...which adds up quickly
- Note:remember to take dietary restrictions into account
- Nut/dairy allergies
The Week Before
- Request confirmation from participants
- Notify people on the wait list if they're going to be able to attend
- May invite 10 or so people from wait list to show up
- If there are still empty seats at mid-morning on the first day, they're welcome to stay
- If not, they're welcome to come back for the next one
- Note: make this clear to wait listed people you invite before they come
- Send software/network setup instructions
- Include instructions on how to check that things have installed properly
- Include a contact address for people who are having trouble
- Send pre-workshop questionnaire (if any)
The Day Before
- Are the building and room going to be unlocked on the day of the event?
- Do you know where the washrooms are?
- Is there any noisy construction/cleaning going on?
- Is the projector working? Do you have a spare bulb?
- Is the network working?
- Do you have enough power cords?
- Do you have a contact number for maintenance/tech support?
- Have you double-checked with catering (if you're having snacks/lunch brought in)?
- Have you emailed a reminder to participants?
- Have you set up any accounts/web sites/repositories you will need?
- Do you have sticky notes in two different colors to hand out?
- Use these instead of clickers to answer yes/no questions, signal need for help/completion of exercises, etc.
On The Day
- Give people a few minutes to plug in, get on the network, etc.
- Put network connection instructions on handouts, on the projected screen, etc.
- Tell people what Twitter hash tag you're using (if any)
- Circulate the attendance sheet/photo release form
- Hand out multi-colored sticky notes
- Collect attendance sheet/photo release forms
- Create mailing list for contacting participants after the event
- Send post-workshop questionnaire (if any)
- Wrote blog post summarizing event