I was in a funk!
Not long after joining the University of Sheffield, I had helped convince a raft of lecturers to switch to using the Jupyter notebook for their lecturing. It was an easy piece of salesmanship and a whole lot of fun to do. Lots of people were excited by the possibilities.
The problem was that the University managed desktop was incapable of supporting an instance of the notebook with all of the bells and whistles included. As a cohort, we needed support for Python 2 and 3 kernels as well as R and even Julia. The R install needed dozens of packages and support for bioconductor. We needed LateX support to allow export to pdf and so on. We also needed to keep up to date because Jupyter development moves pretty fast! When all of this was fed into the managed desktop packaging machinery, it died. They could give us a limited, basic install but not one with batteries included.
I wanted those batteries!
In the early days, I resorted to strange stuff to get through the classes but it wasn’t sustainable. I needed a miracle to help me deliver some of the promises I had made.
Miracle delivered – SageMathCloud
During the kick-off meeting of the OpenDreamKit project, someone introduced SageMathCloud to the group. This thing had everything I needed and then some! During that presentation, I could see that SageMathCloud would solve all of our deployment woes as well as providing some very cool stuff that simply wasn’t available elsewhere. One killer-application, for example, was Google-docs-like collaborative editing of Jupyter notebooks.
I fired off a couple of emails to the lecturers I was supporting (“Everything’s going to be fine! Trust me!”) and started to learn how to use the system to support a course. I fired off dozens of emails to SageMathCloud’s excellent support team and started working with Dr Marta Milo on getting her Bioinformatics course material ready to go.
TL; DR: The course was a great success and a huge part of that success was the SageMathCloud platform
Giving back – A tutorial for lecturers on using SageMathCloud
I’m currently working on a tutorial for lecturers and teachers on how to use SageMathCloud to support a course. The material is licensed CC-BY and is available at https://github.com/mikecroucher/SMC_tutorial
If you find it useful, please let me know. Comments and Pull Requests are welcome.