The R-Studio experi (ence/ment)

This mini blog post is to start the process of decompressing and explaining how together with some wonderful people that are part of the Academic Technology Team we piloted a learning community focused on learning more about R and R-Studio. 

This was something that had been brewing for years. But for one reason or another it always stalled – there are always more hours assigned in a day than actual hours. This year it became a reality and it felt like the right time to pilot this learning community, the Data Science Major had just been approved and R is a powerful and free tool that is increasingly (mis)used across a range of disciplines. 

This learning community was clearly centered around R and R-studio, a platform that makes using R much more intuitive and accessible. I didn’t quite have a sense for the range of abilities and expertise among the campus community and one of our initial challenges was to be able to create a learning community that was both welcoming and useful. Our goal was to help faculty find ways to incorporate R into their own scholarship and teaching. This is easier said than done.

 If you can’t read all the titles, it’s fine but the 6th “type of Political Science Paper” states: “My PhD KNOWS R BETTER THAN I DO” and that is one of the interesting things about some disciplines that have fully embraced R for both analysis and graphing. It is with this growing trend in mind that I hoped to ease many of us into the world of R and prepare our students to “know R better than we do.”

After working on a proposal, I felt I was ready to start finding the participants. However the daunting task of being “responsible for recruiting, coordinating communication, planning meeting times, and determining locations” was something that would’ve been impossible to achieve without the support of 3 particular people, Krissy, Susan, and Taylor (listed alphabetically). 

One of the goals we set out with was to create a group of people committed to working with R on a regular basis. A form of “writing group” if you will, but with the goal of regularly spending some time using R and R-Studio, and checking in on each other, providing a bit of peer accountability so that we could all get into this together. Clearly, some of us underestimated how draining and relentless this semester would be. I appreciated our fairly regular conversations, and the honesty of everyone who attended was a welcome sigh of relief for some of us who felt like total slackers.

In upcoming posts I will detail some more reflections about how this pilot helped us learn about how to improve the R experience for the SNC community in the near future. 

The one wonderful thing I did notice early on was that people who have been able to master skills in R (whether few or many) were wonderfully gracious with their time and intellectual efforts. Sharing resources, problem sets, ideas, and tips through google’s collaboration tools gave the participants the ability to have a wide array of tools at our disposal. This was something in which I had no part, but rather it was the collective effort and excitement around this project that led to a growing collection of materials for anyone to use. 

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