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Gitter or Slack chat room for learners


I have been self studying for quite some time now from the likes of Coursera, Udacity etc. Out of these resources the most useful and engaging experience was with FreeCodeCamp. Although their content was ok (at least when I started, they mostly curated open resources just like Saylor), the most rewarding experience was being able to talk with fellow learners on Slack/Gitter.

I would suggest to have a official Gitter/Slack chatroom, to which learners can be introduced at the introduction of a course. We can (maybe should) have different chat rooms for every course and a common room for Computer Science in general.

This is not only for CS, but if found useful can be replicated for other branches as well.


[Recategorizing this thread as “meta” to broaden the conversation]

It might be time for me to take another look at Gitter. Although a user of FreeCodeCamp myself, I have not spent more than a few minutes in the various chat channels.

Here is some history and some thinking aloud, in no particular order, because it is Monday morning:

  • We kind of hope for these Discourse forums to satisfy P2P and Saylor<->Community exchange. The Discourse folks themselves have looked askance at requests for chat integration, saying (somewhere in that the near-real-time conversation updates come close to chat and (deliberately) facilitate lengthier, more thought-out exchange. That said, there is a place in this world for terse, rapid-fire exchange.
  • The self-paced and diverse nature of our courses presents a problem – at least FCC has thousands of people working on the same general thing, along the same path/trajectory. We have (fewer) thousands of people working on a number of different things, and if one considers the participation rates in forums/chat for online learning, we might be catering more to much fewer.
  • We have considered Slack for “office hours” that once were done as a Google Hangout on Air and that we subsequently played with as an IRC channel on FreeNode. Slack presented a few problems, including a lack of persistence (10k msg limit) but more so the need to create a new account. Gitter does improve on the persistence issue, though it retains the new account problem. That said, it might be useful to encourage our students to acquire GitHub credentials.
  • We have gone back and forth internally and externally on tags in these forums, which I believe would make them a little more precise and less unwieldy (why does no one say “more wieldy”?).
  • Yes, these forums do require a new account, I realize :smile: – we’ll try eventually to get some additional social login options…Google and Facebook did not work because of weird https conflicts that seemed to need patches to Discourse itself.
  • There is basic chat functionality in Moodle (courseware platform) as well as some additional chat plugins (some of which are out of date and/or just plugins for random enterprise solutions). On the one hand, it would be nice to use what we have. On the other hand, I’m not sure Moodle answers well enough for chat.
  • All of that said, I think it’s worth consideration and a bit of experimentation. It would be interesting, for instance, to put Discourse and Gitter up against each other. It would also be worthwhile to play with Gitter as an office hours platform (although one major benefit of both Hangouts on Air and IRC was that no account creation was needed for participation). This could be something to consider in running one or more synchronous courses.
    • As much as anything, I still worry about atomization and distraction, which is not an argument not to try things, but rather to try them carefully, I guess.


EDIT: I just saw this in reviewing my Gitter FCC DC channel (source):

Please note that we now recommend campers use their Campsite’s Facebook group for chatting instead of their campsite’s Gitter chatroom.

We are doing this because few of our Campsite Gitter chatroooms have active synchronous discussions, and about 1/3rd of conversations consist of someone saying “hello” and not getting a response. Most of the discussions are asynchronous, which Facebook posts and group messages are better suited for.

We’ve removed this Gitter room from our Campsite directory. Still, we will keep it open for archival purposes, and you can keep using it if you’d like.

Slightly apples and oranges, but nevertheless food for thought (to mingle some metaphors).