Learning programming can be daunting. Small details can become big problems, and it is easy to get stuck for days or weeks. That is why City Lit has created programming communities for all its students. Using the platform Gitter, we have created general and language-specific forums to help students collaborate and learn.
City Lit’s Gitter forums
When the Covid19 pandemic hit, City Lit had to take all its programming courses online. We decided to make Gitter forums to help maintain a collaborative classroom nature. Even as many courses return to in-person teaching, the forums will remain. They have proved an appreciated resource, and have many uses:
Asking coding questions - You can ask about code you're stuck on, things you don't understand, etc.
Sharing resources - You can share resources you find helpful. You will also get an insight into what has helped others
Finding coding partners - It can be very motivating to learn programming with someone. A moderator will help pair interested students with similar interests and abilities
Learning about exciting events and opportunities - There will be regular newsletters. These will be detailing workshops, talks, job opportunities etc.
Socialising and networking - You will be able to connect with a large student body. There will be people with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities
Mini-workshops - Students can create mini-workshops where they share knowledge
Access to “living” programming Wikis - There will be "Wikis" for each language. These will be like small, expanding libraries of resources
Even though the forums are student-driven, they are also monitored by one of our City Lit tutors. This ensures that you will always receive answers to your questions.
Below is a graphic of the current communities. More communities are added as requested.
Gitter is a chat room system developed by GitHub. It works in quite a similar way to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Slack. To join, you need a GitHub account. You can read more about GitHub in the next section.
After you join a programming course at City Lit, you will receive the links to all our forums. You can join as many as you like, and you will have access to them for as long as you want.
Gitter has several nice features. You can receive notifications when there are new posts in the chats. You can also format your code so it looks like code instead of text. When someone shares a snippet of code, it’ll be easy to read.
You can share files, which is useful when you want to share pdfs or files of code. As you get to know other students, you can also message them directly. You can furthermore message a programming tutor, so you are sure you always get the support you need.
Having a GitHub account can be very useful as you learn to program. GitHub is a platform where people can store and share their code. It also allows for version control and storing of your repositories.
What is version control?
Version control tracks your changes as you code, so you never accidentally lose or break code. A coding project on GitHub is stored in a folder, commonly known as a repository.
What is a repository?
A repository can be public, so anyone can view it, or private, so only you can see it. Many people like to have public repositories. When they apply for jobs, potential employers can see all the good coding they have done. In the coding community, this is sometimes a useful way of getting new jobs. You can also share your repositories with other students on Gitter. That furthermore means you can work together and suggest changes to each other’s code. Both GitHub and Gitter are used extensively in the programming industries. If you are looking for a job in programming, it can be very useful to be familiar with these tools.
Collaborating on code in the Google Colab and repl.it
In City Lit’s Gitter forums, you will learn more about how you can collaborate with other students. If you are learning Python, you might encounter the platform Google Colab (https://colab.research.google.com/). A little-known feature is that you can collaborate live with other people. This is much like a Google document or a Google spreadsheet. If you are using other programming languages than Python, you can use replit. Therefore, after you find someone to work with on our Gitter forums, you can collaborate remotely.
City Lit has created dedicated programming forums for its students. This will support learning during and after their courses. Students will get access to high-quality resources, connect with each other, and will never need to be stuck anymore. There will always be someone to help.
About the author
Liv Helen Våge is a physicist with a background in machine learning. She completed her master’s degree at University College London, with a thesis in theoretical astrophysics, and is currently working on a PhD in particle physics at Imperial College London.
She first started exploring machine learning at the Wolfram Summer School in Boston and has since done internships with BT in the UK and DESY in Germany. Her PhD centers around using novel methods for high-performance computing and machine learning for the upgrade of the CMS at CERN in Switzerland.
She teaches various programming courses at City Lit and is the moderator of City Lit’s Gitter communities.