Besides my course-load as a sophomore Computer Science and Business student, I am also a teaching assistant for the class I took last semester: CSE 2 (Fundamentals of Programming). The class is essentially an introductory level Java programming class. The selection process for becoming a TA is as simple as having a certain grade in the class. When I was taking the class last semester I found it strange how one of the TAs was a freshman, but now I realize it’s not strange at all. My duties involve grading homework, holding office hours, and monitoring a lab session. Having gone through the class last semester, one would think it’s not hard at all for a TA to help a student. This is generally true, at least about the Java aspect of the course. However, this year the way programs are written and submitted are completely different. When I took the class, and when most of the other upperclassmen TAs took the class, we used a simple IDE (integrated development environment) called DrJava. After writing the program in DrJava, we would then submit the file using a file transfer system called SSH (Secure Shell). The entire process was streamlined and very simple. This year, the CSE 2 class had migrated to using the C9 IDE and GitHub for file submission. The entire process is a hassle, especially for those who do not use UNIX. I predict the majority of the problems in the class will relate to GitHub and C9 rather than the actual code itself. Here is a simple example of how the system works.
While I do ramble about how much of a hassle this change is, I do believe that the C9 and GitHub integration is quite innovative. With this system all your code and files are floating in the GitHub cloud, so you don’t actually have a hard copy of your file (though you can download it from GitHub). Also, I feel that using this system may be more of a “real-life” sort of thing, though I may just be crazy. Another problem is, even the TAs have issues navigating the nuances of using this new system. However, in couple weeks, I think the problems will drastically diminish as students and TAs grow accustomed to using the new system.