[School-of-data] Course editing on the new School of Data platform

Tony.Hirst tony.hirst at open.ac.uk
Wed Apr 23 13:25:45 UTC 2014

I¹ve started looking at using IPython notebooks for authoring course
material for web delivery that needs to blend prose with interactive
elements and the can also support embedded items.

Ipython notebooks allow you to:

- write markdown that gets converted to HTML text;
- write code blocks (in python, javascript, R) that can be executed and
have their outputs printed into the notebook
- embed iframes/images/videos etc
- use widgets that link controls to variables in code fragments so you can
create interactive charts (e.g.
http://jakevdp.github.io/blog/2013/12/05/static-interactive-widgets/ )

IPython notebooks can be authored in a browser, and saved as static HTML
docs if required. The nbviewer package will generate a static HTML view of
a notebook from the notebook source.

We can author course materials, run the code and generate outputs inline
(so less copy editing worries - the output from the code really is the
output from the code) before generating static HTML or PDF copies of the
We can share actual notebooks so learners can execute and modify then
execute inline code

You need to have ipython installed in order to be able to run Ipython
notebooks. Alternatively, you need to connect to a server that is running
ipython (this could be a virtual machine, e.g.
http://ged.msu.edu/angus/beacon-2012/week1.html or this looks interesting
- https://notebookcloud.appspot.com/docs - which can be used to launch
amis. TO get round security concerns (divulging amazon passwords/keys
etc), we could run our own cloud booter? -
https://github.com/carlsmith/notebookcloud )

VM bundling - I have been experimenting with a VM (provisioned using
vagrant and puppet) that includes postgresql and mongodb servers as well
as an ipython notebook server that provides for a straightforward way of
getting the notebook talking to dbs. VMs can run locally (I use
virtualbox) or via a cloud host (not tried this - looking for a vagrant
solution atm so I can reuse scripts I already have)

On 23/04/2014 12:45, "Michael Bauer" <michael.bauer at okfn.org> wrote:

>As you might know I started working on a new platform for the School of
>Data a while back. We've grown out of wordpress and there are a couple of
>things we'd like to do better. One of them is the creation/translation and
>curation of courses.
>I've just started to work on this and would love to get your feedback and
>input: What do you think are the most important things there?
>How would you like to edit the courses? Would markdown work? Or would you
>prefer a fully fledged WYSIWYG editor? How much freedom is needed - how
>much structure does there need to be?
>I know this are a lot of questions, but we do want to make it easier to
>create new courses for everyone (and I do believe most of the people on
>this list have valuable skills to share) so what would be the ideal way
>Data Diva | skype: mihi_tr | @mihi_tr
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