I recently have had the pleasure of joining QWorld, an initiative to spread knowledge and skills related to quantum technologies across the world.
This started with the hardworking Jibran Rashid putting in the effort to get a group of Pakistani academics to start QPakistan, as one of the QCousins within QWorld. Our first big event was a QBronze workshop, which is an introduction to programming quantum computers. In just five days, participants learn to write very simple programs using the popular quantum computing framework and simulators provided by IBM's qiskit.
Despite a very short notice, we got almost 250 people from across Pakistan to sign up. This was far more than we expected, since this is near the end of the Fall semester in the middle of a pandemic, and if students are my university are a representative sample, most students are struggling to keep up their classes. Only about half showed up, though, on the first day, and every day we lost some. By the end we were able to award diplomas to about 15-20 students who completed enough coding exercises.
The learning methodology of the workshop is very hands on. We did a one hour lecture every day, followed by two hours of time where students worked through very detailed Jupyter notebooks that consisted of a mix of explanations, example code and exercises. The workshop was conducted via Discord, which was a delight. We had a number of text channels for support, plus one voice channel per mentor. I would hang out in my channel and students would drop by one by one to ask questions or get help on problems. This replicated some of the features of in person workshops.
One thing we failed to do, which I think is a great idea for online workshops is helping students pair program. We should have set up a system for students to be randomly paired up. Then they could jump into a voice call with each other, and screen share, and code together. This will really help people feel like they are part of a group working towards a shared objective, besides helping them learn better and faster. Hopefully, we will implement this in a future iteration.
Which brings me to our next workshop, happening this week, a global QBronze workshop. I am looking foward to introducing students from across the world, the wonder that quantum computing.