Over the past summer, as part of the London Data Science Workshop Meetup group I was lucky enough to act as co-host of a seven-week study group series based around part 1 of the fastai course. The response was extremely positive and we attracted 20+ attendees each week, many of whom came to every single session.
Here are a few observations for anyone who might be looking to run their own study group:
This series was run as part of a well-established meetup group, and we were well aware that by offering something for free, we would inevitably attract a bunch of non-shows. With only limited capacity at the venue, it’s certainly a challenge is to try and filter out these time-wasters in order to leave spaces open for those who are actually committed to attending. In order to combat this problem, before we even “announced” the first meeting on Meetup, we contacted many of our regular members to invite them to sign up. Then at each meeting we “announced” the following week’s meetup, so that those who were actually at the meetup were guaranteed first claim on spots for the following week.
We split our study group into two tracks, a “concepts” group and a “coding” group, with people free to switch between them at will. Our idea was that we would provide an environment for people to study the course together whichever way they preferred. The coders worked together on programming tasks, while (for the first part of each session at least) the rest of us focused on discussing the week’s lecture material using some slides that I produced each week.
Most weeks we also managed to find one or two volunteers to provide a lightning talk on a deep learning project on which they were trying out their new skills, which was a fun way of getting people more engaged with one another.
We also provided a Slack channel so that people could share links to articles, repos, slides etc., and also continue their discussions outside of the weekly session.
We may possibly run this study group again early next year, when (hopefully) the 2019 version of the course is made available. If you might be interested in attending (or even providing a venue or volunteering as an organiser or co-presenter) then please get in touch either via our Meetup group or by posting a reply to this message.
Finally, I would like to offer my thanks to Jeremy and Rachel at fastai for making this wonderful material available for us all, Acuris for providing us with a superb venue and also to my co-host Sergiusz Bleja for his invaluable contributions.