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Using Gitpod in the classroom?

August 4, 2019 at 11:56pm

Using Gitpod in the classroom?

August 4, 2019 at 11:56pm
Hello! I teach a Computer Systems course at Northeastern. One of the most painful parts of the group assignment is setting up a proper VM and environment to run PintOS - some of my students last semester were on old (4GB RAM) hardware and had to stop the VM in order to, say, browse documentation on the host.
Separately, the VM and tooling is old enough that it's unpleasant regardless. Teaching students how to use VirtualBox and get files in/out, set up guest extensions, etc, eats up most of the office hours and a few hours of lecture time.
I was able to get a rather nice setup going in Gitpod quickly - a custom container with QEMU, a few launch scripts to map debugging into PintOS - and I've published it at https://github.com/abl/pintos_base.
The question I have now is how to, well, deploy this to my class.
I could ~easily create a shared workspace for each of my student groups - last semester I had 15 students, so 5 groups of 3 - but that would give them access to my GitHub credentials. There would be no way for them to work independently, however, which could make work frustrating.
I could have them each create a free GitPod account but they'd be limited to public repositories - every student in the class could see each others' work in progress which is a nonstarter. I could have them not submit code until the end (keeping it in the workspace and private) but that would make collaboration inside teams difficult.
I could get them to create paid student accounts for the ~3 months they'd need access but I'd rather not put any extra burden on the students. (There's no book for the class or any other expenses right now.) For the larger fall class - ~45 students or 15 groups for 3 months - that'd be $81/group or $1,215. The resources required for PintOS are tiny - I could, instead, get $5/month DigitalOcean droplets for each group at $15/group or $225. (Most students seem to spend a total of 45 hours apiece on the project or 15 hours per month.)
Gitpod enterprise could be amazing - Northeastern uses GHE already - but this is only my second time teaching and I expect that getting approval would be a difficult process. (This is part of why I'm assuming costs will come out of my pocket.) We have some sort of in-house VM "budget" of instances I can draw on so the compute power of Gitpod wouldn't be needed, just the software.
Has anyone done this before / do you have any thoughts and recommendations? I'm planning to show a tech demo of Gitpod to my management. I think the sticking points might be the desire to use internal machines (since we've already paid for them, effectively) and the idea of paying for unlimited access when students will need at most 100 hours per semester. (I'd like to move everything to Gitpod including the non-Pintos projects eventually. :)

August 5, 2019 at 11:25am
My department runs a gitlab instance, which we use for class work. Then the students can have "private" repos that the staff can access (if right are properly configured). When gitpod starts supporting gitlab, we will look into hosting gitpod ourselves, too.
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August 6, 2019 at 5:09am
Getting Gitpod Enterprise ready for self-hosting is top on our priority list now. Let me know if you have more questions.
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August 9, 2019 at 6:18pm
I think there is an education package in the works, https://www.gitpod.io/education/ although I am not sure if it is ready. Great questions. I teach High School CS and robotics and have similar interest in Gitpod since cloud9 got eaten by AWS. If students forks your repository and then a group leader runs the gitpod they should be able to share that Gitpod within their group allowing you group access and sending you the URL. Not sure if that solves your issues but I also do not like the idea of giving my students any access to my github account either.
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August 21, 2019 at 4:45pm
I'm really interested to see how this works out -- my students use vscode right now but installing node and running projects on their own laptops can be a real drag, so moving to the cloud sounds like a great option if it's possible. I'd love to see what others come up with.
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December 20, 2019 at 8:07am
I think this is an excellent idea. I also try to constantly introduce cool ideas that will help students do assignments and other tasks. I want to develop an application that will help students write their student papers. I try this service to help students write assignments, but I want to make more of it. And your idea is very cool.
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February 22, 2021 at 12:11pm
Thank you for this excellent idea. In the period of distance learning, this update is very important for the users of the classroom. Hope this project will be in the Gitpod priority for the next year. Also, I think this update will be necessary for homeschooling because a lot of students have an Internet possibility for education. For example, this resource website also cooperates with GitLab and provides one of the best writing help at this time. Waiting for the new updates from you.
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