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The emergence of GitHub as a collaborative platform for education
Zagalsky A., Feliciano J., Storey M., Zhao Y., Wang W.  CSCW 2015 (Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Mar 14-18, 2015)1906-1917.2015.Type:Proceedings
Date Reviewed: Jul 21 2016

GitHub began as a platform to manage software development. More recently, however, GitHub has also been used as a platform to support education. To better understand this alternative use of GitHub, a qualitative study was undertaken. Online sources such as blogs were examined. Fifteen interviews of instructors in higher education, who had made or were making use of GitHub, were conducted. Interview materials were analyzed using the grounded theory approach. A survey was undertaken to help confirm the interpretations made from the interviews, but had only 15 respondents.

Similar to any learning management system (LMS), GitHub was being used as both a submission platform for student coursework and as a platform for holding course content. GitHub has several features that can be used to monitor student activity. For example, the development histories of various artifacts can be reviewed. Students can suggest changes to course content by simply submitting issues or by submitting pull requests to integrate any changes they have composed. The learning curve for GitHub, however, is steep. Also, GitHub has no grade book, one of the key features of an LMS. While use of GitHub can offer certain pedagogical benefits, the investigators were unable to unequivocally recommend adoption for educational purposes.

This paper fails to address two important issues. A modern LMS can be linked to a student information system and to a plagiarism detection system such as Turnitin. The explanations of pedagogical benefits, however, are very useful. This paper is strongly recommended to computer science instructors.

Reviewer:  Andy Brooks Review #: CR144612 (1612-0936)
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