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Customized Software Environment for Remote Learning: Providing Students a Specialized Learning Experience
preprintsubmitted on 01.04.2021, 18:42 and posted on 07.04.2021, 12:31 by Thomas Gerlach, Lukas Schauer, Michael Rademacher, Wolfgang Heiden, Karl Kirschner
The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged educators across the world to move their teaching and mentoring from in-person to remote. During nonpandemic semesters at their institutes (e.g. universities), educators can directly provide students the software environment needed to support their learning - either in specialized computer laboratories (e.g. computational chemistry labs) or shared computer spaces. These labs are often supported by staff that maintains the operating systems (OS) and software. But how does one provide a specialized software environment for remote teaching? One solution is to provide students a customized operating system (e.g., Linux) that includes open-source software for supporting your teaching goals. However, such a solution should not require students to install the OS alongside their existing one (i.e. dual/multi-booting) or be used as a complete replacement. Such approaches are risky because of a) the students' possible lack of software expertise, b) the possible disruption of an existing software workflow that is needed in other classes or by other family members, and c) the importance of maintaining a working computer when isolated (e.g. societal restrictions). To illustrate possible solutions, we discuss our approach that used a customized Linux OS and a Docker container in a course that teaches computational chemistry and Python3.