The future of education is plain text

Jeff Leek

I was recently at a National Academy meeting on Envisioning the Data Science Curriculum. It was a fun meeting and one of the questions that came up was what kind of infrastructure do we need to enable shared curricula, compatibility across schools, and not reinventing the wheel. My answer to this question was that we need lecture notes stored in plain text files (like rmarkdown files) and data stored in csv files with direct links.

I am not nearly the first person to make this argument. Lorena Barba explained why her MOOC doesn’t use video almost two years ago now. More recently a blog post pointed out some advantages of plain text code files for data analysis. I’m sure there are more that I don’t know about.

I think that the future of education is in plain text documents (not just for data science) and that the future of data storage is in simple csvs for all but the most complicated data sets. Why?

We believe in this so much that we are working on ways to make course videos generatable from plain text files and more recently trying to figure out ways to make the puppets move from plain text files alone.

So if people are looking for infrastructure to fund - places to make it easier to edit/host/share plain text and plain csv files!