Nextflow Training: Bridging Online Learning with In-Person Connections

  • Florian Wuennemann and Kübra Narcı
  • 8 May 2024
  • Community Post

Nextflow and nf-core provide frequent community training events to new users, which offer an opportunity to get started using and understanding Nextflow, Groovy and nf-core. These events are live-streamed and are available for on-demand viewing on YouTube, but what if you could join friends in person and watch it live?

Learning something new by yourself can be a daunting task. Having colleagues and friends go through the learning and discovering process alongside you can really enrich the experience and be a lot of fun! With that in mind, we decided to host a get-together for the fundamentals training streams in person. Anybody from the scientific community in and around Heidelberg who wanted to learn Nextflow was welcome to join.

This year, Marcel Ribeiro-Dantas and Chris Hakkaart from Seqera held the training over two days, offering the first steps into the Nextflow universe (you can watch it here). Kübra Narcı and Florian Wünneman hosted a local training site for the recent community fundamentals training in Heidelberg. Kübra is a Nextflow ambassador, working as a bioinformatician and using Nextflow to develop pipelines for the German Human Genome Phenome Archive (GHGA) project in her daily life. At the time, Florian was a Postdoc at the Institute of Computational Biomedicine with Denis Schapiro in Heidelberg, though he has since then joined Seqera as a Bioinformatics Engineer.

We advertised the event about a month beforehand in our local communities (genomics, transcriptomics, spatial omics among others) to give people enough time to decide whether they want to join. We had quite a bit of interest and a total of 15 people participated. The event took place at the Marsilius Arkaden at the University Clinic campus in Heidelberg. Participants brought their laptops and followed along with the stream, which we projected for everyone, so people could use their laptops exclusively for coding and did not have to switch between stream and coding environment.

meme on bright landscape
meme on bright landscape

The goal of this local training site was for everyone to follow the fundamentals training sessions on their laptop and be able to ask follow-up questions in person to the room. We also had a few experienced Nextflow users be there for support. There is a dedicated nf-core Slack channel during the training events for people to ask questions, which is a great tool for help. We also found that in-person discussions around topics that remained confusing to participants were really helpful for many people, as they could provide some more context and allow quick follow-up questions. During the course of the fundamentals training, we found ourselves naturally pausing the video and taking the time to discuss with the group. It was particularly great to see new users explaining concepts they just learned to each other.

This local training site was also an excellent opportunity for new Nextflow users in Heidelberg to get to know each other and make new connections before the upcoming nf-core hackathon, for which there was also a local site organized in Heidelberg. It was a great experience to organize a smaller local event to learn Nextflow with the local community. We learned some valuable lessons from this experience, that we will apply for the next local Nextflow gatherings. Advertising a bit earlier will give people more time to spread the word, we would likely aim for 2 months in advance next time. Offering coffee during breaks can go a long way to keep people awake and motivated, so we would try to serve up some hot coffee next time. Finally, having a bit more in-depth introductions (maybe via short posts on a forum) of everyone joining could be an even better ice breaker to foster contacts and collaborations for the future.

The ability to join training sessions, bytesize talks, and other events from nf-core and Nextflow online is absolutely fantastic and enables the free dissemination of knowledge. However, the opportunity to join a group in person and work through the content together can really enrich the experience and bring people closer together.

If you’re looking for a training opportunity, there will be one in Basel, Switzerland, on June 25 and another one in Cambridge, UK, on September 12. These and other events will be displayed in the Seqera Events page when it gets closer to the dates of the events.

Who knows, maybe you will meet someone interested in the same topic, a new collaborator or even a new friend in your local Nextflow community!

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