Tips for an American teaching international students?

I'll be teaching a remote introductory R course beginning next month - I am based in California, and most of the students are based in Australia, Mexico, Canada, or the United Kingdom. All students will be using RStudio. I'm trying to learn what I should be aware of or adapt to, with respect to R users across countries that are not the USA?

Things that have occurred to me are: CRAN mirrors, spellings, system time zones; but I don't know what I don't know. Any tips or suggestions would be welcome, whether you've taught in a similar situation, or have been a student in an R class where the instructor was located in another country.

Thanks so much!


Hi @Myfanwy,

Is each attendee expected to have all the software/packages setup on their own computer? Are you considering using RStudio Cloud?

Yes @Myfanwy, use RStudio Cloud as @mattwarkentin suggests. Also, feel free to find inspiration from my graduate level R for Bio Data Science Course :+1:


Thanks @mattwarkentin - Yes, most have had some exposure to R previously, and all have installed RStudio on their computers. I hadn't considered using RStudio Cloud - what about it in particular do you think is well-suited to dealing with country-specific differences in R implementations?

You can set up an RStudio Cloud workspace which attendees can use for your course. It ensures everyone is using the same versions of R, RStudio, and all required packages for your workshop. You get full control over the course environment. You can also upload scripts with code you intend to work through.

They only need a web browser, rather than trying to make sure each attendee has everything installed and working beforehand. It removes a lot of possible attendee-specific issues that can slow down a workshop, in my experience.


For intro course the cloud may not be a strict necessity, but in specialized areas (I teach spatial analysis in R, and {sf} and friends are known troublemakers) it helps in the crucial first minutes, when everyone, likely including you, is somewhat nervous and a risk of package issues is very real. Troubleshooting environment issues in a remote session is next to impossible.

Also be aware not everyone may be using the same keyboard layout, so the shortcut for dollar sign, square brackets or curly braces may not be the same for everyone.

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Outside the US (and possibly Canada) Windows laptops will likely dominate, which obviously has some impact on installing packages, as well as navigating the file system.

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Thanks @jlacko, that makes a lot of sense - just yesterday I had to re-configure my toolchain and install a ruby gem from the Terminal in order to get a spatial package to install without error. I tried it on RStudio Cloud and it just installed, no issues.

That said, the class is introductory, six weeks long, and very small, so I will be able to give the students a lot of individual help and attention. One of the course objectives is actually understanding the file system, so I think the Cloud would hold us back in that respect.


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