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Hackathons Can Foster CS Skills Out of Class

group of students working on computers around table

A survey of students participating in hackathons found that most of them learn new concepts and gain skills that they later use in their computer science work. The survey was conducted by GitHub Education and Major League Hacking (MLH), which calls itself the "official student hackathon league." Each year, MLH hosts some 200 weekend-long "invention" competitions that bring students together on teams to work on targeted challenges.

According to the results of the informal survey, four in five students explored new technologies or services during their hackathon project experience. Even more (93 percent) said they learned something new that hadn't been covered in coursework. Sixty-nine percent said they gained new skills that they were able to use in classwork later on, and 85 percent said they thought the skills they'd picked up could help with future coursework.

A solid majority of hackathon participants (70 percent) said they met or worked on projects with people they'd never worked with before and nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) said they learned something new from fellow students during the event.

GitHub, which produces a platform for developer collaboration, is running a program that grants $1,000 to students in colleges and universities that are organizing their first MLH hackathon during the 2020 season, and provides the organizing team with one sponsored ticket to Hackcon, MLH's conference for hacker community leaders.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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