How did you decide on using Jupyter?
It was just a very natural evolution; I started from from frameworks available in Python. With a few exceptions, most quantum computing frameworks and simulators work in Python or with a Python interface.
I realized there was bigger potential here, so I started developing Jupyter Notebooks to help my students and the start-ups in understanding some of the concepts and then developing the full course within Jupyter Notebooks.
What role did Vocareum play in your course?
I would have been dead without it! Vocareum installed 7 or 8 packages for me — quantum computing frameworks, including the simulators. We don’t actually touch “real” hardware in this course due to its additional level of difficulty, but the virtual machines are actually very good at simulating quantum systems.
The auto grading of Jupyter Notebooks in Vocareum was also critical to making the course a success. I mean, we had 4000 students signed up. Once I figured out how it works, it saved us a lot of trouble.
That’s great to hear! How was the overall reception to your course?
My course feedback comes from three different sources: One is the forums on edX, then social media, edX itself and the university. If you look at these different channels, you will see different pictures emerging. On the forums, we get anonymous people complaining about random issues, including Vocareum.
However, on social media… overwhelmingly positive feedback. People love the course; and, they really appreciate that it’s hands-on. This is the only quantum computing MOOC that’s “hands-on”. Without Vocareum it could not have been done!
As for the last category, edX and the university, they are happy. Their feedback is that they have never, in such a short time, put together such a complex course. And again, a large piece of it was how fast Vocareum responded to my questions and how you helped me to work with the platform. So, all in all, my experience with the platform and with the support you gave, it’s been fantastic! It would have been impossible to pull it off without you.
I think the most complex part was (and this is what I have to revise) is just the sheer number of frameworks used because quantum computing is not consolidated.
Also, we would like to give students the solution to their assignments, but currently, the only way to do that is after the deadline passes. I think you’re already working on this.
Yes, that’s correct. We’re committed to releasing it before the next iteration.
Great! In any case, long story short, it’s been a very complex start. We pulled it off and you guys played a very important role in this; I’m very grateful for what you guys did.
Any thoughts of packaging your quantum machine learning Jupyter Notebooks and making it available for other instructors to use, maybe as a textbook?
Well, it is available publicly at https://gitlab.com/qosf/qml-mooc with the MIT license for the code and Creative Common license for the text. I encourage people to use it.
I also want to extend it to support other quantum computing frameworks because there’s a new one all the time; what’s really cool is that the Google quantum team assigned a software engineer to provide support for Google quantum computing framework! Eventually, this third framework will also be available as an option for the students.
Great. Thanks so much for your time.