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C'est la Z

Github Classroom and Travis CI

I've been using GitHub with my classes since GitHub's early days. Over time I've gotten my workflows down. I use a combination of shell scripts - many just written on the fly, GitHub organizations, and some naming conventions and protocols that have served me well.

A few years ago, the GitHub Education team started GitHub Classroom. I looked at it at the time. It was pretty cool but I had my workflow so I didn't adopt it. I still very much liked GitHub, the education team, and the product so I kept tabs on the project as time passed.

This semester I decided to go all in on GitHub Classroom. Why? A combination of my changing my workflow and part due to the GitHub education tools and community. At it's core, GitHub classroom does two things well:

  1. Assignment creation and distribution
  2. Repo management and organization.

I thought I'd do a couple of posts and videos to show how I'm using everything.

Here's the first one.

Interestingly enough I'm not going to talk at all about GitHub classroom for the remainder of this post. Instead I'm going to talk about TravisCI (, Travis is a platform for continuous intergration. The idea is pretty simple. After setting things up, whenever you push code to a repo that Travis is watching, Travis starts a container for your repo and runs one or more scripts against the repo. This usually means tests. It turns out that this can be a useful sanity check for students. It's true that they can run tests on their assignments before submitting them but this way it's done automatically and after they submit. They can be sure that what they've submitted actually works.

First you have to link your GitHub accoutn with Travis. To do this, just go to and log in using GitHub. You can then set a bunch of options including which repos to run Travis on. The interface at looks similar but a bit nicer. The .org site is free for open source or public repos (as is the .com site, I think) but the good people at Travis will give you rights to use private repos for educational purposes for free.

The only other thing you have to do is create a YAML file named .travis.yml in your repo. Here's one I'm using to test C++ projecs:

language: cpp
compiler: clang
  - make test
  - ./test

This tells Travis to use the clang compiler (as opposed to, say g++) and then run make test and then ./test. If all the tests pass you get a green check and an email and you're good to go. If they don't you get a red X and also an email. Of course for this particular configuration to work you need Makefile and everything else needed to build the tests in the repo. In my case, I'm using doctest for tests.

Travis has support for a whole bunch of languages including Java, Python, and JavaScript and all of those have nice testing frameworks so regardless of what you're teaching with, Travis could be easily integrated.

In this video I show how I'm using TravisCI and also a simple Python setup. In the next post I'll get back to GitHub classroom and how TravisCI integrates into it.

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