A story of learning: My brother’s MOOC experience

Everyone has a unique story to share with regards to learning. It’s a lifelong journey that rarely looks like we would expect it to.

Those who complete MOOCs tend to be fully invested in the courses.

With my brother’s permission, I wanted to share with you a little about my brother Mike’s educational experience and how a MOOC made a huge impact on his life.

My brother and I are very similar but couldn’t be more different. He grew up struggling all through school while I chose to “play the game” as my mom called it. I chose to study science and math, where he focused on music and art. While many struggle to find work in the arts, he is lucky enough to tour the world playing music.

Background: Almost a year ago, my brother and I were talking at Thanksgiving and he mentioned he was thinking about learning how to program. A few months later, he calls me up and asks me for some help with a programming challenge. After hearing a little of the code he was wrangling with I said, “Wait this sounds like C?” After hearing his reasoning for preferring C to other languages he had tried, I could tell that my brother was getting serious about learning how to program.

A few months later he told me he signed up for the edX 6.00x Introduction to Computer Science MOOC. He and I had some wonderful conversations over the following months. I would receive a phone call almost every week, then every day. These conversations could last for a few minutes or a couple of hours. My advice would always end with, take a break, take a walk, and write some pseudocode.

After a while I would get an email every couple of weeks if at all, and when he did call, the conversations had shifted from tutoring to discussion and feedback. From my perspective, he was quickly picking up the terminology and the skills.

Phil: Why did you decide to sign up for the edX Intro to CS course?

Mike: I have always had a strong desire to understand what makes things work. I often would take apart my toys and gadgets to understand their cogs and mechanics. Computers have always interested me and the fact that I couldn’t justifiably open one up or see its underpinnings bothered me, especially because of their intrinsic nature in our society. On a whim, I began teaching myself the basics of C and then upon your recommendation, Processing, but was still longing to learn more.

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