Learning CS and Entrepreneurship Online: New Educational Paradigms (Part 1 of 3)

I like to think of myself as the curious type, eager to deepen my understanding of how things work, refusing to stop thinking about potentialities and questioning the things I read and see. One one level, I’m certainly too young to be an expert at anything. But, to frame things in a different way, I (and others of my generation) have access to greater resources, both depth and breadth, than anyone before me.

This is obvious, but nonetheless astounding. Amidst the glut of startups caught in the social media-maelstrom (and clinging to its edges) and proliferation of consumers-cum-creators, one current development that strikes me as particularly profound is the evolution—a paradigm shift, really—taking place in education.

What started as a wiki-sensibility and a handful of major universities rolling out online course offerings has snowballed into an information-rich landscape of resources through which people can not only dabble in tutorials and courses, but also teach one another, become part of learning communities, and contribute to a vast growing corpus of knowledge.

You’re probably already familiar with a lot of these things. Hardly a week goes by without mainstream media coverage of new MIT/Stanford/Yale open course offerings or hot new education-oriented startups. But I want to speak of this revolution on a person level. As someone who recently graduated college (one year ago today!), let me tell you: this stuff is awesome. And the more my consciousness expands, the better it seems to get.

In the past few months I’ve dabbled in topics from 3D animation to game theory to digital publishing, but broadly speaking, I’m currently devoting my educational attention span to two thoroughly intertwined subjects: entrepreneurship and computer science.

I’ve always been interested in creating things, and dedicated the bulk of my years in college to visual art (photography) and filmmaking, but I’ve recently become more interested in the potential for creation that lies beyond the limitations of these mediums. Photography is a strongly personal, solo endeavor, a deep and impactful art but still limited in impact and utility; filmmaking may be the most powerful narrative medium of the day but it remains largely linear and narrative, extremely time-consuming, and limited by resources.

I’ve grown up pretty much concurrently with Web 2.0, and the more amazing feats of creativity and engineering I see everyday online—from genius-level implementations of networks, media, and big data, to the tools and diversions that are incrementally improving our lives in their prescient precision—the more I’ve started to feel handicapped by my lack of foundational understanding and practical knowledge about how computers, networks, and various technological structures and languages actually function.

At the same time, I’m constantly brooding over my future, and I’ve come to realize that I should probably figure out how to accumulate wealth and power (in service of enlightenment and happiness, of course) sooner rather than later. Entrepreneurship is an obvious area where my intellectually curious, creatively driven, soul-searching fragments of self might dovetail nicely with those other parts of me harboring growing concerns over my present low level of influence and financial stability.

Thus my focus, for the time being, on achieving some semblance of literacy in the finer arts of business and technology. In my next post, I’ll list my basic road map and experiences to date, and I’ll end this three-part miniseries with an annotated (and evolving) bibliography of the resources that I’ve found most useful.