Followup to: MIT Challenge: blogger to attempt CS curriculum on own

A year after he announced it, productivity blogger Scott Young has successfully completed his "MIT Challenge", an attempt to work through that institution's undergraduate computer science curriculum independently, using the large selection of online material that it has made available.

His three pieces of advice for independent learners are worth noting:


  1. Create an exciting, but specific, mission. I couldn’t have learned the content of this challenge if I hadn’t wrapped it into a compelling mission. Even calling it the “MIT Challenge” helped me make the goal more specific and real. Too many self-education quests begin as vague ideas and fall apart without any constraints.
  2. Build a curriculum or find one. For small projects, taking an individual course will do. For bigger ones, try creating an actual curriculum. MIT (and other universities) offer many free courses, and also have outlines of their undergraduate and graduate programs. Having a preexisting curriculum forced me to be consistent and not avoid topics just because they were hard.
  3. Be public in your quest. Self-ed has a harder time obtaining legitimacy, in part, because nobody holds you accountable to that. Being public about my challenge made me accountable and gave me discipline I wouldn’t have had in a private quest. Consider starting a blog about your mission, even if you do it anonymously.

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:59 AM

Self-ed has a harder time obtaining legitimacy, in part, because nobody holds you accountable to that.

My theory for why it's Udacity/Coursera/edX that's getting people taking online education seriously, in a way that OCW/Pirate Bay/ didn't, is: hardly anyone actually used OCW/Pirate Bay/, 'cause social pressure + project/exam deadlines are a necessary motivator for practically everyone.

(Additionally, there's this meme that learning stuff should be fun. So maybe if people who self-study aren't having fun, they assume they're doing it wrong, and quit. But school forces you past that with its project/exam deadlines, etc.)

(Not to say that learning stuff can never be fun, but it's not really in the same league as Facebook and video games for most folks.)

BTW, didn't Scott have some kind of undergrad degree before this project?

He did have a degree in business before he started.