I’m a 17-year-old high school senior and an avid Coursera learner, mentor for deep learning courses, and beta tester. I’ve been homeschooled my whole life, and because of that, I’m lucky to have the freedom to learn through whichever means I want to.
My passion for computer science was sparked by Coursera. I started with Computer Science 101, taught by Stanford professor Nick Parlante. That was the first online class I had ever taken, and I loved it.
“It was empowering that I could absorb concepts from a video and then immediately see the value in what I had learned through how I could write fun programs for assignments. That was addicting in a way that I think learning should be.”
I was eager to dive deeper into computer science, and naturally, I turned to Coursera to do so. A few months later, I took Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python from Rice University. While it felt a little strange to grade the peer review assignments of people who I knew were probably decades older than me, that was also when I was first struck by the intellectual spirit that drives Coursera learners. We’re different ages and come from a diverse range of countries and academic backgrounds, but we’re all united by the desire to learn the same concepts and gain the same skills.
Just like Computer Science 101, Interactive Programming was also just fun. The final assignment was to build Rice Rocks, a variant of the arcade game Asteroids, and I spent hours on end tweaking it and adding more features. Not only did I enjoy myself, but the course also gave me enough preparation to jump into Advanced Placement Computer Science, typically taken by high school students, in eighth grade. In fact, I still recommend Interactive Programming to friends who tell me that they’re looking to get into coding. I was thrilled to learn recently that over 100,000 students have now taken it.
“I think that’s one of the aspects that makes Coursera so powerful: there’s virtually no limit to the number of people who can benefit from strong teaching.”
Fast-forward a few years, and I spent the summer before my junior year of high school researching neuroimaging at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, I realized that having an understanding of machine learning would be helpful to take my research further. At the suggestion of some friends, I enrolled in Professor Andrew Ng’s Deep Learning Specialization. I saw the addiction for learning that I had experienced during CS 101 re-emerge in the Specialization.
Because of the skills I gained through the coursework, I was able to be hired as an intern on the data science team at AliveCor, a medical tech startup.
I then got to work on a machine learning project from start to finish, directly applying the concepts and skills I had gained from the courses I took on Coursera. In December 2018, I presented the research I conducted there at the Women in Machine Learning Workshop, co-located with NeurIPS, the largest AI conference in the world.
Inspired to learn or gain new skills this year? Jennifer has some great advice to help you achieve your #CourseToSuccess in 2019:
“Keeping goals to your Coursera education in mind is key to staying motivated throughout a course or Specialization. Once you’re immersed in the class, with lectures to watch and homework assignments to complete, it’s motivating to remember your reason for enrolling– whether that’s the tangible skills you’ll apply to a project or career, or just the fun of learning something new. As you advance, you can look back at the progress you’ve made so far to inspire yourself to keep it up. That becomes a positive feedback loop, where the ever-increasing material you’ve mastered pushes you to learn even more.”
“Taking advantage of the discussion forums is also a great way to stay engaged. The forums provide a platform for learners to think critically about the course material together. Not only does collaborating with peers create a sense of personal investment in the course, but the discussions about concepts can also lead to an even deeper understanding of the course. As a mentor, the insightful questions and ideas from learners that I see on the forums daily inspire me to dig deeper into the material.”