Self-Education and the MIT Challenge with Scott H Young

by David · 7 comments

Scott is one of my favourite bloggers, and like me he has a passion for learning and self-education; he’s currently pursuing the MIT challenge where he aims to complete an entire four year MIT degree in just one year, without attending any classes!  Scott was a big inspiration in my pursuit of The big Self-Education Project  so I decided to ask him a few questions to see how his challenge is going:

Why did you decide to pursue computer science through self-education?

It’s always been a subject that’s interested me. I loved computer programming when I was younger, so I always had lingering regrets that I’d never be able to study it in school further. That’s when I got the idea to study it on my own, using the actual curriculum for MIT.

What do you plan to do with what you learn?

I’ve been running online businesses for nearly a decade now, so programming and computer knowledge in general is never a bad asset to possess. More than that, I wanted to be competent in the technical end if I ever decide to do a start up.

What has been most difficult about your MIT challenge so far?

Surprisingly it’s gone fairly well according to plan. Obviously there are going to be challenges and limitations in doing something like this, but what’s surprised me is that it wasn’t too much more difficult than just taking the classes in a regular school. The material from MIT is very good.

Do you think anyone can pursue degree level self-education?

I think if you’re capable of doing a degree at a regular school, and you are motivated, you can definitely do a near equivalent online.

What sort of person do you think it takes to succeed with degree level self-education?

Motivation, initiative, patience, intelligence. The things it takes to succeed with any endeavor.

 How important do you think it is to have a degree in today’s world with so many free high quality resources available online?

Look degrees definitely matter in a lot of disciplines–you simply can’t get a job without one. But, that being said, I think it’s possible for many people to learn nearly exactly the same material of a formal program without going to school. So I feel the next 5-10 years are going to have increasingly more people doing similar DIY education programs.

 Do you think universities will become less important as more high quality resources appear online?

Yes and no. Universities, particularly high-end ones, will always have great advantages for networking, credentials, etc. But I think the expensive schools that aren’t as prestigious will suffer more, since the advantage they offer is comparatively weaker when someone can replicate the educational content for free.

 If you had to give one piece of advice to someone thinking about pursuing self-education what would it be? 

Have fun! Learn things that interest you. It’s not like school where you’re forced to learn things you don’t like, in a way you dislike. Pick courses that interest you and go through them.

I encourage you to head over to Scott’s blog and check out the MIT challenge.  Also, here’s a talk he did at Tedx recently – enjoy!

  • Anton

    Good post, thank you!

  • Scott said quite a few interesting things, thanks for interviewing him!

  • Lale

    David, questo e’ favoloso, grazie mille.

  • brandon williams

    that was great

  • Haseeb2

    The only problem I have with him is that he puts a lot of emphasis in the school name and the specific courses. If you want to learn computer science, why be concerned about getting an MIT education and following their curriculum? Who is to say that the MIT education in com. sci is the best? Why not focus on what you want to learn without any reference to the school name? That is what I have been doing with Neuroscience for the past couple of years and I daresay that I am more or less at the PhD level in it. Also, trying to cram formal courses into one year defeats the purpose of learning. I will wager a bet that he does not have a good command of Biology and Physics in that short amount of time. It is simply impossible unless he is an off the charts super genius. That is just like me saying I am going to get a Harvard MD in one year from looking at their curriculum.

    • yoson

      MIT has a great cs program, and a pretty thorough selection of online courses. I don’t think he was really focusing on bio and physics seeing as it was a cs track. This is nothing like a Harvard MD, that requires a lot more than a computer, any medical science does. CS is the most accessible field atm, hands down.

      Also, neuroscience isn’t just some all encompassing field. Highly interdisciplinary

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