16-year-old Moksh Jawa of Indian origin, a self-taught coder is in such a hurry to revolutionise coding in high school that he has designed a course, designed online tutorials for them and even written a 450 page prep-book on the subject. He is an embodiment of the Silicon Valley startup thinking and energy.
His learning curve is nothing short of breath-taking. As a seventh-grader, he taught himself coding by reading up on the internet. As a freshman, he passed the AP Computer Science A exam with a 5, the highest score possible studying on his own. In his sophomore year, he developed his own online coding course and tutored his classmates through it just because his Fremont high school didn't offer coding as an elective. As a junior, he distilled those lessons into a 450-page test-prep book, now sold on Amazon. Phew!
His interest in coding and computer science was sparked in middle school, when his father gave him a link to Codeacademy, an online coding boot camp. He effortlessly picked up Python, an intermediate programming language.
Along the way, Moksh Jawa managed to ignite curiosity and passion among his classmates to learn coding, too. "All of my friends, especially the girls, were really, really afraid of computer science," he said. But the subject and exam weren't things to be feared, he said. "Computer science is all about logic, not about how smart you are."
Khan Academy, the popular site for online K-12 lessons, didn't offer computer science. So instead of hunting around, Jawa set about creating his own Khan-like course, with easy-to-follow narrated lessons. He incorporated quizzes and tests. At the implementation stage he realised he needed equipment such as a microphone and recording software. He promptly pitched to tech companies.
He found a partner in Udemy, the San Francisco-based online course provider. Jawa's pitch was that his course would open up a new target audience to Udemy. While Udemy's courses were popular among college students and young adults, Jawa’s course will attract high schoolers to Udemy.
"He was looking for a microphone. We certainly gave him one," Udemy CEO Dennis Yang said. Impressed with his passion for sharing knowledge, Udemy provided Jawa $140 worth of equipment.
And the result is for everyone to see. Jawa's course, ‘Decoding AP Computer Science A’, has earned an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars from more than 100 reviewers on the Udemy site.
While 90% of Udemy’s over 40,000 courses charge a fee, ranging from $20 to $50, Jawa's 115-lecture course is free, translating into zero revenue for Udemy or himself. The course so far has seen 3,200 students signing-up across the United States and from 120 countries, including China, Ukraine and Algeria. It shows, Jawa said, the huge potential of the market for coding lessons.
"His tutorials were great," said junior Taj Shaik, club co-president, who took the entire course last year. "I'm definitely one of the early adopters of Moksh."
Not wanting to rest on his laurels. Jawa wanted to provide end-to-end support to the students in the subject that is when he realised that not all students prefer online learning, some need test-prep books. To his surprise, those were lacking too. Here too, he decided to take matters in his own hands and starting last summer, he wrote his own 450-page guide and self-published it on Amazon's CreateSpace.com.
His "Decoding AP Computer Science A: For a High Schooler, By a High Schooler" has sold more than 200 copies since going on sale in February. At $10.99, Jawa makes 15 cents on each copy. "I'm not trying to make money," he says.
Jawa has had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx about his journey of creating his course. He managed to secure an internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), researching digital learning. As California president of DECA, the association of teachers and students interested in business, he attended its national conference and competition.
He's also Washington High's No. 1 tennis player and is state-ranked, teacher Jan, who coaches the team, said.
Jawa's enthusiasm and entrepreneurship along with the rising interest levels of his batch mates helped prod the Fremont Unified School District to offer computer science at Washington next school year. 100 students signed up for 40 seats in the class.
Besides being brilliant, "he's just a nice kid," his principal, Bob Moran, said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders to deal with the gifts he's been given."