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Learn to program Interview

Interview of Mark Lassoff

Mark had a sweet tooth for programming at a very early age. In the eighties when he was eleven, he worked on his Commodore 64 to write games in the BASIC language. And so the story of an entrepreneur starts and so does this interview.

Real name: Mark

Alter ego: LearnToProgram

Location: Lyme, CT, USA

Powers/abilities: ObjC-Swift JavaScript HTML-CSS

Username: https://www.livecoding.tv/learntoprogram/

Profession: Programming Instructor and Entrepreneur

Questions:

Q: Tell us about your first ever project; the Commodore 64 writing games in the BASIC language. How much of a confidence booster was it?

A: I was 12 at the time. It was a great confidence booster.  I wrote a very rudimentary flight simulation program.  I discovered a lot of hacks— For example I moved elements around the screen using Commodore’s unique character codes for up, down, left and right.  I was able to take joystick input to simulate the plane’s yolk.  By any stretch of the imagination the program was unrecognizable as a simulation and unplayable— but I was proud of the features that it had.

I later wrote a pretty decent Space Invaders clone.

Q: Tell us about LearnToProgram. How many people initially registered for it?

A: I started LearnToProgram out of boredom. I had previously been flying worldwide to teach technical courses. I had great clients like AFLAK, Northrup Grumman and Symantec.  I was in a different city every week.  I was traveling enough to get lots of first class upgrades and I stayed in great hotels.  Life was good.

Then I got colon cancer.

For a while, even with the cancer treatment regime I continued to travel.  However, the side effects of chemotherapy are cumulative and towards the end of treatment it became impossible to travel.  I was, stuck home, bored.  I was too sick to travel, but certainly functional.

While surfing the web I found Udemy which was in it’s earliest days.  I put up a course on Javascript and that was the beginning.  Now we have our own platform at learntoprogram.tv, continue a strong partnership with Udemy, and other partners, and have built a community of over 800,000 who’ve taken a LearnToProgram course somewhere.

Q: What is the goal you have set for LearnToProgram. Where do want to see this project in future?

A: We’re a mission oriented company. Our mission is to “Teach the World to Code.”  We give away courses by the thousands to schools in developing countries.  We’ve expanded into books and now not only provide courses, but offer certified results that our students can use to prove they “know what they know.”  We’ve launched our HTML5 Specialist Designation and will be launching our full Certified Professional Web Developer Program in the coming months. 

Q: Do your students interact with you differently on Livecoding.tv than they do offline?

A: Here’s what I love about the work we’re doing on Livecoding.tv— First, we get to interact with our students in real time. We can answer questions, clear up misconceptions, or just get to know people.  That’s hard to do in our courses.  Our courses are designed to be asynchronous so people can complete them on their own schedule and at their own pace.  While that’s convenient, it does limit the interaction a bit.  On Livecoding we get to meet our students and really talk.

The other thing we’re enjoying is being able to meet members of the Livecoding.tv community who find us and see some our our lessons live.

Q: How much do you think Livecoding.tv is shaping the knowledge of young programmers in the industry?

A: I think what Livecoding.tv excels at is giving young programmers an unparalleled opportunity to look “over the shoulder” of experienced developers. I can’t think of another place where you can watch pro’s work— let alone interact with them as they do.

While you can’t learn to code just from watching, Livecoding.tv provides a unique and invaluable adjunct to formal or online courses, or self teaching.

Q: How many students on average graduate from your LearnToProgram courses in a year?

A: Because our courses are offered on many platforms and through many partners, I honestly don’t know.

Q: What are the top two courses that people register for?

A: Our top course has been Become a Certified Web Developer which has enrolled over a quarter million students alone. This course is being retired in favor of our new Certified Web Development Professional Program.

Our biggest single courses are Python for Beginners (which will be updated later this summer) and 10 Apps in 10 Weeks which teaches you to make 10 different mobile apps with HTML5 and PhoneGap.

Q: How many instructors does your project LearnToProgram currently have? How does their skills compare with instructors of other educational coding programs?

A: We have approximately 20 instructors working with us. They’re all coders with professional level experience.  Here’s the difference, however.  We choose our instructors for their ability to teach.  Being a technical expert has no bearing on your ability to explain complex technical content… I might even argue that being the strongest technical expert is an inhibitor to good teaching.

Our instructors have the empathy, understanding and patience that it takes to work with beginners— and that’s what we specialize in.

Q: What is your Favorite programming language that you like to teach?

A: It’s can be used for so much now— and beginners can see results immediately without the preamble required with Java or C++. 

Q: Tell us about your HTML5 specialist certification course which you streamed one week ago?

A: The HTML5 Specialist Designation is the starting point for many LearnToProgram students. It’s the first part of our Certified Web Development Professional Program which requires taking a course and passing an exam on HTML5, CSS, Javascript, and PHP.  The idea is to get people ready for their first professional work.

We decided to stream a free live version of the course to give people accessibility to the material and me as the instructor.

We received so much great feedback that we’re working on scheduling additional full-day courses on LiveCoding.tv now.

Q: What features of app development does this course teaches?

A: HTML5 is the scaffolding that lies under all web applications and many mobile applications. It’s a critical scripting language for developers to understand as strong HTML5 makes web content more maintainable, accessible and indexable. I’ve found that even experienced developers have some misunderstandings about HTML5. 

Q: Do you believe coding can one day replicate human cognition process?

A: I think human cognition is so complex and so layered that it’s not something that cna ever be replicated.  And thank goodness for that! 

Check out one of LearnToProgram’s recent streams: HTML5 App Development

livecoding stream

About author

About Author Dr. Michael Jurgen Garbade is the founder of LiveEdu.TV, Kyuda, Education Ecosystem. He is future Venture Capitalist, Future Politician and always on the lookout for the Next Big Challenge. Obtained Masters in business administration and physics, and a Ph.D. in finance with professional work experience in high-paced environments at Fortune 500 companies like Amazon and General Electric. Expertize: Python, PHP, Sencha Touch & C++, SEO, Finance, Strategy & E-commerce. He speaks English and German and has worked in the US, Europe, and Asia. At Education Ecosystem he is the CEO and runs business operations.
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