(Photo courtesy of Jay Greene Architectural Photography)
After spending two decades in software development, Jeff Cohen decided it was time to shake things up.
In 2008, Cohen, 45, decided he liked the education side of technology and started a side business doing corporate training in computer programing.
Along the way, Cohen, a Chicago-area native, took up lecturing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Department of Computer Science.
"It's motivating and empowering to people, and meaningful to them."
In 2011, he helped The Starter League, previously known as Code Academy, get off the ground. The organization provided 12-week (now nine-month) classes on coding — the skill that makes it possible to create apps, websites and computer software.
Cohen said he loved teaching coding, but wanted to take things one step further. He wanted to find and reach people who had never been involved with coding before.
“I wanted to be the very first step for non-coding people and I wanted to reach a different kind of market,” Cohen said. “It’s my specialty to work with absolute beginners. If you don’t even know what coding is, it’s really hard for most of us to start and really intimidating. I’m providing a gateway.”
This summer, Cohen started Go Learn To Code — a series of three-week online coding courses offered throughout the year — with the help of his colleague Brian Eng. Each session costs $900 to enroll. Courses are meant for absolute beginners, Cohen added.
When Mona Parikh, managing director of Start It Up Delaware, heard that Cohen had created a series of online courses accessible to everyone, she contacted him right away to see if they could partner up.
"It's something I really want to see the people in our community learn and hear more about, so they can take advantage of it."
Parikh had graduated from one of Cohen’s Chicago Starter League courses in 2011. When she returned to Delaware that summer, she was approached by Start it Up Delaware with the opportunity to oversee the organization, which fosters the startup community in Delaware through partnerships with entrepreneurs, private industry and state government.
Those interested in taking the inaugural online coding program this fall — which runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 16 — can register, until Sept. 30, through a special Start It Up Delaware link.
Students who sign up through SIUD will have free access to The Loft in Wilmington during the duration of the course, Parikh said. A portion of the $900 fee will also be given back to SIUD, Cohen said.
“It’s something I really want to see the people in our community learn and hear more about, so they can take advantage of it,” Parikh said. “[Cohen’s] just phenomenal — very methodical and very thorough. He’s everything you’d want from someone who is teaching you a new language.”
During the three-week course, students will log in and Cohen will host 90-minute lessons twice a week. Outside of that time, students can use an online chat to contact Cohen or a teaching assistant to answer questions. The goal, Cohen said, is for students to walk away with a web page they’ve created themselves.
“It’s motivating and empowering to people, and meaningful to them,” Cohen said. “Staff will guide them and it’s not too ambitious, just a static webpage. It will give them a great head start into all different sorts of paths they can take.”
Cohen’s vision is to reach small businesses, entrepreneurs, and stay-at-home parents. He said he thinks a successful online classroom is key to turning more everyday people into people who can code.
“The small business community tends to spend a couple thousand to have their website done. And when they need changes, they pay for more. They’d benefit from learning how to do it on their own,” Cohen said. “My feeling is if a chef could build their own meaningful app to find a solution to an everyday problem, everything would start to change.”-30-
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