Mozilla University

By Erik Vold

When I was young I only cared about Math, math and math, but saw no support, no interesting future, no jobs (that I cared for), nor any respect for the field. In my last year of high school I started thinking about my future, so I sought out advice and suggestions from the adults that I respected. The only piece of advice that I cared for was from my father, he simply suggested that I start with statistics because there are good jobs available for a person with those skills and if I didn’t like it I would find something else. I had taken an intro class to statistics and it was pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try.

Statistics was easy, and boring, so I tried computer science because I had been making web sites for people on the side, off and on, since I was 16, and it was interesting, especially since the best application of statistics to my mind is computer learning. I enjoyed the comp sci classes most of all, and I took 5 years to get my bachelor’s degree in statistics and computer science. It was a great experience for me.

Slightly before I graduated I started working full time as a web developer, after a couple of years I started tinkering with creating add-ons, because I was spending 8+ hours a day using Firefox and I figured I could make it suite my needs a little more, and maybe others would enjoy my hacks too, so I started making userscripts, ubiquity commands, jetpacks, and add-ons.

It’s been 5 years now since I started hacking on projects in the Mozilla community, and these last five years have been just as valuable to me as the 5 years that I spent at UBC. I consider this to be my 2nd degree.

Now when I think about how to grow the community, how to educate the masses, how to reward people for their awesome contributions, I can think of no better way than a free Mozilla University.

We have webmaker today, and I thought it was interesting at first, so I contributed to the best of ability for the first 2 years, but I see some fundamental issues with it. For instance, how do we measure the success of webmaker? how do we know that we’ve affected people? how do we know whether or not these people have decided to continue their education or not? and if they decide to continue their webmaker education then how do we help them? finally, do we respect the skills we teach if do we not provide credentials?

I, for one, would like to see Open Badges and Webmaker become Mozilla University, a free, open source, peer-to-peer, distributed, and widely respected place to learn.

I feel that one of the most important parts of my job at Mozilla is to teach, but how many of us are really doing this? Mozilla University could also be a way to measure our progress.