Like millions of others during the global Covid-19 lockdown, Emmanuel Kasigazi, a businessman from Uganda, turned to YouTube to pass the time. But he wasn’t following an influencer or watching music videos. A lifelong learner, Casigazi was looking for a video sharing platform for educational resources. Since 2013, when he received his first smartphone, Casigazi has been charting his own learning journey through YouTube, educating himself on subjects as diverse as psychology and artificial intelligence. Casigassi first discovered MIT OpenCourseware (OCW) while searching for an answer to an AI-related question.
“Search results showed MIT lectures, ‘Which MIT is this?’ I thought,” recalls Casigassi, who admits he was initially skeptical when opening the OCW YouTube channel. To his surprise, he found hundreds of courses — not just clips, but full lectures that he could follow along with students in MIT classrooms. He searched for more information about OCW and tested the channel in different browsers to triple check its reliability. “Here, all these courses were at one of the best – if not the best – schools of tech in the world, and they were free. For a while I couldn’t believe it. I told everyone I knew,” he recalls.
For Casigazi, the channel has become a gateway to other open education resources, including the Open Courseware website. MITx courses, both parts of MIT Open Learning. “I always had questions – I grew up on science cartoons like ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’ and ‘Pinky and the Brain.’ – So I go to YouTube to find answers to these questions, I found this whole world,” he says.
OCW launched its YouTube channel in 2008 and passed 4 million subscribers this August. Although introductory computer science, mathematics, and physics are the most visited courses on the OCW website, the most popular YouTube videos reflect a more diverse range of interests. An introduction to financial terms and concepts.
With this extensive collection, Casigassi explains, he was able to explore “the things I love” while learning the fields he plans to pursue in graduate school — cloud computing, data science, and AI. He says, “That’s what open courseware has enabled me to do: not just watch the future happen, but actually be a part of it and create it.”
Understanding humanity through the liberal arts
When Casigazi was young, a beloved aunt recognized his natural curiosity and steered him to the best schools. “I owe everything to her,” he says, “and everything I am is because of her.” Thanks to his excellent grades, he received an academic scholarship from the Ugandan government to attend Makerere University, one of the best universities in sub-Saharan Africa, where he graduated with a degree in Information Systems. Having pursued IT for its practical applications, Casigazi admits that he was initially interested in the science and theory behind the computer rather than “its coding bits”.
“I like the idea of it — how we’re trying to build these machines,” he says, adding that he’s long been drawn to the social sciences and humanities, particularly psychology and philosophy.
“I’m interested in how we function as humans, because everything we do is for, with, and around humans,” says Casigassi, who thinks psychology is fundamental to almost every field. “Whatever you teach these kids, they’re going to interact with people. So first teaching people what they think and how they act – that was my motivation to love psychology.
Casigassi turned to OCW to brush up on his coding skills by watching 6.0001 (Computer Science and Programming Using Programming) lectures with Professor Ana Bell and reviewing the instructor-paced version with Professor Eric Grimson. MITx. “I’m proud to say that MIT OCW made me fall in love with coding … it made sense like never before,” he says.
Nurturing a worldview
In 2014, Kasigazi moved to South Sudan, which had recently emerged from a civil war as an independent nation. Outside of university, he was there to teach computer skills and graphic design — some of his students included members of the new country’s government — but his time in South Sudan quickly became a learning experience for him. “When you grow up in your community, you have this bubble. We all experience it – it’s a human thing,” he reflects. “For the first time I realized that everything I know is not given. Everything I’ve grown up knowing is not universal.
With his worldview newly broadened, he began to develop his interest in psychology, philosophy, and science by watching crash courses, explanatory videos, and other content on the subject. “It’s a pastime for me, and it’s a passion at the same time,” he says. Today Kasigazi runs his own company, which he started with friends in 2012 and restarted seven years ago when he returned to Uganda.
Since arriving on the OCW YouTube channel, Casigassi has worked through every MIT psychology course available for free. Professor John Gabrieli’s 9.00SC (Introduction to Psychology) particularly resonated with him, even prompting him to approach Gabrieli. “As much as I’ve learned a little about psychology online over the years, it hasn’t been as deep, interesting, or engaging as your classes,” he wrote. “Your teaching style, explanations, topics, how you get people to understand a topic, referenced and referenced experiments, how you approach questions and then think deeply about them.”
“The message from Emmanuel touches deeply on the joy of learning,” says Gabrieli. “I am so grateful to OCW for opening this course on psychology to the world and to Emmanuel for happily sharing what this course means to him.”
New courses are regularly added to the OCW website and YouTube channel. Currently enjoying Professor Nancy Kanwisher’s 9.13 (Introduction to the Human Brain), Casigazi is looking forward to discovering what new worlds of knowledge will open up.