Charles Russel Severance, or Dr Chuck as he is known among computer science educators, believes in taking computer education to the masses. “Any one can learn Python and even be a cab driver, so why not?” he said.

He brings about the element of ‘empathy’ to computer education. “One needs empathy. It is all about welcoming. It is all about like a big hug that says we love you. We want you to be a programmer. And do it,” he said. 

His Python for Everybody course on the edtech company Coursera was taken by three million people across the world, and his Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) one million people in India alone reflects his approach to computer education.

On a visit to India after a six-year gap, Chuck told businessline that Python could help students and professionals of every stream – from biology to journalism. A Clinical Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, he teaches various technology-oriented courses, including programming, database design, and web development.

“There was a demand for learning how to write software and learning how to program that there was no way that you know traditional universities could just do. Programming is not computer science. There are so many jobs in this world where you don’t need a computer science degree, but you need to know how to programme. And the Python programming language is a real easy language to learn,” he said. 

“Every week 1,400 students from India enroll for the Python for Everybody course on Coursera,” he said.

He authored several books, including ‘Using Google App Engine’ and ‘Python for Everybody’ which drew over 1 million enrollments from learners in India, accounting for 35 per cent of its total enrollments. He offers 26 different courses on Coursera.

He is among the early educators on Coursera that was started to deliver a wide variety of courses to people via online.

“When I started teaching Python. We just thought Python was a good, easy language for people to learn. My real goal was not necessarily to create programmers, but to create people who are not afraid of learning programming,” he said.

“What is unique about my course is that it is not a computer science course. I created this course that was really easy and straightforward and didn’t require calculus. People could like find programming,” he said.

Asked what his next course would be, Chuck said he was currently working on a Hardware for Everybody course. This course helps people to understand the nuances of hardware, including taxi drivers. It helps them understand how computers work.