“This is AWESOME! This is, like, as close as it gets to ‘in person’!”

These were among the first words that I heard from Josh Lipovetsky, a 20 year-old Saylor.org student, studying from his home right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I first saw Josh when he posted a video about Saylor.org on his website Optimistic Wellness. Sean Connor, Saylor Foundation Archivist, subsequently exchanged emails with him – and, last month when I sent out an email inquiry for individuals interested in participating in our Student profiles, Josh enthusiastically volunteered to do our first-ever Saylor.org student Skype interview. Last week, Sean and I sat down and chatted with Josh via Skype video.

And, wow, is Josh enthusiastic! I literally want to bottle up Josh’s energy and enthusiasm, and instill it into my daily interactions. For any of our Saylor.org students who want to get to know someone who has a positive outlook on life and independent learning – meet Josh Lipovetsky.

Just 5 years ago, Josh was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a life-altering digestive tract disorder that caused him to be taken out of traditional schooling. While some may have let such a diagnosis get them down, Josh managed to find the positives in this potentially devastating life event.

During a rough two year period, Josh began taking high school classes online since Crohn’s forced him out of traditional brick-and-mortar schooling – a transition to which he quickly took a liking. He thought, “I’m at home. I can get the same – or better – education than I could at school!” In 2010, Josh discovered MIT OpenCourseWare – and thought that putting college educational resources online for free was an amazing concept. He soon began, as he put it “idealizing the idea to get a college education at home” or envisioning having the ability to work through a college-level education in this same capacity.

Through some online research, Josh came across Saylor.org. “I thought it was an amazing concept,” said Josh. “It blew my mind! I feel in love with [Saylor.org]. First of all, the design of Saylor… I can tell you put a lot of effort into it to make it user-friendly. The concept was different than a lot of other open education sites.”

Josh has been a Saylor.org student for about a month. He’s currently taking on Unit 3 of CS101. He’s also planning on completing the English Literature discipline, which will help him progress his new project called Lit for Brains. Lit for Brains is a site that Josh created through which he wants to make literature engaging to teenagers via dynamic video presentations.  Through his experience in high school classrooms, he found that literature, as often taught, can come across as dull and not engaging. To counter this reaction to what is a beautiful subject, Josh wants to deliver the most engaging presentations that he can, starting with Don Quixote. His ultimate goal is to make literature exciting to teenagers.  (If you’re interested in checking out Josh’s work on this project, head over to www.youtube.com/litforbrains.)

Other than focusing on Lit for Brains, Josh wants to get into the technical side of computers – for the second time. Josh explained that he began working with computers as a three year-old. He quickly exceled at fixing and building computers – and was known among his friends as the “computer guy”. (He still is!)  He also got into Photoshop, video editing, and other areas of graphic design when he was 13. However, after he got sick, he switched gears and started focusing on psychology, specifically on how people overcome and stay resilient in the face of a chronic illness. Now that his health is back under control, Josh wants to get back into the technical side of computers.

So, what’s next for Josh, in addition to his work on Saylor.org courses? First, starting in the Fall, Josh will be heading to Community College to take a number of science courses. He’s also eyeing several of the new MOOCs released by Coursera, including a Philosophy course entitled Know Thyself.

I’ll wrap up Josh’s student profile with a collection of quotes that I gleaned from our conversation.

You learn until you die. Every day.

I think that this is so essential: connecting interactions in the real world with your own personal growth and education. Sometimes I lose motivation for my own self-learning when I’m in this room for so long, behind the computer for so long. I like to be around people – people that I can help with their own educational journey. That’s a win-win situation.

Have some fun. And get some work done.