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Pursuing New Interests and a Master’s Degree: Meet Bertram

What program did you take on edX, and what were your goals in taking it?

I started taking TU Delft’s first Solar Energy MOOC, back in 2013. Following that, in 2017 I enrolled in the Solar Energy Engineering MicroMasters® program from the same university. My university didn’t have a particular focus on solar, and I was eager to learn about it elsewhere, which is how I found edX.

How has the program helped you?

The program is great to get a grasp of the overall science of solar energy, with a healthy balance between making it accessible to learners without a physics background, like myself, while at the same time being challenging even for industry veterans. The way I see it, TU Delft’s Solar Energy Engineering MicroMasters program provides context to the current industry trends, and at the same time gives you the tools you need to know where the industry will be in the next decade.

What did you like most about learning online?

I absolutely loved the flexibility and the accessibility. When I was doing the MicroMasters program, I was working at a solar energy company, so I usually logged in to the courses straight after work. Having that flexibility is key to provide education for people that don’t have enough time to enroll in a full-time program. The fact that you’re able to learn from anywhere in the world is also an incredible benefit. I had classmates from Yemen who were there to learn how to do a PV installation for their community that hasn’t had reliable electricity in years, and another one in Brazil who was developing solar modules to install on boats sailing through the Amazon. The multicultural aspect to it was just priceless.

Did your coursework result in any direct outcomes (career or personal)?

Absolutely. Having the original Solar Energy MOOC under my belt was a real standout in my first job interview, and I’m positive it helped me get the position. As for the MicroMasters program, my main motivation was to use it as a platform to eventually apply for a master’s program at TU Delft, and when I found out that I could get credits for the MicroMasters program, I didn’t think twice about it and went for the full, verified track. At the time, the cost was considerable, but the investment was definitely worth it, both academically and professionally.

What advice would you give new edX students?

Good enough never is. Which is, I believe, the mindset that drives learners to continually improve ourselves, specially on edX. At the same time, do your best to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to what you want to learn and, more importantly, why you want to learn. Is it to learn a new set of skills that might help you get a promotion? Or maybe to solve a specific problem within your community? Take your pick whether it’s climate change, economic inequality, refugee crises, pandemics, the list goes on. Set yourself a why for your learning experience and always remember that you’re learning because of that.

There’s a Japanese concept that I’ve fallen in love with, it’s called ikigai, which roughly translates to “a reason for being”. In simpler terms, think of a four-circle Venn diagram, where “what you love”, “what the world needs”, “what you can be paid for”, and “what you are good at” intersect, and that’s your ikigai. For me that’s certainly solar energy, and that’s what keeps me moving forward.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience with edX and how it has helped to advance your studies?

My case in particular was somewhat different from most learners, in the sense that my goal from the beginning was to use edX as a platform to apply for a master’s at TU Delft. I was fortunate enough to get admitted and receive a scholarship, which is no understatement to say that it’s a dream come true. Even more so, a few months ago I got hired by the university to manage the solar energy MOOCs that brought me here in the first place, which I’d say is very poetic. I have to thank edX for that.