Taking Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence course

Posted by Erica on Oct 10, 2011 in Making |

This week marks the beginning of Stanford’s introductory course in Artificial Intelligence, taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. This is the same course being given live at Stanford’s campus as CS221. Enrollment is free, and includes video lectures, quizzes, and (optionally) homework and exams. I have signed up for the full boat, they say it will take 10 hours a week. No course credit for those outside of Stanford, but we will be ranked against the 145,000 other people signed up for the class, and will get a letter of accomplishment.

I just watched the first unit. I was afraid the videos would be dry, but they were fairly pleasant to watch. It is not quite the same as having a live person there; but there are the advantages of attending on your own schedule, and being able to rewind. Breaking the lecture up into chunks is nice as well. The quizzes in the middle of various sections keep things lively, they don’t contribute to your “grade” but are a nice way to keep you on your toes. I am looking forward to the next unit. There will be a new one each week, for a total of 10 weeks.

There is also a weekly study group meeting at HacDC. That will be an opportunity to meet with fellow humans in person.

Although the AI course has received unprecedented publicity, I’ve discovered that Stanford offers many other courses for free. They have the Stanford Engineering Everywhere initiative, which in their words includes:

  • Anytime and anywhere access to complete lecture videos via streaming or downloaded media.
  • Full course materials including syllabi, handouts, homework, and exams.
  • Online social networking with fellow SEE students.
  • Support for PCs, Macs and mobile computing devices.

I saw 13 courses on there, which include: “the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford’s undergraduates and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering.” Many of these look very good.

It is very encouraging to see all of this wonderful information being made freely available. A few years ago I looked for robotics courses and could find nothing. And now, world class material is here for everyone. It makes me very hopeful for the world. Many scientific research papers, too, are being made publicly available now and not being walled off behind private journals — indeed, government grants pay for much of that research, shouldn’t a citizen be able to see it? I have missed my university membership for a long time, but I think it will become somewhat less relevant in the future.

Back to Stanford: the SEE courses are mostly archived, but in addition to the AI class there are a few others that are live this fall. They include Machine Learning and Introduction to Databases.

For more information and to sign up for AI, see http://www.ai-class.org.

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