Stanford and Sebastian Thrun offering more free online classes

Posted by Erica on Feb 6, 2012 in Making |

I posted previously about the free AI class taught last fall by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. It was a marvelous experience. I learned quite a bit, and completed all the homework and tests, with a perfect score on the final exam (which was not terribly hard). Well worth the time investment. The video format was far more enjoyable than I expected and in many ways was an improvement over a live lecture. It felt intimate and the ability to rewind is invaluable!

So I was delighted to see that new courses are being offered for the spring semester. An excellent summary of them can be found here. (Be sure to scroll all the way down, as there are some important updates at the bottom.) The list includes computer science, entrepreneurship, robotics, and many other topics that all look incredibly interesting. As mentioned in my previous post there are also archived courses available through Stanford Engineering Everywhere, though there would not be any grading for those.

An interesting note here is that Sebastian Thrun is offering his courses through his new online education venture, Udacity, rather than Stanford. Apparently he has chosen his Google position over his professorship at Stanford, and given up his tenure. It appears to have been an amicable split. The AI class attracted over 100,000 students. Thrun discovered that even the Stanford attendees preferred to watch online, rather than live; his lectures dwindled from 200 to 50 over the course of the semester. I don’t blame them. As with the Stanford classes, Udacity’s courses are free, but without any sort of accreditation. Starting February 20 they will begin “Building a Search Engine” (for programming novices) and “Programming a Robotic Car” (programming experience required).

I would very much like to take the robotic car course, and Stanford’s Machine Learning. However, I recently committed to a robotics competition in April, developments are happening at work, and in short this is not the perfect time. But good news: the Udacity courses will be offered again, starting April 16. Now that is flexibility! Thrilling. Udacity has 8 more courses listed as “coming soon” and I fervently hope they do. Democratization of scientific education is something I feel passionate about.

The Stanford courses are tied to their academic schedule and only offered “live” once or twice a year, so if you are interested in those I recommend checking them out now — they start soon.

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