Stanford University is now expanding computer science courses available online, for free, for any students who wish to join. It all began a few weeks ago with an introductory course on artificial intelligence (AI) taught by the award-winning professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. Now, two new courses are available; the first, an Introduction to Databases taught by Professor Jennifer Widom; the second, Machine Learning with Professor Andrew Ng. Over 100,000 students have signed up since the courses were announced.
Prospective students need only know one programming language well enough to complete the assignments. The most important requirement is that students commit the time for the class: A few hours of homework and two rounds of lectures running two and a half hours each per week. Professors will aggregate online student questions and answer the top rated ones, and students will receive feedback on all of their work. Additionally, a study group is being run on Reddit for the AI course.
For those less keen on the rigors of a full course, Stanford also offers free lectures through their Engineering Everywhere site. Additionally, a series of 10-minute lectures on machine learning by Professor Andrew Ng have been available on YouTube for over three years.
The interesting thing about this program is not that it’s higher education via the Internet — online correspondence courses have already blazed that trail — but that this program seems to exist solely for education’s sake. Students that complete the course will receive a “statement of achievement,” but no grades and no credit. In his introductory message, Professor Thrun recalls that when he was a student it was nearly impossible to find an AI course. Since then, the computing world has grown far more complex, demanding greater understanding from more people than ever before. Perhaps Thrun and his colleagues aim to address that by letting the world into their classroom.
The program will run from October 10 to December 16, so enroll quickly!