Stanford Offers Free Artificial Intelligence Class Online

August 28, 2011
Stanford Offers Free Artificial Intelligence Class Online

Two Stanford professors have announced that they will offer a free online class on artificial intelligence, according to an article in the New York Times.

Stanford professors, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig – two of the world’s best-known artificial intelligence experts – will teach the course.

Over 112,000 and counting people have already enrolled in the class, which is nearly six times the entire Stanford student body. Students range from high school to retirees, and the course will represent students from 175 countries.

Thrun and Norvig said that they will teach this course as part of an education experiment. They are trying to use technology to extend knowledge beyond Stanford’s elite student body.

“The vision is: change the world by bringing education to places that can’t be reached today,” said Thrun.

Stanford will offer two additional free courses. The first will be an introductory course on database software, taught by Jennifer Widom, chairwoman of the computer science department, and the second will be an introduction to machine learning, taught by Andrew Ng.

Students will not get grades or credit for the course, but they will be ranked in comparison to other students in the class, and they will receive a “statement of accomplishment.”

Students do not need to pass a test to get into the class. But to keep up, they may need some higher math classes like linear algebra and probability theory.

This class is great for any high school student interested in going to Stanford. It probably won’t significantly affect your chances of being accepted, but it’s a perfect opportunity to get on Stanford's radar and show them you’re interested.

Even if you’re not interested in Stanford, participating in this class can only help your college application. Not many other students will be able to say that they took a class at Stanford.

The rapid commercialization of high-speed Internet access has created a new wave of education experiments. Many other professors have recorded their class lectures and uploaded them to YouTube for free.

The Stanford courses will be taught in a similar way. The three classes will use streaming Internet video for lectures and interactive technologies for quizzes and grading. Stanford has used this structure to teach smaller groups of students in the past.

The professors will use a Google moderator service that will allow students to vote on the best questions for professors to respond to in an online chat or streaming video. They are exploring possibilities to personalize exams to help eliminate cheating.

The Stanford professors are hoping to use the Internet and other technological advances to extend education. Ng said that he hopes to see the equivalent of a Stanford computer science degree on the Web someday.