Take a Stanford Computer Science Class for Free!

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It was some years ago that Bill Gates predicted the end of the university model as we know it. As more people gain access to the Internet and its bounty of information, so do some universities start to seem redundant – with so many high-quality lectures being posted to the Internet at a breakneck pace, is college still relevant? A Stanford research duo want to put the final nail into college’s coffin with their latest effort.

The new class, taught by well-known AI researchers Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, teaches students some of the preliminary concepts involved with artificial intelligence. At Stanford, it’s known as CS 221, and it’s one of the largest classes that the university offers – each semester, 200 or more students, from a wide variety of disclipnes, enroll in the course.

Here’s an official description of the course, from Stanford:

“CS221 is the introductory course into the field of Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University. It covers basic elements of AI, such as knowledge representation, inference, machine learning, planning and game playing, information retrieval, and computer vision and robotics. CS221 is a broad course aimed to teach students the very basics of modern AI. It is prerequisite to many other, more specialized AI classes at Stanford University.”

Lots of courses offer their content online, you might be saying.  Just head to iTunes and look at the iTunes U sections – hours upon hours of content is offered, all of it freely available. What makes this course unique, however, is the degree of authenticity and interactivity that it offers. The online version will be taught simultaneously with the actual Stanford version, and those enrolled in the online course will be required to submit quizzes, homework assignments and exams – just like the other students. 

Most importantly, however, is the fact that online students will be able to have their work checked (likely by some poor grad student) as well as ask the professors questions. This makes it more than just offering free lectures like most schools – it’s an honest-to-goodness course.

Naturally, you won’t receive any kind of college credit for taking the course beyond some sense of personal edification. It promises to be a fun look into how AI works, however, and a first look at what the university experience might be like in twenty years. Those interested in taking the class, or just looking for more information, can sign up here.

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