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Two university professors let the public take their artificial intelligence course online, for free. Then 160,000 students sihned up. Now the plan is to changer higher learning forever.
Stanford doesn’t want me. I can say that because it’s a documented fact: I was once denied admission in writing. I took my last math class back in high school. Which probably explains why this quiz on how to get a computer to calculate an ideal itinerary is making my brain hurt. I’m staring at a crude map of Romania on my MacBook. Twenty cities are connected in a network of straight black lines. My goal is to determine the best route from Arad to Bucharest. A handful of search algorithms with names like breadth-first, depth-first, uniform-cost, and A* can be used. Each employs a different strategy for scanning the map and considering various paths. I’ve never heard of these algorithms or considered how a computer determines a route. But I’ll learn, because despite the utter lack of qualifications I just mentioned, I’m enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a graduate- level course taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig.
Last fall, the university in the heart of Silicon Valley did something it had never done before: It opened up three classes, including CS221, to anyone with a web connection. Lectures and assignments—the same ones administered in the regular on-campus class—would be posted and auto-graded online each week. Midterms and finals would have strict deadlines. Stanford wouldn’t issue course credit to the non-matriculated students. But at the end of the term, students who completed a course would be awarded an official Statement of Accomplishment.
People around the world have gone crazy for this opportunity. Fully two-thirds of my 160,000 classmates live outside the US. There are students in 190 countries—from India and South Korea to New Zealand and the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than 100 volunteers have signed up to translate the lectures into 44 languages, including Bengali. In Iran, where YouTube is blocked, one student cloned the CS221 class website and—with the professors’ permission—began reposting the video files for 1,000 students.
Read full story at http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/ff_aiclass/all/1