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More Stanford Computing Courses Go Free

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the get-your-learning-on dept.

Education 124

mikejuk writes "Following on the recent Slashdot item on the availability of a free Stanford AI course there is news that two other Stanford Computer Science courses are also joining in this 'bold experiment in distributed education' in which students not only have access to lecture videos and other course materials but will actively participate by submitting assignments and getting regular feedback on their progress. The subjects are Machine Learning with Andrew Ng and Database with Jennifer Widom. This open approach looks as if it might be a success with well over 100,000 prospective students signing up to the AI course alone."

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Textbook Sales... (0, Flamebait)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162828)

I bet the textbook authors are happy.

Re:Textbook Sales... (2)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162880)

Is that sarcasm? I can't tell. Textbooks are not really required, and many of the course notes are available online.

Re:Textbook Sales... (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163124)

That is sarcasm. As a seasoned victim of textbook companies, I can promise you that textbook companies view anything like this as the development of open-source competition. Even courses that they don't sell books for are a problem, since every course adds momentum to the open courseware movement.

Re:Textbook Sales... (0)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165060)

I've never paid for textbooks....thankfully that's what libraries and torrents are for. At least as a student.

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163252)

For the AI course, the textbook sounded pretty essential. I think I might already have had the book from my own time at Uni, but I didn't check.

Re:Textbook Sales... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162886)

There is no book for the machine learning class, all of the needed material will be distributed in the lecture notes.

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

berrance (1843792) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162942)

Nah, just download a dodgy etextbook

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163038)

The person giving the course *wrote* the textbook.

Re:Textbook Sales... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163136)

OMG you are so misunderstood.

  I feel you man, I'd mod you up but no points..

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163344)

For the AI class at least, "Peter Norvig is co-author of this text and is donating all royalties earned from his text to charity"

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163450)

IN advanced CS textbooks are useless. If you are taking Grad level courses in AI and CS only a fool learns from a textbook, you learn from the guys that are CREATING the technology and use textbooks as a reference.

Unless you are attending a school where the CS profs are not the guys doing real work but just there for their tenure.... In that case go to a school where you can learn from the people that are paving the way.

For example: if you are studying WEarable Computing. go to UofToronto and learn from Prof Steve Mann or to the University of Atlanta and learn from Thad Starner. The guys that invented the tech and are the ones that are making the advances.

Just change countries eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164196)

textbooks are useless...use textbooks as a reference.

So which is it?

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

bgat (123664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164564)

You go to U of Toronto or Atlanta, and let me know what luck you have getting an audience with Mr.'s Mann or Starner. Classroom, or otherwise. The good news is, when that fails you can still find good teachers elsewhere if you know where to look.

Though I'd be genuinely curious to assess Mr. Mann's and Starner's abilities to actually teach. Just because you can do the research doesn't mean you can teach the knowledge gained to someone else. And after reading some of Mr. Mann's books, he doesn't strike me as much of a teacher at all. Even after I get past the question of whether strapping off-the-shelf hardware to one's body really "paves the way" to anything as you suggest.

Re:Textbook Sales... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37165458)

You go to U of Toronto or Atlanta, and let me know what luck you have getting an audience with Mr.'s Mann or Starner. Classroom, or otherwise. The good news is, when that fails you can still find good teachers elsewhere if you know where to look.

Though I'd be genuinely curious to assess Mr. Mann's and Starner's abilities to actually teach. Just because you can do the research doesn't mean you can teach the knowledge gained to someone else. And after reading some of Mr. Mann's books, he doesn't strike me as much of a teacher at all. Even after I get past the question of whether strapping off-the-shelf hardware to one's body really "paves the way" to anything as you suggest.

Professors are usually researchers, not "teachers". You're a Grown Up now, and you wear Big Boy Pants. The job of the professor is to deliver information, not to help you learn- you are expected to figure out how to learn on your own, and how to access other resources such as teacher's assistants, study groups, etc.

This isn't High School anymore, stop expecting people to hold your hand because they certainly aren't going to do it in the job market either.

Re:Textbook Sales... (1)

Needlzor (1197267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165008)

Textbooks are the base on which you build before you go on checking the current research on a topic - they are not only useful but also quite often essential, both as a reference and as an introductory text. What you just said doesn't make any sense: what if the team which happens to leads in my field is tens of thousands of km away ? What if I study multiple subject dominated by, say, one institute in Belgium and the other in the US ? What if, say, I want to study general architectural theories for common sense reasoning systems, do you think I can go bother Pr. Minsky ? Maybe I should even go see Don Knuth for my advanced algorithmics class. And as another commenter pointed out, you can be a great researcher and a sucky teacher. Or even a so great researcher that you don't necessarily have time to teach. Or... you could just find a good textbook. A textbook written by people who happen to be knowledgeable about the subject and not suck at explaining things (I'm not saying all textbooks are like that - a lot of them are terrible - but there are some pearls that are usually not hard to find to get into a subject quickly).

Re:Textbook Sales...There is no textbook (4, Informative)

agilpwc (2368450) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164186)

2. What textbook should I buy? There is no need to buy anything. We will provide detailed lecture notes of all the technical content, which will be yours to keep and use as a reference after the end of class. From the Machine Learning info page.

computing courses want to be free! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162834)

As do turds :)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john a big beautiful all-american football hero type, about twenty-five, came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and married -- and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with him.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy young ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured.

The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist.

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little clump of shit, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating ass and not an end in itself. Of course I'd had jerk-off fantasies of devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't), but I had never done it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of the world's handsomest young stud.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract? I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled. I've found since then that shit nearly almost does.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit.

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my hankerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom. I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful shiteater.

Re:computing courses want to be free! (0)

berrance (1843792) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162890)

If I where you I would keep running from those guys in white coates with butterfly nets

Re:computing courses want to be free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162974)

If I where you I would keep running from those guys in white coates with butterfly nets

If I were you, I'd learn proper English.

Re:computing courses want to be free! (0)

berrance (1843792) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162996)

Hey I'm in England I dont need to learn proper English. ;)

Re:computing courses want to be free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164922)

or dental hygiene.

Re:computing courses want to be free! (-1, Offtopic)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163542)

Might I suggest you follow up your fecal feast with Orbit Gum [youtube.com] , its the cure for potty mouth!

Distance Learning? (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162882)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

Re:Distance Learning? (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162914)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

However, its good practice for post-graduation education, where you're lucky if you've got google and possibly an oreilly book.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163514)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

Unfortunately, that's not always an option anymore. A local college is teaching foreign languages almost entirely over the Internet, and I think it's outsourced so that literally thousands of students in multiple states are sharing a so-called instructor.

I'm not very sociable myself, but there something very wrong about this.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164062)

Or you could ask someone for help?

It's not a sign of weakness, you know.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164662)

Heh. Spot the undergraduate.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162984)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

Yes there is. You can look it up on the Internet. Sure it takes a little effort, but it is a lot more convenient than trying to talk to your professor or TA during office hours. From my experience, office hours were always scheduled in a way that conflicted with my other classes.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165174)

What about asking a question during the lecture?

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162990)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

True, I wish they weren't using robot teachers for this.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

EliotVU (1957146) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163014)

Who's gonna ask a teacher a question when there's Online education and Google? :P

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163098)

They're going to use Google Moderator to handle at least some of the questions.

Re:Distance Learning? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163128)

There's no substitute for being able to Google and learn on your own rather than need to have someone babysit you through acquiring knowledge. Which is what you'll need to do once you get out of kindergarten and start working.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163158)

There's no substitute for being able to Google and learn on your own rather than need to have someone babysit you through acquiring knowledge. Which is what you'll need to do once you get out of kindergarten and start working.

Of course you're right. And good colleges used to be devoted to making people do this.

On the other hand, for at least the near future, companies still will often prefer a fresh candidate with a resume that says, "B.S. Stanford" or "S.B. MIT" or "A.B. Harvard" over one that says, "Spent many hours learning on my own through Google."

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163264)

Google needs to start offering credits for hours spent googling, and offer a google degree. :D

The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163134)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

This is a variation on what is happening in universities across the world. Many professors are recording their lectures. Rather than give the standard lecture during class time they make the recordings available to students. Students are told to watch the lectures on their own time and then class time is used for discussions, Q&A, etc. Personally I thought classes organized like this have been a good idea. Using class time for a professor to perform the same old lecture is a poor use of time. Face-to-face time should be for interaction, not one way communication.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163230)

Students are told to watch the lectures on their own time and then class time is used for discussions, Q&A, etc. Personally I thought classes organized like this have been a good idea. Using class time for a professor to perform the same old lecture is a poor use of time. Face-to-face time should be for interaction, not one way communication.

You know, good teachers have known for years that "lecturing" without interaction is pretty stupid. Yeah, when colleges have lecture classes with a thousand students in them, that's pretty stupid, too.

The best approach is generally a hybrid -- lecturer presents material, and as he/she goes, he/she asks questions, poses problems, and gets students to participate in coming up with the material as it is presented.

Most lecturers are poor teachers or lazy teachers (they generally don't get salary raises, promotions, or professional respect for good teaching -- only for research), and many are open to other pedagogical practices are too self-conscious or disorganized or rhetorically challenged to be able to think on their feet while giving a coherent presentation. And, quite frankly, many lecturers don't even know much more about the material they are presenting than what they have in their pre-written lecture -- even intro courses can often involve material they probably haven't bothered with since grad school. Opening class to discussion puts them under the gun. Why should they do that unnecessarily?

The real problem with university teaching is that good teaching is not really rewarded. Except at a few dedicated liberal arts schools, it isn't appreciated or significantly considered as part of a professor's job (even if it is the nominal reason for the job). Why should a professor bother to improve the classroom if there is no reward and no one cares?

Start emphasizing good teaching, and I bet you'll see an improvement not only in classroom dynamics, but in student learning.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163312)

The thing is though, most professors really don't care about teaching, they care about research, and it makes sense. For example, if you have a passion for improving algorithms and really love researching them and have made great strides in the field and graduated near the top of your class for undergraduate work and got a PHd with no problem, you are going to get hired for a teaching job. Now, I don't know about you, but if I was that newly hired teacher I really wouldn't care all that much about the introductory programming class they put you with, teaching System.out.print to business majors who, aside from that one class, won't write a line of code in their lives.

Universities need to start hiring teachers based on their teaching abilities, a good teacher isn't always the best in their field and someone who is the best in their field isn't always the best teacher, especially since most of the time they don't even get to teach the class they have a passion for.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163434)

I'm not sure we really disagree.

The thing is though, most professors really don't care about teaching, they care about research, and it makes sense.

In my post I admitted that colleges do not reward good teaching that much, nor do professional organizations. Obviously, if you offer jobs where people know that they are primarily interested in your ability to research, and those doing the hiring know that that's what kind of candidates they are looking for, who will get hired? Professors who don't care about teaching. Liberal arts schools that care about teaching more than research hire candidates who can teach, and they usually have better teaching. QED.

For example, if you have a passion for improving algorithms and really love researching them and have made great strides in the field and graduated near the top of your class for undergraduate work and got a PHd with no problem, you are going to get hired for a teaching job. Now, I don't know about you, but if I was that newly hired teacher I really wouldn't care all that much about the introductory programming class they put you with, teaching System.out.print to business majors who, aside from that one class, won't write a line of code in their lives.

The problem is equating "researcher" with "teacher." Sometimes that set of people overlaps; often it doesn't. Your example seems to make the assumption that people who have the drive to do well in a Ph.D. would have no interest in teaching.

I'm actually sorry to hear that sentiment. Believe it or not, there are lots of very smart people who believe that teaching is the most important thing that an intellectual person can do -- sort of like many parents believe that having a baby it their most important contribution to society. And, as someone who has taught introductory courses at the college level, I can say that I have inevitably found portions of them tedious, but they are also incredibly rewarding and intellectually stimulating if you approach them as more than some crap assignment you're forced to do. Only in academia are you hired to do a job that it's okay to tell your boss and all your colleagues that you hate doing and have almost no interest in.

In many other countries, there are lots of "research professors" who are rarely or never expected to teach. They are hired to raise the prestige of a university's research. At many colleges, there are special "lecturer" positions (generally considered inferior to "professorships") that are devoted to teaching, and may colleges offer "senior lecturerships" or other similar positions that carry a bit of job security for good teachers.

There is no reason why we can't have more such division and allow overlap when we have a person with the appropriate skill set.

Universities need to start hiring teachers based on their teaching abilities, a good teacher isn't always the best in their field and someone who is the best in their field isn't always the best teacher, especially since most of the time they don't even get to teach the class they have a passion for.

While I agree with the underlying sentiment, I object to your implicit assumption here that "the best in the field" is necessarily the person who does the best academic research. In most technical fields, there are usually lots of very bright people who will never get a Nobel Prize because they prefer to work for a private corporation where they get paid that amount of prize money every couple years and don't have to bother with teaching. Universities in many technical fields usually are not able to attract "the best of the field" except as visiting lecturers, not professors.

Universities try to hire the person who will bring the most fame and glory to the school, in terms of public professional achievements. While there is generally a correlation to quality of work, it isn't always the case. Except for the very top tier, the people with the most achievements are those with the best skills at writing grant proposals, the best connections, the most participation in the scholarly community, and those who are willing to do research that is related to current academic fads, etc. Not necessarily the best all-round researchers or the smartest people in a field.

But, I do agree with your basic idea -- the best "academic researcher" and the best teacher are not generally the same person. But I think researchers also might be more interested in teaching if it was actually valued -- or, at least academia would only stay attractive to those researchers who had some interest in teaching (which, in my view, should be the case -- if you don't want to teach, go work in private industry).

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164436)

Not if you got to a good school. I remember during my undergraduate days, most of the faculty was clearly and obviously engaged in the process of teaching. Every once in a while you'd end up with somebody that shouldn't be teaching, but for the most part it was clear that they wanted to be there.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163258)

Oh, and by the way, the idea of students learning the "dry material" outside of class and then coming to class for interaction is not at all new.

In the past, it was called "doing the reading."

Lectures != Readings (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163472)

Oh, and by the way, the idea of students learning the "dry material" outside of class and then coming to class for interaction is not at all new.

In the past, it was called "doing the reading."

I disagree, the lectures and readings are two different things. Very different for the good professors, not so much for the not-so-good. Textbooks do not always line up very well with what a professor may believe needs emphasis. In classes where we had recorded lectures we actually spent more time on the class. These recorded lectures were "additional" content, they did not replace normal readings nor classroom time.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163862)

I would never say that lectures are equivalent to readings. My analogy was that recorded lectures are fixed elements that students can view outside of class, just as readings are fixed elements. Neither is very interactive. Good teachers in the past relied on students to do the non-interactive stuff before class so they could have good interaction in class. It's the same whether that non-interactive material is in written, audio, video, or some other form.

Now, whether such extra lectures are an effective pedagogical tool and an efficient use of students' time compared to readings -- that's a separate issue.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164230)

Thanks for clarifying. IMHO having the lecture occur outside of class time and having more time for interaction seems to work. At my university interactions included everyone being called on to demonstrate basic understanding, then a followup question providing an opportunity to apply the knowledge. Debates among students were also encouraged. In grad school where I had many classes with the same people I definitely observed better preparation and outcomes compared to more traditional classes. I'm sure its not a panacea, a bad professor can probably screw up either format, however I do think that the good professors can get students further into a topic.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164832)

IMHO having the lecture occur outside of class time and having more time for interaction seems to work.

I understand what you're saying, and it can make sense in some circumstances.

The thing is, I find lecturing to be a rather time-inefficient way to present material, whether it is in class itself or prerecorded. Lectures that are too dense aren't effective, and even if you're viewing one that's recorded, it's tough to navigate. On the other hand, if you are an effective public speaker, you realize that the amount of material you can present effectively is very small indeed.

When I have a class meeting that is heavy on new material, my "lecture notes" for a 90-minute class usually could be read in about 5 minutes. (I often give a copy to students.) Granted, I encourage and allow a lot of discussion, but that's for a class with more "lecturing" than I usually do. Oral presentation is not really suited to conveying large amounts of information quickly, especially when technical. It's about giving the gist of something. (Of course, I'm not talking about the obvious value of lecture demonstrations or other things that can only be presented in a video format.)

I understand that some students may find it easier to learn from such things, but my experience (and that of many of my colleagues who have experimented with such things) is that it's really inefficient in terms of how much students learn for a given amount of time spent on an assignment. In the real world, people in most fields who have to learn new things inevitably resort to written resources, whether through web searches or in trusted books. Videos are just not fast enough and usually difficult to skim.

If I want to highlight things about the reading to students before class, I find a few targeted questions for them to think about or look for while doing the reading is effective. If there is stuff not in the textbook, I supplement it with other readings or my own materials.

I'm not averse to the idea of lectures as supplementary materials, but requiring students to watch them outside of class seems terribly inefficient (and a few colleagues who have tried it seem to agree). I'm not saying the students don't like it, but they spend more time doing it while learning less than they would have if they focused all that time on reading.

Honestly, this is just my opinion, but as someone who taught high school briefly before going to grad school (and who understands the way college forces you to teach differently), one of the things college is supposed to do is to teach you to learn for yourself. That's why you learn the same amount of material with a couple hours of meetings per week in a semester as you would in a year of daily meetings in high school. Less hand-holding. More private study, more digesting material for yourself and then coming to ask questions about it.

Pre-recorded lectures, even if done well, strike me as time-inefficient "pre-digested" material. I see no reason to present material as a lecture unless there is personal interaction, since when I lecture, the presentation of the material is always dependent on the responses I get from the class. Entirely new and intriguing ways of presenting material can happen in the moment and help to stimulate learning, if you just pay attention to questions, incorporate students' ideas into the solution of problems, highlight student questions and concerns that can lead you to other planned topics, etc. Lecturing, when done well, must be a dynamic process, not read from a script. If it is from a script, better to read it from the script in a quarter of the time.

Good teachers know that lectures are performances. Pre-recorded lectures are like pre-recorded comedy routines. Fine for a few stars who are fabulous and everybody would watch anyway, but the average comedians in a nightclub need to be more responsive to their audience to be effective.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164864)

Just to be clear, since I realized this was an assumption on my part which I didn't actually address directly -- I'm not a fan of lecturing at all, in class or otherwise. Face-to-face meetings should be interactive, and I absolutely agree with you on that point.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165434)

Thinking back to my study years - one thing stands out to me: the lecturers who loved teaching were good teachers, the others usually not. The good teachers who loved their subject saw even undergraduate classes as... well recruiting platforms. By sharing that passion they got the next generation of people who would be working in their labs and keeping their field going after they left.
Having done both arts and technical studies though - I must agree with the sentiment that arts courses tend to have the best teachers. My best teacher was for a theoretical drama and film studies course. The lecturer was a highly rated actor/director and he brought those skills into his classroom. Reading consisted of the scripts for the piece we were studying, and classes was all discussion of those scripts.
Learning why Shakespeare wrote anachronistically and how this tied into the historical perspective of when he wrote was actually fun. When he wanted to convey something of the feel of a particular monologue... he'd jump into character and act out the part to gales of laughter, and resulting in a lesson you never forgot.
And he actively engaged with his students all the time, he encouraged differing viewpoints and rewarded those that were well backed up. The thing is, he had a knack for finding good humor in anything really important, and would explain it with a joke - and to this day I can quote all those core points, because jokes are easy to remember and makes it easy to understand. That was a great teacher.

Number 2 spot must go to my philosophy lecturer, that was a much more technical course since I specifically did the philosophy specialization in logic and critical thinking - which is almost mathematical in it's structure (well in a real sense, a large part of that course is about what lies beneath mathematics) - and there the lecturer was by no means funny - on the contrary he was very serious, but he was passionate about his class - and he made a highly abstract course incredibly topical. The course included a discussion on science, non-science and pseudo-science and he made a point of encouraging debate on this (for example: was acupuncture science or pseudo-science ? His believe: it began as pseudo-science and is still largely practiced that way but it did subject itself to the scientific method later and those practitioners who did so, and accepted the scientific explanations for why it (sometimes) worked (as opposed to the mystical explanations it started from) have a better product: because they only sell what works and it works all the time). That was a delightful class (and it was fun to watch the liberal arts students who took philosophy to fill out a grade requirement squirm when he shot astrology down :P )

Either way - those were both in different ways great lecturers. My CS lecturers on the other hand were generally dry and boring. They didn't seem to be passionate about their fields nor to be engaged with their students. They wrote their textbooks but being researchers they saw lecturing as a boring job they may as well try to cash in on. I learned as much from self-study and books as I ever learned in their classes - and I think the main reason is simply that they were not engaged with their students.
That's not to say that no lecturers are engaged with their students in these fields, merely that the ones I had were not but I do believe there is something of a trend there.
The courses that focus on highly technical things attract highly technical people and those are often not great teachers, the human sciences attract people drawn to humanity, it's arts and it's thought - and they make great teachers because their students are a subset of that which interests them.

Re:Lectures != Readings (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164446)

You're supposed to do the readings before class, and that's typically how instructors assign them so that you've got a basis for listening during the lecture.

I'm using the term lecture somewhat loosely as you're really not supposed to be talking for more than about 10 minutes tops without some form of student engagement. Lecturing longer than that tends to be counterproductive and make it hard to follow. Also it probably means that you haven't divided the material up into reasonable size bites.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163444)

Rather than give the standard lecture during class time they make the recordings available to students. Students are told to watch the lectures on their own time and then class time is used for discussions

I am curious about this approach, but I have strong reservations that it looks like a nice idea in pure form, and with sincere good will on all sides could work, but may also just fail as it smacks into hard reality. Only some small percentage of students have the self-discipline to actually review the material carefully, rigorously. Unless there are frequent and regular exams/tests to enforce a learning schedule (which is a lot of work for the instructor and those grading, and moots the "on their own time" property) I suspect many will just do nothing most of the term and attempt to crib it all before the exam. It reminds me of efforts to relax assignment/coursework deadlines, and just let students hand material in whenever they want---it just doesn't work: most try to do everything at the end, fail miserably, and either end up doing badly in the course or begging for extensions.

One can say too bad, but being a student is part learning and part learning to learn. Those who have the latter skill already may do well in a watch-the-lectures-on-your-own-time situation, but most require some amount of discipline imposed from above, relaxed more and more over time, but still introduced gradually. This is especially true for introductory classes full of freshman, most of which are coming from a high-school context, where they have not had to develop good study skills.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163574)

Rather than give the standard lecture during class time they make the recordings available to students. Students are told to watch the lectures on their own time and then class time is used for discussions

I am curious about this approach, but I have strong reservations that it looks like a nice idea in pure form, and with sincere good will on all sides could work, but may also just fail as it smacks into hard reality. Only some small percentage of students have the self-discipline to actually review the material carefully, rigorously. Unless there are frequent and regular exams/tests to enforce a learning schedule (which is a lot of work for the instructor and those grading, and moots the "on their own time" property) I suspect many will just do nothing most of the term and attempt to crib it all before the exam. It reminds me of efforts to relax assignment/coursework deadlines, and just let students hand material in whenever they want---it just doesn't work: most try to do everything at the end, fail miserably, and either end up doing badly in the course or begging for extensions.

In classes that I have had where recorded lectures have been used the discussions during classroom time were pretty heavy with Q&A. A professor called on students with a basic question validating they got the concepts from the lecture, then the professor would follow up with a more advanced question to see if they could apply the concepts rather than merely repeat them back. I got the impression that students were actually more conscientious in their preparation with this format. Nearly everyone got called once each lecture and your grade suffered if you could not manage informed responses.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164456)

Q&A of that sort tends to be a waste of time. Sure there should be some time for that during class, but really that's what office hours are for. If you're going to convene a class, there's much better ways of using the time. For instance meaningful discussion and group work.

Re:The "lecture" is changing ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164572)

The Q&A during class time was primarily the professor asking students questions, asking students to demonstrate conceptual understanding and the ability to apply those concepts; and sparking debate among the students via these questions.

When do students really do that though? (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163236)

there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime

That would be awesome but my whole time in college I saw people do that very rarely. Usually teachers have to struggle to get any kind of response out of students.

Some students are just shy and don't like to ask in front of others, others need to absorb the information a little before questions arise.

I think rather than saying "there is no substitute" the model that an online forum can act as a substitute is a really good one. Not only the teachers can answer questions then, but also fellow students - and typing up a thoughtful answer can itself really help you learn more as well.

In a dream world, instead of whatever google system they are planning on using they would instead use a StackOverflow based system where fellow students could up vote the most useful or interesting questions, the professors would answer and as the course progressed you could learn which fellow students to trust for good answers. I don't know that the professors would have to do a ton of answering that way.

Re:When do students really do that though? (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163480)

I think that a combination of in-person teaching and online resources are a great combination. To be truly useful; however, the online answers system should be moderated and commented on by the professor.

Often, students learn best from other students (and from teaching their classmates) but misconceptions can arise. Letting those misconceptions remain visible but with the correct solution clearly indicated is a great teaching method.

Re:When do students really do that though? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163496)

Often, students learn best from other students (and from teaching their classmates) but misconceptions can arise. Letting those misconceptions remain visible but with the correct solution clearly indicated is a great teaching method.

That is EXACTLY why I would love to see them use a StackOverflow based system for Q&A. You could see the slightly wrong answers along with the correct ones.

Re:When do students really do that though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164624)

Stanford's actual online course system does almost exactly this with an in-house setup (I am a part-time engineering graduate student), and both professors and TAs are usually quite good about paying attention to it. Of course, you have to pay full tuition to use the feature, and that's extremely non-trivial at Stanford.

Re:When do students really do that though? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164466)

This varies a great deal and unfortunately class size and the culture of the school greatly impact that. The schools I've been to were fairly small and were very focused on interactions between the students and the instructor and really between students. It's not typically something that just happens, it does have to be developed.

That being said, it does happen somewhat naturally although not typically in an organized and coordinated fashion, that part needs help. As the K-12 system ditches the banking model of education it should become more and more common for students to do that in college as well.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163268)

well, there is one substitute. Being a lot smarter than the teacher and already kind of knowing everything, some things better. Then online education can fill in the spots great.

I agree it's not the best way to take Organic Chemistry when you were struggling with high school physics and never took chemistry though :)

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163376)

The 25,000 students online can answer any question better. The teacher will respond to any that rise to the top.
Its a way better than class.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163402)

Cars are ok, but there's no substitute for feeding your transportation grain instead of oil nor being able to fall asleep at the buggywhip and live.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

Brian_Ellenberger (308720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163588)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

Then why not spend the Professor's time answering questions rather than regurgitating the same lecture over and over?

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164478)

If the professor is doing that, then the professor isn't very good at lecturing. Giving the same lecture over and over is indeed a waste of time. Some classes need more explanation on one point or a different emphasis on another. A good teacher will tell you that no two classes are alike, even if there are mostly the same students in both classes.

That's not to say that having prerecorded lectures is a waste of time, there are plenty of reasons to do it, and ultimately it's great to provide them to the students, just not as an alternative to class time. Which is my main concern when instructors provide those tapes.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163806)

The last thing I need is to commute 1.5 hours a day in order to have a prof orate my text book to me, then make me wait until it is convenient for him/her to allow me to pose a question, later in the day. I am capable of reading that text on my own.
As a long-time "home study" student (who has occasionally attended "real" classes), I can say with confidence that email is the perfect way for Q&A with someone of limited time, if the questions can be posed in ASCII. Math gets tricky, but can usually be done.

Re:Distance Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37163974)

You've clearly never had an actual teacher tell you that you should take responsibility for your education, with complete disregard for your non-verbal learning disability. I would have been amused if it didn't mean many dozens of hours of struggle with that topic.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164130)

I'd say that depends on whether or not the person can learn fine without that.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164302)

Online education is ok, but there's no substitute for being able to ask questions in realtime and address issues with an actual teacher.

You mean during those lectures where there's like 300+ students in the room? Yes, the prof/teacher loves to stop to answer everyone's questions.

Re:Distance Learning? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164480)

Easiest way to avoid that is to go to a small school or get those requirements out of the way at a community college.

Joke's on them (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162894)

95 000 of the participants are AI.

Universities sell degrees not education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162956)

Stanford shouldn't care if all of its classes are free: universities sell degrees not education.

Re:Universities sell degrees not education (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163024)

I think it would be bad business to spend time and money educating a person just to have them buy the degree from somewhere else.

Re:Universities sell degrees not education (3, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163130)

I think it would be bad business to spend time and money educating a person just to have them buy the degree from somewhere else.

Umm, no. Not in this case, or in any of the "elite" universities that offer such free materials. Those universities have many more students than they could possibly want dying to get in and pay them tuition. It is not bad business, because they have set the size of their "customer" pool, and the number of prospective customers is larger than the size they have set.

Besides, buying the degree somewhere else is pretty useless. Completion of the courses in TFA will not get you credit:

Online students who successfully complete their chosen course will receive a statement of accomplishment from the instructor, which will include information on how well you did and how your performance compared to other online students. Only students admitted to Stanford and enrolled in the regular course can receive credit or a grade, so this is not a Stanford certificate.

In other words, you get a gold star and perhaps the ability to say that you did better than X% of hundreds of thousands of other slackers. No credential.

See how far you get with a prospective employer by saying, "I know my degree is from Upper Bucksnort State Teachers College, but I've completed free courses through private study in MIT's opencourseware and I have a gold star form letter from Stanford saying that it is not an official record from Stanford, but I did better than 80% of people who probably didn't put in much effort for no credit either."

College degrees are only useful for getting you in the door to your first job or two. An elite name gets more attention in most cases. Offering free "unofficial" Stanford gold stars to anonymous internet folks is not going to dilute Stanford's ability to make money or to place its own graduates.

Rote lectures are not education (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163176)

Listening to a rote lecture is not much of an education. A lot of learning occurs during discussions and Q&A. Rote lectures can be watched online at the student's convenience. Universities still have an important role, they actually seem to be on a course to make themselves more valuable. Move the rote lectures online and use that valuable face-to-face time for interaction. Students learn more *and* professors are happier. They don't like giving the same lecture over and over, they much prefer interacting with students -- well the good ones at least.

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37162958)

wonder how many AI bots have signed up?

bold experiment in distributed education (1)

berrance (1843792) | more than 2 years ago | (#37162972)

Does that mean each of the 100 000 learn one little bit and colectivly they are clever and know AI.

Intro to Databases (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163002)

Currently just under 30,000 signed up. Let's see what the Slashdot effect does.

Re:Intro to Databases (1)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163200)

Funny, as someone who is about to start working as a Statistician, all three courses add concrete value to my job - especially Machine Learning and Databases. Looking forward to the courses.

Re:Intro to Databases (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163256)

When was the last time we actually /.ed something? It's embarrassing.

But how many will actual finish? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163012)

That is, how many of those tens of thousands who have signed up have what it takes to complete the courses? Do they have the necessary background, determination and aptitude to do it? I think some may have bitten off more than they can chew. I wouldn't be surprised if more than 50% drop out eventually.

Re:But how many will actual finish? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163284)

Shame you're AC because that's the real question, out of 100,000 students how many will pass the class? 1% maybe? And when they see a 99% failure rate will they continue to offer free online classes in the future?

Re:But how many will actual finish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164080)

If 1% of 100,000 students pass the class online, then 1000 students pass the class online. Maybe 100 take the class at Stamford. that comes to ten times as many students passing online. Not bad for a 'bold experiment in distributed education."

In the not so distant future .... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163018)

All those kids with the One Laptop Per Child computers will be up there learning CS and programming. Millions of programmers and computer scientists will be created. Now all those Third World countries wanting to modernize and enter the WTO so they can increase their standard of living, will have plenty of tech people to dump into the market. Supply and Demand being what is, you know what will happen.

But it gets worse. As those countries compete in trying to be the next India, tech labor will go to zero. Can it go further down? Yep. Those same countries will start paying large multinational corporations to use their tech people. The goal? The policy makers will hope and pray that if they get enough high tech multinationals in their country, they will hit a tipping point and others will set up shop in their countries and they too will have a high-tech boom.

What they fail to understand, the multinationals will suck them dry in order to enrich their CEOs. Some of the well connected people in those countries will get rich but the rest of the people will get screwed and so will we - yes, we have a ways to go in our decline. Sure, some of us will get a few crumbs as our hundred shares or so of their stock goes up a few bucks but tell me, the increase in your pathetic little 401K compensates you for your loss of job? I had to cash mine in to keep a roof over my head and eat.

American Dream my ass! American nightmare!

Re:In the not so distant future .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163030)

Bitter? You have only yourself to blame for not cashing in your 401K earlier and investing it in Bitcoins.

Re:In the not so distant future .... (2)

Swave An deBwoner (907414) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163250)

I knew, once they started printing books instead of commissioning scribes to copy them, that the end of a decent wage for educated folks would soon follow. How quickly we forget!

Cutting you off at the pass (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163280)

All those kids with the One Laptop Per Child computers will be up there learning CS and programming. Millions of programmers and computer scientists will be created.

If only that were so!

But it turns out not that many people actually WANT to program. Even if you teach them for free. Unthinkable for those of us that love it, yes, but that's how it is.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163464)

But it turns out not that many people actually WANT to program. Even if you teach them for free. Unthinkable for those of us that love it, yes, but that's how it is.

Working while doing something you love and making a living at it is very rare; maybe it's even a luxury.

How many times during this shitty economy we see reports of the unemployed college graduates and the snide remarks about "that's what you get for majoring in Russian Literature!" (BTW, this is the worst job market in history for new nursing grads - even with the "shortage") Well, maybe that's were their passion is. Isn't that what we're taught: do what you love and the money follows?

Only if you are lucky enough to love and well paying profession.

And if you do want to follow your passions, what's wrong with doing something that's lucrative as a vocation to finance your avocation?

Now, you're going to tell some ultra poor person in some Third World country that he only needs to program if he loves it?! Please. They'll grit their teeth and pump out that code and do and probably well, too. It's amazing what you can put up with when your back is against the wall.

A child only does things well if he likes it. An adult does things well because they're a professional. That's something corporate America doesn't get - at least the people here on Slashdot give me that impression.

Why the obsession with predetermined schedules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163026)

One of the best things about online teaching materials is that you can learn on your own schedule and pace. There's additional value in getting feedback and that certainly requires a common schedule, but why don't they publish the material without requiring "virtual enrollment" for people who cannot or do not want to commit to the given timetable and participation requirements?

URLs for courses (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163048)

Go to ml-class.org [ml-class.org] to sign up for the machine learning class, and db-class.org [db-class.org] for the databases class!

Re:URLs for courses (5, Funny)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163166)

I signed up my home desktop for the machine learning class.

automated assessment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37163270)

I'll hazard a guess the assessment for this course is fully automated with little to zero interaction between the lecturer and individual students. If the lecturer is dilligent, common errors submitted will be reviewed after each assignment and explained to students. My better lecturers at uni did this and it enhanced the learning process. Personal contact is overrated if it has no structure or focus. Give me a good learning experience and I dont care which format it comes in, stone tablets or a kinect coupled to an AI robot.

Education in a many-splendoured thing (3, Insightful)

QuatermassX (808146) | more than 2 years ago | (#37163382)

Learning and education. Highly contentious topics infused with politics and the corrupting influence of money sloshing around the system (e.g., textbooks, student loans, tuition fees).

Humanity has passed knowledge on for millennia and what's required is a willing student and a knowledgeable, savvy, patient, rigorous teacher. What our American and British institutions of higher education really are trying to achieve is the ability to instruct the maximum quantity of people at the lowest possible cost with a reasonable degree of effectiveness as measured by testing scores/graduation rates.

I think the open publishing of these courses and course materials is a wonderful thing that could possibly enhance mass literacy and allow curious people access to the finest knowledge pool in the world. It's what a global network should be about: to freely connect people thirsty for knowledge with all the information humanity has accumulated.

After working on technology in higher education for 11 years, I sometimes think all we're doing is tinkering around the edges and using technology as a distraction from addressing the real challenges in educating humanity.

Re:Education in a many-splendoured thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164226)

Work in high school and elementary and you would get a different view.

There is another component here. Parents. Many want their kids to be 4.0 students (so they can get into good colleges and get grants). So you have parents hounding the lower level teachers into submission. Then you have a group of parents who use school as a babysitter. Another group who make their kids go just so they do not end up in jail and could care less about their kids.

You are seeing the willing/semiwilling by the time they get to college. There is a whole segment out there who just drop out or do not actually learn anything.

Re:Education in a many-splendoured thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164846)

Education should be privatised. The government should simply run an impartial testing centre for tests of all significant areas of study. Every discipline has it's masters/foremost practicioners. They should be the ones who determine how many levels of expertise there are, what to test, who to delegate development of lower level tests too. Anyone should be able to create a discipline and test people on it, the market will determine which disciplines and their subsets are deemed to be the most value. QED.

Gregarious Cloud Computing Solutions [gregarious.com.au]

'Nix courses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164128)

Anyone point in the way of some good 'Nix courses an intermediate level? I'd like a classroom / lecture type environment with assignments over books.

Fi85t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164388)

A lOsing battle;

Good opportunity to evaluate higher education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37164778)

If Higher Education is as worthy as it's advocates proclaim, we should experience a large and sudden influx of highly competent workers full of "all the information that humanity has accumulated". Don't bet on it. The main reason colleges and universities don't put their course material on line is that it is completely worthless. They would much rather have you pay $500,000 to find that out than to simply give the secret away.

And In Other News... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 3 years ago | (#37164876)

...the Government of China is demanding that the courses also be offered for free in Mandarin.

There's homework (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165118)

Don't sign up casually. I've done the machine learning class on line. There is a lot of homework. Expect to spend at least 8 hours a week on the class. Also, the videos consist of Andrew Ng writing math on a chalkboard. An actual chalkboard. In a weird notation where indices are superscripts, rather than subscripts.

Lots of intrest, little time (1)

DI4BL0S (1399393) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165210)

A great initiative it is indeed,
but what about all of us that do not have consistent time to spend on a course even though we would love to follow it. even if that means not receiving the note from the teacher to say you passed this course in such and so way... still being allowed to take the exams for your own interest, I know for a fact that I don't have 8 hours a week for homework, but could sqeez out 3 maybe 4 if I push it (and of course there will be the occasional week-end 8 hour marathon run), these courses could as a next step be provided as open lectures without time limitation?

"success"? really? (1)

renard (94190) | more than 3 years ago | (#37165424)

This open approach looks as if it might be a success with well over 100,000 prospective students signing up to the AI course alone.

Only someone who has never, ever, ever taught a class - much less an online class - would consider the enrollment of 100k students a "success". Personally, I call it an unmitigated catastrophe...

(My awed congrats to any instructor/institution that survives such an onslaught, of course...)
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