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Professor Resigns From Stanford To Launch Online Education Project

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the distributing-bits-of-knowledge dept.

Education 162

mikejuk writes "Professor Sebastian Thrun has given up his Stanford position to start Udacity — an online educational venture. Udacity's first two free courses are Building a Search Engine and Programming a Robotic Car. In a moving speech at the Digital Life Design conference, he explained that after presenting the online AI course to thousands of students he could no longer teach at Stanford: 'Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It's like a drug. I won't be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting.' Let's hope Udacity works out; Stanford is a tough act to follow."

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162 comments

Khan (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797389)

I wonder if he's ever heard of Khan.

Re:Khan (4, Informative)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797465)

Of course he did, he teamed with Khan and relied on him for some parts of the AI course teaching prerequisite maths and probabilistic theory.

Re:Khan (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797867)

Thank god there is a teacher that is trying to teach. It is unfortunate that government has helped reduce the quality of education (most notably since the civil unrest in the 1960s). Other people have complained about the problems with the current state of education within the United States at a more fundamental level. [zerohedge.com] There are other teachers that have written about why the current approaches are failing, while ignoring the government's motivation to reduce education quality. [amazon.com] With more teachers that attempt to expose real concepts to students in ways that bypass government control, unencumbered by the education fees that rise quickly due to inflation, along with medical costs (no substitution of goods is possible to reduce the impact of inflation, i.e., no reduction in quality is possible, from the already poor quality present), the better society will become, removing the common ignorance and prejudice that prevents real growth.

Re:Khan (5, Insightful)

engun (1234934) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798317)

I find it interesting though, that Sebastian Thrun gets so much attention, and Andrew Ng for example, gets no mention. I think that Ng poured in a tremendous amount of effort to teach an absolutely outstanding class with far more structured and well-developed content.

Don't get me wrong, Thrun is an enthusiastic and obviously knowledgeable individual, but having followed both AI and ML classes, I was of the opinion that Andrew Ng was the better teacher. Thrun needs to improve his teaching skills, so that he can impart his great store of knowledge better to students. Although that is my personal opinion, I think you might find that it is backed by some evidence, if you were to trawl through the comments on the respective forums of the AI and ML classes. Overall, both of them + Peter Norvig and the rest of their teams, made fantastic contributions, and that should be recognized equally, whenever possible!

Re:Khan (1)

Paradigma11 (645246) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798603)

/absolutely agree.

Re:Khan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38799721)

I took Thrun's computer vision course at Stanford. The man is probably a visionary researcher, but he's not a very good teacher, in my opinion.

Re:Khan (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798881)

I felt the other way. I really enjoyed Sebastian's almost-whimsical adventure through the field of AI. I really think Ng is a good professor but I often found myself having trouble paying full attention for the entirety of the course.

Re:Khan (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38799931)

Oh yes. I took all three classes (AI, DB and ML), and AI was plagued with ambiguity, handwaving and mistakes caused by sloppiness. Some homework questions had so many errors that they were unsolvable and had to be amended several times shortly before the deadline, of course without telling the students who had already submitted their answers. Check out the old discussions on aiqus.com, it was horrible. The AI class was also the one with no practical exercises at all, except for a tacked-on codebreaking exercise after the final exam that was neither graded nor properly discussed afterwards. The AI class server software did not include video streaming (they relied on Youtube instead) nor the promised forum. In contrast, both Andrew Ng's Machine Learning class and Jennifer Widom's Database class were hands on and thoroughly prepared. I learned a lot more there. I think the problem with Thrun and Norvig was their attitude, probably not unrelated to being employed by both Stanford and Google. They expected to be venerated as superstars. They seemed to think they could pull this off without much effort.

Re:Khan (3, Funny)

Forbman (794277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798013)

"Khan, you bloodsucker! You're going to have to do your own dirty work now! Do you hear me? Do you?"

Gack! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797395)

Hope it turns out better than his class did. The other classes were far better managed than the AI course.

Office Hours (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797493)

I wonder when he will hold office hours?

Re:Office Hours (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797787)

He did for the AI class

It's a good start (2)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798269)

Start with the basics (beat Google) and build up over time to something really difficult.

I'm curious, (2)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797425)

how will it be monetized, and I don't mean that in a negative way. (also, bad first link in summary)

Re:I'm curious, (2)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797505)

I would of happily paid $100 for the ai class, and the class had over 100 000 people in it, that's $10 000 000. Also advertising on the site would do well.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

mkuki (768661) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797729)

I took the class too and would have gladly paid $100 or more

Re:I'm curious, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797877)

Maybe you should keep the money and get someone to reteach you basic grammar? It's would HAVE, dumbshit.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798171)

I would of happily paid $100 for the ai class, and the class had over 100 000 people in it, that's $10 000 000

I love how you state this as though $100 is the average amount the 100,000 people who took his free course would be willing to pay. You do realise how unlikely that assumption is to be anywhere even near correct, don't you?

Re:I'm curious, (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798211)

Of course $100 isn't the perfect amount on the supply/demand curve - the point is that you don't have to support a professor with a room full of maybe 100 people - you now have 100,000 people, and the work isn't that much greater. It's a problem that scales very well.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798375)

Fair point, how about if it was $10 per student, $1 000 000 goes a long way to building more interactive videos. Also most of the class would of bought the textbook which was over $100, so if you made a better solution for that students will have more money to play with.

Re:I'm curious, (2)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798427)

I don't think you should discount the marginal cost of infrastructure to support that many people streaming online video content, engaging in interactive graded exercises and submitting questions. No, I'm not saying it's anywhere near the cost of supporting that many people in-real-life; which is why we're not comparing it to the marginal gain of one student's university tuition fees.
Say you'd have x people who are willing to pay $y - does x*y cover the ongoing hosting/content development/web development costs? It might do, but the fact that one participant was willing to pay $100 for the course is nigh on irrelevant.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798393)

For someone like me to take a university class of similar caliber, not only would I (normally) have to pay tuition, I'd need to meed prerequisites and so on. I could easily see people paying $10-$50 for a web seminar series.

Hell, do it on a pay-as-you-like basis as a trial, similar to what the Humble Bundle does, and I'd bet that while many people would freeload, others would donate/pay a hundred dollars. I'd think twice at $50, but likely would just spend $20 in a heartbeat if I were taking something like that. Being able to sell textbooks, handy cheat-sheets which collate formulas, or other useful materials would be another way to do it.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798251)

It's a pretty safe bet that the class wouldn't have 100k people in it if it cost $100. These courses are most useful for people without the means to obtain traditional education, and of course the audience will diminish after initial demand is met.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798343)

I took it and wasn't impressed. I found his accent difficult to listen to for long periods of time, and a disliked having a lecture punctuated with short problems. I would prefer an uninterrupted lecture that deals with the theory, and then problems in a recitation section.

Not that it wasn't useful or interesting, but I would not pay $100 for it, and I think most of the people who took it did so because it was free.

Quitting his professorship at Stanford to try to monetize the concept seems like an awful big risk to me. Especially considering the abundance of free learning alternatives like Khanacademy, OCW, or simply youtube.

Re:I'm curious, (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798509)

Quitting his professorship at Stanford to try to monetize the concept seems like an awful big risk to me.

Was he a tenure-track full professor, or just someone hired as a lecturer? I couldn't find any details about that.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798813)

In 2003 he joined as an associate professor
In 2007 he became a full professor.

That's all according to Wikipedia, so who knows how accurate it is, but if so, he left a tenured spot, which means a whole lot more than if he was an associate that was guessing he wasn't going to get tenured.

Re:I'm curious, (3, Interesting)

malilo (799198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798883)

An Associate Professor IS tenured. It's what your title is just after getting tenure. How they keep you on the hook "being a good boy/girl" is to dangle full professorship in front of you (it comes with more money, not just a nice title). In most cases, if you don't make full professor a few years after associate, you don't ever get it. BTW, ''Assistant Professor' is what you are called pre-tenure.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799371)

The GP was way over the mark here. Would you pay $5? That is a more viable amount.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799643)

I won't pay anything for a class that won't lead to a degree or college credits.

Employers tend to actually care about the sheepskin in general. You could be the next Kevin Mitnick, but a lot of places will immediately dismiss you because you don't have degrees or certifications of any sort.

While these are great for general learning and expanding your knowledge base, I won't take them seriously until they're accredited in some fashion.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797521)

how will it be monetized, and I don't mean that in a negative way. (also, bad first link in summary)

I have an idea for an interesting, although evil, business model. No idea if these guys are doing this or not. In fact they probably are not.

None the less... there is a long standing business model of giving away or subsidizing training for copyrighted trademarked patented software.
What if we had education, but only for certain business method patents?
For example, a free crypto class that only taught patented licensed expensive algorithms, and forgot to mention that free algorithms exist?
Admittedly this borders on "training" as opposed to "education" but its still possible.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797659)

There are plenty of business education companies that charge thousands of dollars to teach you about any number of proprietary software packages for a few days to a week. You can even get Certified(TM).

Re:I'm curious, (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797797)

Yeah, that sounds exactly like something professor Thrun would want to do.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797533)

I wonder too, but it's not like people aren't spending fantastic sums of money for conventional higher education. In other words, he could charge quite a bit of money and still save students quite a bit. Or in the immortal words of Scarface, "this town is like a giant..." (NSFW).

Re:I'm curious, (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797825)

If the price is on the order of the cost of a book ~$75-$100 I think it is a great deal. The class had it's issues but far few than I imaged.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

kaiidth (104315) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797945)

The AI-course was used for recruitment purposes (ie. the top 1k students were invited to apply to Google), which I'm sure made many of the top 1k students very happy.

That said, someone less squeaky-clean than Google might take the approach slightly further, deciding to run a carefully targeted education project, retain data from student use of virtual learning environments and, in the long run, use it to screen out sub-standard potential recruits. However, that would be kind of evil - so I'm sure nobody would ever seriously consider deploying a Trojan course.

Re:I'm curious, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798239)

Source? I don't remember hearing about the top 1k being invited to apply to Google and I believe I followed the class and subreddit for it pretty well.

Re:I'm curious, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798103)

When courses were $200-$300 each I was taking 1-2 courses a year from local colleges and universities; the problem is in the last 3-5 years the cost has easily doubled (I looked recently and found most in the $500-700 range and you needed to "join" the college which meant other costs and fees (administrative) as well). So, if these courses even offered a "pay us $100" for a certificate mailed to you then I would probably pay, I'm guessing most who got a half decent mark would pay as well. I believe for the AI course that was 7K students, at $100 a pop that's $700,000 for 7K of them... Now, multiply that by 2 courses offered per semester, 3 semesters per year, is 6 * 0.7 Million = 4.2 Million dollars possible per year! I bet he doesn't make that much working for Stanford.

"Professor Resigns" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797439)

This headline is like writing "Man shot in Ford's Theatre"

Ads Blocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797459)

Funny - I thought I had ads blocked on here. What's so unique about online education?

good work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797467)

good on you sebastian, That ai class was amazing.

Business model? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797485)

What is their business model? I checked out their page, they've got a couple employees, they're offering stock options to new hires... I'm seeing this as one of those /. jokes:
1. teach a free class at a profitable school
2. quit and teach a free class at a startup
3. ???
4. Profit!!!!!

Is the plan to operate on donations, or ... ?

Re:Business model? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797609)

Sheer selflessness will give them all the profits they need.

Re:Business model? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797639)

Easy enough. I think if they charge a negligible amount of money for actually getting a grade and no money at all just to watch the lectures and try your hand at the homework, then they'll make crazy bank. Even at 5 bucks a head at 50k students for one class, the profit is substanial.

Most of your bandwidth costs can be mitigated by paying cdn. Your site doesn't have to refresh that much so programming is minimal from here on out. The most time and cost consuming practice itself is writing and filming the lectures. Then you can re-use ad nauseam.

As class experiences went I found the class to be relatively mediocre, but it wasn't like I paid stanford or even state school prices for it. If you were already reading a book on the topic on the side, which I was wanting to do anyway, then this is a bonus. Now you can supply proof that your reading experience was fruitful. It's quite a bargain as a matter of fact.

Re:Business model? (3, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798083)

If they do as mentioned above and use the class as a way to drum up interest from companies that want to recruit the best students then it can pay for itself via finders fees. That would be a great way to subsidize education.

Re:Business model? (1)

hweimer (709734) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799477)

I think one possibility will be that degree-granting schools let their students take some courses on Udacity, while the site recieves a financial compensation for doing so. This could work especially well for highly specialized courses which the school cannot offer in-house. Ultimately, the goal might be to offer degrees themselves, but that would require significant resources for supervising exams all over the world in order to prevent cheating.

That was unexpected (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797517)

That was unexpected. But then, his automatic driving work had already moved to Google.

He turned around the Stanford CS department, which was embarrassingly bad for years. (I have a degree from there; I know.) It was being run by the mathematical logic people, who were trying to make AI work through predicate calculus and expert systems. That turned out to be a dead end, but the existing faculty didn't want to admit it. Thrun reoriented the department towards statistical methods for AI, and things got moving again.

Re:That was unexpected (3, Informative)

flabbergast (620919) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797843)

Wasn't this every CS department though in the 80's and the 90's? AI in that time was all about expert systems and predicate calculus.

Re:That was unexpected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797901)

The AI research lab may have been lacking, but that doesn't make the whole CS department "embarrassingly bad". Besides, you got a BS in '85, which in computer science education terms, is like complaining that the Cambridge physics department sucks because that Isaac Newton fellow is way off base in many ways..

Re:That was unexpected (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799385)

Actually, I got a MS from Stanford. The problem was the expert system guys, Feigenbaum and company. They were claiming that expert systems would yield strong AI Real Soon Now. Feigenbaum's 1983 book "The Fifth Generation" shows that optimism at its height. It did not end well. The next decade is referred to as the "AI Winter". [amazon.com]

Web site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798401)

I have no doubt that these guys are brilliant and are providing us with remarkable educational opportunities ( thanks), but I would not want to learn web development from them based on my experience of their web page. I keep Noscript turned on at all times unless there is something specific I need to do or see. With Javascript turned off the only links on the home page that work are in the footer.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so. I expect more (and better) from -- well -- everyone, but to not see it here ( on a CS educational web site), it kind of bums me out.

Re:That was unexpected (1)

llmc (928250) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799739)

What? Thrun didn't even go to Stanford until 2003. Not to knock Thrun, but to suggest that the department hadn't already gone down that path is an insult to quite a few equally amazing professors in the department who had been doing statistical methods before this arrival.

This is the future. (4, Interesting)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797527)

When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

When books can be copied for free, why pay 200$ for a physical version of the book?

I think the only thing we'll have in terms of live people will be live tutors you can ask questions via advanced IM

The cool thing about this is that it is the opposite of the "No child gets ahead act", if a kid is motivated, they can watch hundreds of supplemental optional videos related to their course. Or with proper understanding of the subject at hand, they can move ahead to the new videos. Also this is all available for free or nearly free, so the cost of an education is simply 100$ or less for a laptop. This means people across the world who couldn't have access to quality education will. If you're in a 3rd world country with nothing to do all day, maybe you'll devote your life to getting a grand education. We might find new Einsteins popping up and at younger and younger ages.

Re:This is the future. (3, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797723)

When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

When books can be copied for free, why pay 200$ for a physical version of the book?

If all of the distributed copies are free, I'm thinking the major problem is going to be finding people to write and edit them. Don't get me wrong, there are some older math texts you could probably use for ages, but that will only get you so far.

Re:This is the future. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797847)

When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

If seeing the lecture online is only as good as seeing it live, then it is a bad web site. Online, you can put additional content, have links that go to the exact point in the video where a question is answered, break up the video into topics so that students can spend more time on topics that are most relevant to them. You can also have more interactive tools and such.

Re:This is the future. (5, Insightful)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797869)

If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

I'd be careful with that statement. If you claim there must be some interaction, then let's get real: you don't want to be interrupted by questions every 15 seconds. So live questioning as a feedback from students to the lecturer is out. Then the most interaction you'll get is the lecturer looking at faces and body language of students.

But what does that tell the lecturer? Nothing that's very applicable when the medium is video!! In a video lecture, if you feel like falling asleep, you pause it, get up, walk around, come back refreshed, start watching again a few minutes back into the recording to get back on topic. If you need to look something up, you can pause, google for it, look in a book, look in previous lectures, then resume when you're ready. Those two situations cover most of the realtime feedback a lecturer would use, I'd presume. So, failing to show particular examples of how the reverse channel helps in a prerecorded lecture, I call your claim an gross exaggeration at best. Audience feedback is important in a live lecture setting, recorded lectures are really quite different because the student controls the playback. Good luck pausing the professor when you feel like dozing off for 45 minutes in the auditorium :)

Re:This is the future. (2)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797935)

I actually think that the way the lecture videos were presented in the AI Class were superior to most conventional lectures. They were broken up in bitesize chunks of 2-10 minutes each, which meant that as soon as you started to lose focus, you just walk away, whether that be after 15 minutes or 2 hours. Also, if you found a topic confusing you could stop moving forward, read up on the topic yourself or consult your fellow students on the discussion boards (which were incredible) until you were happy with it, then continue on. And of course, you can watch them repeatedly.

Sure, there are shortcomings, but I think they more than held their own.

Re:This is the future. (2)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798183)

A lecturer can also do what a comic does and spend a considerable amount of time fine-tuning their presentation on live audiences before recording the final event for the class. Once you've got a solid feel for what works you can bang it out.
And if you need to you can edit together footage from a couple of different events to get the Director's Cut.

Re:This is the future. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798507)

Which works for "good" lecturers as well as it does for "good" comics. The difference is the great lecturers (like the great comics) can adapt on the fly based on the audience, in a way making each individual performance/lecture better (for that particular audience) than the impersonal "average"...

Re:This is the future. (1)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799717)

But the whole goal of this is to reach hundreds of thousands or millions of viewers.
So that means he either has to refine his lectures or start construction on a new venue.
Which makes more sense?

Re:This is the future. (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798069)

The point is: Do we really need that many teachers around the world? Wouldn't be much more productive to have them working on their respective fields and do either research or at least development and innovation. Turning theory into practical things and stimulates the economy rather than teaching? What's the best usage of all these brains? Have a few of them teaching, writing books and the rest of them leading projects or having all of them teaching?

Re:This is the future. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798519)

There are times when teaching university courses, particularly graduate ones, but sometimes undergraduate ones as well, can be immensely rewarding and actually spur research in different directions. Often, this is due to the fact that the instructor is exposed to a large gamut of students with different perspectives on how to go about solving a problem and inclinations for going ahead with it. Sometimes, however, it just takes someone to ask a question in such a way that pushes the mind closer toward a solution.

To elaborate from my own experience, a few years back I happened to be enrolled in a series of 'required' classes touching on facets of optimization theory and mathematical programming. In addition to presenting the course content, the lecturer would also, often spontaneously, wonder aloud about the feasibility of certain augmentations to existing methods, the development of meta optimization methods, and so forth. Though most of the students didn't seem to actively jump on these musings, a handful of us did, and we were able to turn them into fruitful inter- and after-class discussions and later refined them into credible ideas that eventually were published in SIAM journals.

Re:This is the future. (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798597)

Clearly, there has to be a balance. Things are rapidly changing and people have to keep abreast of research. However, the best researchers, although perhaps poor lecturers need to communicate new ideas. There is much need for more education everywhere in all disciplines, since this will lead to more work and more productivity hence an expanding economy and jobs. Given the threat global warming poses there simply isn't much time left to get people thinking about the consequences of technology on our lives.

Re:This is the future. (2)

real-modo (1460457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799603)

The point is: Do we really need that many teachers around the world? Wouldn't be much more productive to have them working on their respective fields and do either research or at least development and innovation.

The saying goes, "the best way to learn something is to teach it."

There's a famous anecdote by Richard Feynman about himself. He was working on some knotty area of quantum physics with colleagues. After some time, the group felt it had a good understanding of the topic and could move on. Feynman said, "OK, just let me write it up as a freshman lecture to test our understanding." A week later he went back and said, "You know, I couldn't do it. I couldn't write that lecture. We need to study this some more."

So, no to the second question. If we want good solid research done, we need our researchers to be teachers.

At grade school level, what's needed is individual tuition by tutors smart enough to adapt their methods to each student. Expert systems hold out the promise of that, but we're a couple of decades away at least. Meanwhile, the world needs more teachers. Yes to the first question.

Re:This is the future. (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798321)

If you're referring to interaction (which is really the only thing lacking from a properly produced video), well lectures, by definition, are not Q&A sessions. It's only a poor lecture that requires questions form the audience, usually because the lecturer glossed over a point or made a mistake. Video allows these weaknesses to be corrected in editing, and with feedback they can get *better* over time rather than requiring a perfect delivery every time.

Re:This is the future. (1)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798353)

> If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

With video you can do things you can't do live. E.g. a lecture about history could contain actors with costumes and look like a movie. You can show maps with animations, cut out the dull scenes and perfect it.

The only advantage of a live lecture is that you can ask questions, but how often can that really be used if there are 200 people? You could actually, with computers, allow people to ask questions in the middle of the video. There could be a person answering them at first. But you could then improve the video more, so that there would no longer be any need for questions.

Consider testing. It used to be done by humans. Now it is all about automated testing. People are instead of testing, writing automated test cases. What if instead of teaching, teacher would automate teaching and then improve, maintain and upgrade it. E.g. learn from cartoons, learn from games. Make learning fun. There is still much that could be improved.

Re:This is the future. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798615)

I think this is in many ways the fundamental *problem* with modern education, not the solution.

I don't even think you need an analogy to a different field. Just look at public elementary and secondary education and what happens when you try to cut costs with large class sizes. What you lose is any individualized education and personal interaction with the educator, which ends up boring some students while leaving others behind. Additionally, not everyone learns most effectively in the same way.

Continuing to make education more and more impersonal like a factory assembly line will predictably result in more and more stock, minimally functional products, rather than unique and creative individuals.

Re:This is the future. (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799245)

Try this [youtube.com] , you may learn something.

Re:This is the future. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797997)

When books can be copied for free, why pay 200$ for a physical version of the book?

I own every hardware iteration of the Nook (that's five, if you are counting), plus other devices on which the Nook app runs. I have a huge library, both electronic and physical. I read constantly. I even have some trade books in electronic form - but I also own the physical book for those. As much as I love ebooks, I need a physical textbook to get the most of out it.

Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy. But to me, modern ebook navigation isn't up to the task of helping me mine textbooks. So much easier to just turn, and see this huge illustrated book next to me than to have to click "go to page" "387" to reference a second work.

Now... give me a desk like this [ubergizmo.com] , and a couple cheap 'huge ipad-like devices' and improve flipping back and forth between two disparate pages and I think I can make something work.

The real question is whether we need a new edition every single year for every single subject in order for it to be financially viable. It's my understanding that for many publishing houses these things are a tax write off anyway.

Re:This is the future. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798155)

If you're in a 3rd world country with nothing to do all day...

Yeah, instead of hanging out at the beach eating bananas and drinking coconuts, maybe those Africans can get a free education, courtesy of the White Man.

On a more sombre note:

... if a kid is motivated, they can watch hundreds of supplemental optional videos related to their course.

Sal Khan (of the Khan Academy) already noted (in one of his videos; might have been the TED video) that teachers wanted Khan to specifically give them control of the lessons so that children could not get a head start of their official teaching schedules. Since these kids need a phone number and parental approval to sign up, it would be difficult for them to advance. BTW, No-Child-Left-Behind is also based on the fact that the classroom teaching is based on the average learning pace of the typical student, which means gifted and slow students get "left behind".

The Open University (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798611)

The Open University have been doing this stuff literally for decades. I fondly remember as a child watching lectures from teachers with excruciatingly bad 1970s hair styles and clothes.

http://www.open.ac.uk/ [open.ac.uk]

Note the fees are the standard (substantial) UK university fees, so it isn't free by any means.

This is NOT the future. (2)

real-modo (1460457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799687)

The modern lecture format originated in medieval Northern Italy, and hasn't changed significantly. The rationale for the lecture as a method of transmitting knowledge and skill was that books were extremely costly, due to the cost of scribes.

Since Gutenberg [oxy.edu] the rationale for lectures has disappeared.

Rather than moronically scaling up lectures in a TV-like way, we need some R&D done on better methods of teaching. This has finally been realised and academics are - with great trepidation - starting to measure themselves and experiment with different methods. I expect that this century will see the death of the lecture.

Course Website (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797539)

I hope the class search-engine projects turn out better than the Udacity.com website did.

Wheres the car-code? (0)

cellurl (906920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797545)

Does anyone know where the Google-Car code resides?

Mr Thrun was with the GoogleCar...
I am too lazy to look, so it seems like an opportunistic time to seek "the code".

cellurl...

Going back to the original universities. (4, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797573)

In the first universities anyone could stop in and listen to a lecturer for free. If they were interested in perusing individual education they would work out a fee between the professor and the student. There wasn't any strict curriculum or degrees. The professors paid the university a cut similar to the way a barber shop works today.

The business model should be the same. Free to watch the lectures and pay for individual attention.

Re:Going back to the original universities. (1)

nessus42 (230320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797887)

In the first universities anyone could stop in and listen to a lecturer for free.

I've worked at a few top-tier universities, and they've always allowed people to sit in for free on nearly any class they might want to. It's not an official policy, but I've yet to see a professor turn down anyone who asks. Or in a large class, they'd never notice that you're there anyway.

|>ouglas

Re:Going back to the original universities. (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798001)

I know students have audited courses but I didn't know they would allow non-students.

Re:Going back to the original universities. (1)

nessus42 (230320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798213)

I know students have audited courses but I didn't know they would allow non-students.

Most professors I've met seem perfectly happy to actually have someone in the class who really wants to be there. They'd probably change their minds about this if there started to be crowds of people doing this, or if the people doing this asked a lot of stupid questions, though.

|>ouglas

Re:Going back to the original universities. (0)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798073)

Just because people get away with it doesn't mean they're supposed to do it.

Re:Going back to the original universities. (2)

nessus42 (230320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798265)

Just because people get away with it doesn't mean they're supposed to do it.

Who cares about "supposed to"? I'm talking the actual reality of the matter.

It's true though that if too many people started doing this, they might stop allowing it. I doubt that this is much of a risk, however. You'd have to live near the campus and have enough free time during the day to do this, so there are not going to be teaming masses.

|>ouglas

Re:Going back to the original universities. (1)

Talennor (612270) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798075)

But they haven't started allowing you to sit in from the internet, which is just so much more awesome.

The U.S.A. Job Seekers +4, PatRIOTic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797583)

are in dire need of writing their own search engines and programming robotic cars.

To quote the phrase: Don't quit your day (or night ) job.

Yours In Minsk,
K. Trout, C.I.O.

I said it elsewhere... (-1, Offtopic)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797633)

... and I'll say it here.

There was an international cooperation of people running websites all over the world protesting SOPA in the USA... how many will do likewise for Canada?

Re:I said it elsewhere... (0)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797653)

D'oh! Posted in the wrong story! Mod down. Offtopic.

I'm with you, buddy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797663)

Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It's like a drug. I won't be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting

I had the exact same feeling of elation when my Chicks with Dicks site really took off. How could I go back to being just another carny running a ring toss game after that?

Re:I'm with you, buddy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38797823)

Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It's like a drug. I won't be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting

I had the exact same feeling of elation when my Chicks with Dicks site really took off. How could I go back to being just another carny running a ring toss game after that?

[citation needed] AND pics or it never happened.

Seriously though - the true power of education is in the one-one-one, where the teacher can actually gain insights, not just the student. Great teachers never stop learning. He's going to stagnate as a teacher.

Kudos to him! (1)

mkuki (768661) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797701)

I was one of those who took the online "Intro to AI" class Advanced Track. While I didn't do as well as I'd hoped (screwed the pooch on the final and ended up with a 78% total score), I do have to say it was a really great class and that he and Prof Peter Norvig deserve a ton of credit for this. It was both engaging, well presented and mind-stretching. I did find myself consulting the Khan lectures on Probability and Linear Algebra quite a bit.

Re:Kudos to him! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798051)

I too took the "Intro to AI" class Advanced Track. I was greatly disappointed at the lack of actual teaching. We were lucky to get a 10 minute explanation on completely new topics. I wish they provided more instruction and less emphasis on the quizzes and tests. I wish him lots of luck with Udacity.

Probability killed me too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38798897)

I took the advanced class too, got 73% (not very good) BUT, I didn't have a lot of time as I took the ML and DB course (got 100% and 95%), work full time, and have a wife and three kids. My problem, like yourself by the sounds of it, was Probability and I just didn't have the time to study/learn it so it really brought me down. Over the Christmas break I went looking for a course/book on Probability but didn't have much success. I got one general Linear Algebra book that has a chapter on Bayes Theorem and found an online lecture series (from Harvard) about probability as well but it was so boring I couldn't get through it :(

Hopefully I will get back into that Harvard one and/or get another (newer) online course on Probability soon. Any suggestions for a good self-paced book or course for Probability would be greatly appreciated :)

(BTW, I did University 20+ years ago and calculus is a faint memory (surprisingly, of the Rum smells wafting from my Profs office) and I don't remember ever doing a course on probabilities but did do a Statistics and Linear Algebra course)

The reason for the delays in the other courses? (1)

rst123 (2440064) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797711)

Is this related to the delays in the start date of the other free stanford clases? (http://www.class-central.com/ for example)

Re:The reason for the delays in the other courses? (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797809)

No. Thrun never had anything to do with the Stanford Engineering courses. They just started at the same time to maximise publicity.

This is a big deal (5, Interesting)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797739)

Thrun is (I think) the first tenured Professor at a major University to stand down in order to try to bring learning online. Unlike the offerings from Stanford, MIT, Berkeley etc etc, Udacity wont be under the same "Don't damage the university's business model" constraint, so they are truly free to go for broke.

There has been a lot of criticism of the AI course - most of it by people who didn't attend beyond the first couple of weeks. I finished the course and had a good time doing it. It wasn't without flaws, but I have no doubt that with the necessary financial backing, they can make the necessary improvements and push on to create some remarkable content.

If they can solve the question of certification, they, and those who will inevitably follow, might just revolutionise the educational landscape.

And if it all goes wrong, Google wont kick him out of bed.

Re:This is a big deal (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798413)

Even without certification, it's still awesome.

Re:This is a big deal (1)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799885)

I attended the first six weeks, I feel horrible that I didn't finish. But life gets in the way; wife, kids, house, work. I am glad I earned a high quality education while I was young and had nothing better to do.

President of Yale went to Edison Project 1997 (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38797933)

The Edison Project was private for-profit K12 schools combining modern business management and high technology. Possibly a good idea, but got little traction. The wiki site said it was had to get the "education establishment" to buy in and build many of these.

Around where I am now there is a flourishing charter school ecology. Some are to escape the low-expectation public schools. Others have religious slant. And still others advocate challenging education like Chinese language immersion or computers. Even the high end schools worry some parents whether these are too fringe for their kids to get into a top college.

Whats the problem? (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798641)

What's the problem with their "Enroll" Button? This isn't exactly a good start for a course called CS101.

Re:Whats the problem? (1)

binary paladin (684759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798865)

Same problem here. I just tried to sign up and nothing on the site appears to actually work properly.

Re:Whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38799617)

I guess I'm going to have to pass on a website that teaches programming but can't even get their enrollment form to work properly.

OK for teaching (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38798963)

But what about research grants?

What makes some professors interesting is the part of their time they spend 'pushing the envelope' doing research. The online stuff can (if used properly) allow them to reach more students with less demand on their time. So, more research. I'm fine with that.

What made Sebastian's class interesting was some insight into his (award winning) work on the DARPA challenges and other robotic car stuff.

free Stanford online courses delayed (1)

tommeke100 (755660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799067)

I registered for a couple of free online Stanford classes that were supposed to start yesterday (Machine learning, NLP, game theory). All were delayed for an indefinite time (couple of days to couple of weeks, no exact number was given). Might this be the reason?

Are professors teachers really needed anymore? (1)

BlueCoder (223005) | more than 2 years ago | (#38799793)

You only need to record a lecture one to three times with possible editing. Maybe update it now and then. It's the equivalent of a electronic textbook. Only thing left is answering questions and office hours per session. If he does this it just seems to me he will just be the director of a tutoring group. Are professors/teachers really needed anymore?

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