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Stanford Online Courses Delayed; More Time To Sign Up

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-your-copious-free-time dept.

Education 66

mikejuk writes "Online Computer Science classes that have attracted tens of thousands of students have been put back for a couple of weeks. Is this on account of Sebastian Thrun's resignation from Stanford? Whatever the reason, providing certificates for online students seems to be a real point of contention. James Plummer, dean of Stanford's School of Engineering, said 'I think it will actually be a long time, maybe never, when actual Stanford degrees would be given for fully online work by anyone who wishes to register for the courses.' The good news is that the delay means that there is still time to sign up."

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66 comments

*Sigh* There's no drama. (5, Insightful)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828483)

This has nothing to do with Sebastian Thrun. He had nothing to do with this batch of courses. Both schemes emerged from Stanford and launched alongside one another (presumably to maximise publicity), but they are not related.

There have been suggestions (from, most notably, Professor Jeffrey Ullman) that Stanford got spanked by disability advocates who complained that the courses were not accessible to the visually impaired and that the development team was working to get this fixed before launch; hence the delay.

As for certificates - it has always been made very clear that there would be no certification or credit of any kind, issued by Stanford for these courses or for the courses run by Sebastian Thrun's outfit. For there to be contention, there needs to be some area of disagreement - there is none.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828741)

I guess when teaching becomes a job, then leaving Stanford makes sense? Another thing, he couldn't do his pet project on the side?

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828827)

He was already carrying out research for Google, so I imagine in a lot of ways, Stanford was his side project. Then this opportunity came along and he traded Stanford in for the opportunity to do something really big.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828977)

I wish him well. My wife is a teacher, I see teachers come and go all the time. It's a loss when good teachers leave, one gets the feeling of a negative impact on the future.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38831813)

Then this opportunity came along and he traded Stanford in for the opportunity to do something really big.

It's a real shame he wasn't able to work with Stanford. I took both his/Norvig's AI class and the ML class, and the ML class was superior to the AI class in every way. Tech, teaching style, consistency of content, objective clarity, presentation quality, etc. Thrun's new class is also just a CS101 class which doesn't require any prerequisite knowledge of programming at all, while Stanford is offering pretty weighty stuff (and one CS101 as well).

Thrun's definitely a knowledgeable and passionate guy, and I enjoyed seeing that in the videos, irrespective of the problems. But if Stanford and KnowIt were competing in the same space, Stanford's quality has quite outshone them and should be the "really big" thing based on that... if they decide to take advantage of it.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (2)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38832567)

In that CS101 class he intends to go from no programming knowledge to building a rudimentary search engine - that's not weighty enough for you?

And in his other course he is going to teach the algorithms and techniques used in Google's self driving car.

I'm not quite sure what you think an ambitious effort would consist of.

The superiority of the ML class has been talked about a lot, but I hope that Thrun and co. have taken those criticisms on board and improved their methodology.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839517)

Anything that goes from no programming knowledge can't be very weighty by definition unless they expect students to devote 80-100 hours per week for that course.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830619)

Are these course free?

I'm bored and looking for some free college-level education. Maybe I should sign-up.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38831847)

Yes, totally free. The units of work & quizzes are on a weekly basis, so it's very easy to schedule time for it.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38829123)

I doubt this. The AI course was the ony one with a .com domain name. For this reason and others I think the AI course was meant to become a paying course which implies the students should have been able to get certificates upon graduation. The Stanford disagreement to such a paradigm shift would explain why Thrun decided to start up his own business. Notice the AI course is the only one not offered as an encore although . Regarding accessibility to the visually impaired, I don't see (pun unintended) how the in-class course offers better options so if it's really an issue then it did not start with the online course.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

obliv!on (1160633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830137)

but Prof. Andrew Ng says in his video [youtube.com] for the machine learning class [http] "If you successfully complete this class you also get from me a signed statement of accomplishment stating how you did on the class that you can put on your resume." that's got to mean something to some people given his reputation in the field. Especially those who are trying to scoop up as many machine learners as possible in this whole Big Data rush.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830417)

His signature on a certificate for a course that has absolutely no controls is about as useless a piece of paper as I can imagine...except for possibly Microsoft Developer certifications.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830299)

As for certificates - it has always been made very clear that there would be no certification or credit of any kind, issued by Stanford for these courses or for the courses run by Sebastian Thrun's outfit.

IIRC, if you did everything for the previous AI class, there was a certificate (which was not, as I understand, from Stanford) but not credit; the same is apparently true (from the class websites) for at least one of the classes now advertised for February. (The Model Thinking [modelthinker-class.org] class, whose website states "If you decide to do the deep dive, and take all the quizzes and the exam, you'll receive a certificate of completion.")

The issue in the TFS was that certificates (without the qualification "from Stanford") were an issue of contention; its quite possible for the issue of having any certificates at all for the classes (which are offered under Stanford's aegis) being a point of contention within Stanford even when the issue of certificates from Stanford, as such, is settled.

For there to be contention, there needs to be some area of disagreement - there is none.

There may be none in the narrow area to which you have restricted the issue, but that's not the area in which TFS indicated that there was contention.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830383)

Why on earth would Stanford care about a meaningless certificate?

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830527)

Why on earth would Stanford care about a meaningless certificate?

If its offered, its not meaningless to the people it is offered to. They could be concerned about misinterpretation of its meaning, and they could be concern about inconsistency between the individual Stanford groups offering courses about whether a certificate is offered (because they want consistency in the offerings.)

At the same times, the groups actually offering the classes may have strong opinions about whether or not certificates should be offered (and they may differ between groups) for any of a wide range of reasons.

Just because it doesn't make a difference to you doesn't mean it doesn't make a difference to the people actually involved in the process.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38832123)

I have one and the only time it mentions Stanford is in the disclaimer

Disclaimer: This online offering of Introduction to Artificial Intelligence does not affirm that you were enrolled as a Stanford student in any way; it does not confer a Stanford grade; it does not confer Stanford credit; and it does not confer a Stanford degree or a certificate.

Stanford is not worried about those certificates. If it were worried in any way, it would prevent the use of it's materials or syllabi being used in the production of the courses and it wouldn't help to promote them.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839405)

In academia, certifications (certificates) are frowned upon. It is a touchy subject. If you have ever been involved in a college or university you know that this comes up all the time and that the entrenched administration and faculty are openly hostile towards them. Business, and regular people want comprehensive certification programs, but these are unnerving to "professional educators" because they (the educators) are not protected by the accreditation monopoly in this case. I'm no financial aid expert, but as I understand it, the rules are setup so that the college cannot award certificates to those seeking a degree and using loans or grants.

Re:*Sigh* There's no drama. (1)

Whiternoise (1408981) | more than 2 years ago | (#38833923)

Don't they get around the certification issue (I believe MIT does this) by issuing a certificate from a spin out company with a totally unrelated name?

You can always sign up (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38828495)

The summary implies that it's too late to sign up when the course has started. That's bullshit. Last semester I signed up to db-class after the midterm exam. There is a 50% penalty on quiz scores if you submit them after the deadline, and exams aren't scored after their deadline, but that certificate is worthless anyway. People are taking these classes for learning, not for credit.

Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828511)

I would still be taking college courses just for fun, if I could afford it. There is something to be said for the idea of "never stop learning" and not resting on your laurels. I wish more people would adopt this philosophy, instead of getting to a certain place in their lives and just saying "Well, no need to learn anything new." I've worked with many programmers who hadn't learned a damn thing since they were in their 20's. They just become more obsolete every day they live.

college is not setup for continuing education (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828711)

Some times colleges are very hard for people working to take classes. Tech schools and community colleges do have the class times that work for people with jobs. But HR does not like tech schools and community colleges. Also most community colleges are 2 year based but they have lot's of classes you can take DROP IN.

Now continuing education in the old college system is BA, masters, PHD and that comes with it's load of filler and other stuff that is over kill say if you just want to learn about new tech or take some classes as a refresher.

This is why IT / TECH needs to be more like the trades / apprenticeship / VOC school system where continuing education works along with real work skills that you don't get in the class room.

Re:college is not setup for continuing education (4, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829275)

But HR does not like tech schools and community colleges.

This is seriously a problem with society. If it doesn't make you money, or if it isn't directly related to making money, it is thought of as useless. GP said he would take classes for fun, who cares what any company thinks about it. I did the Stanford machine learning course because it was interesting, not because it would help me make money in any way, I will do more for the same reason, and in more diverse fields. People learning about things not related to their job or area of expertise is a good thing, it is something to be encouraged.

Re:college is not setup for continuing education (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834333)

When you work 70+ hour weeks, it's kinda hard to give a fuck about using your precious downtime on expanding your mind. If it can get you out of the hellhole that is your current job, then it might be worth sacrificing some of that time. Blame the current shitty, pro-employer economy for this mindset.

Re:college is not setup for continuing education (1)

th3rmite (938737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838317)

I've been working 60+ hour weeks consistently for 13 years with a spike of 75+ hour weeks for a two year period, maintained a decent life with a wife and two kids, and you know what? I've been taking online courses for YEARS.

Go ahead work long hours because you have to, but don't become a vegetable because you DON'T have to. Don't let your job ruin your life man. There's always time for what you make of it.

Re:WANT to learn (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829415)

Here we go - this is the first stop on yet another copyright front we haven't heard much about - Education!

Think about it - many classes are lecture based - so an entire class would be like a TV Season DVD. Come in to the "certified exam", which is on the verge of becoming the only thing a "typical" university offers. I know, it's the "growing time", but that's not worth $150,000 per degree is it?!

The rise of the internet is handling the "first order questions". So then you'd just buy something like a $100 "Q&A consult" for three hours for the real tough questions.

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829417)

So agree, I'm 61, I took the Stanford ML course and it was really, really good. Professor Ng is an excellent, very relaxed, non-intimidating teacher. I needed and need a lot more time to get a sure grip on the maths but it was tremendously useful. I've signed up for the model one and the natural language one, new stuff is fun, isn't it?

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830421)

See that's awesome. I did the AI course, and did well enough that now I've signed up for Information Theory and Anatomy. I know they're kind of off the computer path (well info theory not so much but it's not CS) but I think getting that breadth of knowledge will be helpful. I only wish I had the time and energy to do more.

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38831905)

I did both the AI and ML courses, mashing through them on the weekends. Since the AI class always seemed to delay its deadlines due to technical issues, that actually let me stagger out the work another day or two.

I think I signed up for 4 or 5 classes this cycle! However, their schedule had some of them starting in January, some starting as late as March, and some only being 6-7 weeks long, so I was expecting to have only a short period of all of them hitting at once. With this delay, though, I think I'm in for a classload tsunami!

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (1)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838275)

Man if you have a full time job and a family ... well best of luck to you haha.

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38855255)

I could easily beat the shit out of you, scrawny little faggot.

Re:Nice to know that so many still WANT to learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38837103)

To the never stop learning... At some point college courses are no longer the way to go. One can learn much better outside of the structure designed for people who don't have the kind of basic understanding of some one who is just trying to update and expand.

Likely nothing to do with Thrun (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828545)

I signed up for the ML course and got this e-mail last week:

We're very excited for the forthcoming launch of Machine Learning. We're sorry for not to have gotten in touch lately - we've been busy generating lots of content, and the system is working really well. Unfortunately, there are still a few administrative i's to dot and t's to cross. We're still hopeful that we'll go live very soon. But since we don't have a firm timeline right now, we'd rather leave this open and get back to you with a definitive date soon (rather than just promise you a date that's far enough in the future that we can feel confident about it). We'll let you know a firm date as soon as we possibly can. We realize that some of you will have made plans expecting the course to start in January, and we apologize for any difficulties that this delay may cause. The good news is that the course is looking great, and we're thrilled that over 44,000 people have signed up - we can't wait for the course to start! See you soon online! - The Machine Learning Course Staff

Seems like technical/administrative issues? Maybe they weren't counting on so many students?

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (3, Funny)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828561)

Making a video course accessible to blind people is a significant task.

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828639)

Blindingly impossible, I would say.

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828721)

Standard practice is to provide the audio of the video with an additional track providing any information that is not described within the original narration. Add in a full transcript to cover the deaf, ensure your site can be navigated by screen readers and you're golden.

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38829293)

Standard practice is to provide the audio of the video with an additional track providing any information that is not described within the original narration. Add in a full transcript to cover the deaf, ensure your site can be navigated by screen readers and you're golden.

What about making it accessible to the congenitally stupid?

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829343)

I thought you were joking, and followed along.

I agree with you, of course, and would add that providing a transcript also makes it easier to translate to other languages.

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828695)

I think translating it to Braille was maybe more time consuming than was scheduled for.

well it's the law and they have to do something (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828737)

well it's the law and they have to do something so that blind people can learn and they do work in tech jobs.

Re:Likely nothing to do with Thrun (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829405)

I took it last semester and some of the content (as described in the syllabus) was missing because the videos and exercises/exercise testing apps apparently took longer to create than anticipated. They're probably working on filling in this content, along with (as someone above suggested) accessibility features.

Where do I sign up? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38828627)

I couldn't find the link to the signup page. Please add it to the summary.

Stanford on-line degrees NEVER? Humbug. (1)

RandCraw (1047302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828653)

> 'I think it will actually be a long time, maybe never, when actual Stanford degrees would be given for fully online work...

Lots of fine universities already offer degrees entirely on-line (especially MS in engineering). Unlike the dean, I am certain Stanford will do this. But it'll cost... full tuition.

Re:Stanford on-line degrees NEVER? Humbug. (1)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#38828747)

Don't they require you to attend an actual exam or to submit a significant piece of written work?

Neither of those methods of assessment can be accomplished over the internet for free. That is the biggest obstacle these free courses face if they wish to become a major part of the educational landscape.

Still Waiting... (1)

S810 (168676) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829119)

I signed up for the CS 101 (Not that I need it, but everyone needs a little brush up on basics now and then, right?), Cryptography and Anatomy Classes and each one has sent emails detailing everything about the delay except when they expect to start. They were very vague but at least they reached out to those of us who signed up.

This course is useless. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829513)

OK, OK, you get the same thing being taught to Stanford students. Big deal. You can get the same quality teaching material in any of the top 50 univs. What sets them apart is a degree from Stanford, nothing else. Stanford degree is just a filtering criterion. The quality of teaching has only a very minor part in it.

hmmmmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829523)

"'I think it will actually be a long time, maybe never, when actual Stanford degrees would be given for fully online work by anyone who wishes to register for the courses."

Makes sense, but what would be cool is if they had some way built in to "scout" promising students, where if you do well enough in the online courses it gives you some sort of in to get into the school itself.

Never is about right (2)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 2 years ago | (#38829585)

Universities are big business with long-term faculty and administrative staff being a large expense. It would be foolish to believe that they are going to allow online courses to replace their cash cow(campus students).

Re:Never is about right (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38830463)

Universities are big business with long-term faculty and administrative staff being a large expense. It would be foolish to believe that they are going to allow online courses to replace their cash cow(campus students).

Executed properly, an at-no-charge non-credit online course program does two things: (1) it serves as a tool to drive mindshare among the set of people that might be interested in purchasing the universities actual consumer product (which isn't education, its degrees; requiring the education as a prerequisite is just something which helps support the market value of the degree), (2) it helps the university smooth out online course delivery -- which has potentially a lot lower cost per student -- before offering online course delivery to students that are paying for degrees. Reducing what amounts to the production cost of the product it sells is net financial win to universities, and working out the bugs in a way which is at arm's length from the for-pay end of the business minimizes the degree to which any growing pains reduce the attractiveness of the university to paying students.

Re:Never is about right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38830845)

At high end universities like Stanford, each undergraduate student actually *costs* the university money. Tuition doesn't come close to paying the bills, it's hugely subsidized by alumni donations and "administrative tax" on research grants.

Re:Never is about right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38831049)

Actually, modern universities' "cash cow" (which, btw, we're not using correctly here - but never mind) is more likely to be distance education, which offers vastly higher margins than traditional university settings. And distance ed would be even more threatened by free online courses, obviously.

Re:Never is about right (1)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 2 years ago | (#38832147)

Are students the "cash cow" at Stanford? I'm sure Stanford brings in an inordinate amount of research money.

About time (2)

glittermage (650813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38832349)

This is a very efficient way to discover or farm potentially high value talent.

Offer free high level courses to people. This equates to great PR (educating people is good) + sift through data to find high value talent. Provide high value contact information to Google or other high tech firms.

Awesome!

More effective than a billboard on a freeway.

How much time commitment? (2)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38833089)

Can anybody who's taken one of these courses tell me how much time commitment these things tend to require on a weekly basis? Trying to decide how many of these classes I can reasonably take at the same time without getting overloaded.

Re:How much time commitment? (1)

rst123 (2440064) | more than 2 years ago | (#38833393)

How fast do you learn? How much do you want to put into it? How much do you already know? based on a sample size of one student and one class (me, DB class) I would say I spent 2 to 4 hours a week. 1 to 2 hours on lectures and then assignments and quizzes. If you had to go back and learn some prerequisite, or wanted to go into more depth or had problems, or had/wanted to re-watch lectures, or already knew some parts, or wanted perfect grades, or just wanted a surface understanding that would change. I would say YMMV but that would be wrong as it really is Your Mileage *Will* Vary Ray

Re:How much time commitment? (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834707)

Thanks. I've signed up for Game Theory and also Entrepreneuralism, both subjects I'm a little familiar with, but things I'd like to study more in depth. At 2-4 hours per week, I can probably handle both, if it's closer to 10 like eminencja suggested, I may be in trouble. As long as I'm learning some new things I'll be satisfied, definitely not worried about perfect grades.

Re:How much time commitment? (1)

eminencja (1368047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834103)

10 hrs+ per week per course is a rough guess. Depends on whether the material is entirely new for you or not.

I took two courses last year -- databases and machine learning. It was tough to have a full time job and a life at the same time -- but I managed to complete both with maximum scores so that's doable. Also note that the courses this year (some of them at least) are shorter than the ones offered in 2o11. It is easier to work hard (every evening on a weekday + Saturdays) for just 5 weeks rather than 9 or 10 weeks.

Re:How much time commitment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38836789)

I did the Ai class, and didn't track my time, but I probably spent on average 5-10 hours per week. I could have easily spent less time but I was shooting for 100% so was very careful to triple check all my work (as there was graded homework each week). Unfortunately I finished on 96.4% as my final grade.

Re:How much time commitment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38837979)

I took all three the first time through. First few weeks it was about 10 hours per course per week. For the last few weeks, it went up to about 12-15 hours per course per week.

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