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School's In For Summer At Udacity

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the nerd-camp-by-remote dept.

Education 105

theodp writes "Forget about his self-driving cars. CNN reports that Sebastian Thrun's Udacity — where you and 159,999 fellow classmates can take a free, Stanford-caliber online course together at the same time — just might be the future of higher education. Interestingly, of all the students taking Thrun's AI class globally and at Stanford, the top 410 students were online; the 411th top performer was a Stanford student. 'We just found over 400 people in the world who outperformed the top Stanford student,' Thrun said."

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EXTRA CREDIT (-1, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575331)

I made more friends on Slashdort today than thisguy did, and all my friends love me and love each other! We are a happy godly community of my friends on slashdort, the web site of the inter net! Now all we need is COMMUNISM and everything will be perfict!!!!!!

I haven't read the article, but (4, Interesting)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575353)

are they factoring in that the online students may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "brick and mortar" student?

Seriously consider the possibility that an in-person student may be taking many classes all at once, with attention diversified versus someone online who may only be taking one class.

As I said, I haven't read the article.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575371)

so there's nobody at stanford who is taking just 1 class?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576697)

Probably not. Perhaps a grad student or two. When I was at college the minimum load you were allowed to take was 12 1/2 units / semester. I think the measurement units have changed since then, but the concept probably continues.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575409)

Yes, self-pacing is a huge advantage of online courses. At university I was always struggling to drink from the firehose, and if I wasn't, then I would feel bad for not taking a heavier load to get through sooner. But I always wished I had more time to absorb the topic and really get into it. Cramming for 4 years and then never cracking a book again [mentalfloss.com] (nor an online course) is no way to live an educated life.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575517)

Udacity classes aren't self-paced (which is their advantage over the likes of MITx). You can watch the lectures whenever you like, but the assignments and tests are due on a set schedule. This not only provides accountability and motivation to finish, but also means that there are other people learning the same thing so you can get help via forums/study groups.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575609)

I was referring more to the topic raised by the parent, which is the challenge of taking 5 or 6 courses at the same time. Instead of working like crazy for 4-8 years and then saying, "OK, I'm educated now!" maybe it would be better to bootstrap for just a couple years, then continue learning throughout life, as career needs evolve. Even if just a course per year. (I don't know if Udacity allows that, but it certainly seems to be more feasible without the inordinate travel time of commuting to a university for a single course).

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40579785)

This whole Udacity thing is fascinating. I think comp-sci is especially suitable for online education. Self paced is awesome for geeks like me with day jobs, but a rigorous schedule is probably better for full time students. I don't know where this is going, but 160K students learning this course has to have a bigger global impact than any lecture.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40578979)

Actually, over the summer, the Google Car course is self paced. I finished it in about a week. It was very cool. Unfortunately I have to wait for a couple months until they offer the final exam again.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (3, Informative)

just another AC (2679463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40581065)

It seems they are going further than that...
(From the google car course announcement page)
"Dear students,
We have listened to your feedback about how awesome, engaging, exciting and educational, but also time consuming, our classes are. We are aware that most of you have many commitments in your life - job, family, studies at offline brick-and-mortar universities, house, garden, pets, vacations, travel plans, and many other things that are incompatible with our deadline based course model. Therefore we have decided to see if making our courses self-paced will enable more people to enjoy our content and learn new and exciting things.
The courses that are offered for the second time will have no deadlines, and you will be able to work through them at your own pace. You can start at any time, and take as much time as needed to finish the course."

So it seems all courses not on their debut will be self paced.

(P.S. Hooray for me... after 10+ years of stalking slashdot and posting as AC if I was going to post, I finally got off my butt and registered)

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40579301)

I'm doing cs101 and there doesn't seem to be any time limit or schedule.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (2)

daemonc (145175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575413)

Er... are you factoring in that many of the online students may have other things that consume their time, like say... a job and family?

I know that when I was a "brick and mortar" student, I had much, much, much more free time than I do now. And I am exactly the sort of person that considers taking an online course such as this.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575551)

That depends heavily on where you go to school, and on how hard you want to work while there.. I have oodles more free time now that I'm graduated and in a software engineering job than I ever did as an undergrad, but then I went to one of the pressure cooker schools. I've heard the same thing from friends of mine who went to state schools but chose to take on huge courseloads to finish early, etc.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575615)

Indeed, it depends wildly on the school, the program, etc.

I managed to pull off a degree in Electrical Engineering, a second major in Spanish, a third major in German, a minor in Applied Physics, and a minor in Mathematics. I played in the university orchestra and was an officer and/or organizer in several very active campus organizations. I rarely had 'free' time and I ran myself ragged. Then when I went to grad school, I'd often spend six, sometimes seven, days a week at the lab from 8am to 10pm. It was brutal, hellish even.

I graduated right as the economy went into the toilet, and have found only part-time or short-term full-time work the past several years. I've had loads of free time. (Not exactly happy or productive free time, as I spend most of it looking for more work and worrying about finances, but free time nonetheless.)

On the other end of the scale, I knew business majors, marketing majors, etc -- most of whom have good jobs now -- who basically did nothing in school except party and play video games for hours a day. I'd feel jealous or hateful, but what's the point; that's the way life works.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575811)

I read an article in the WSJ about Masters programs and all of the administration interviewed from each of the colleges admitted that graduate students all started at the same level as an undergrad in the workforce except for MBAs. Very enlightening. A master's degree will get you a job in education (education pays shit) for sure, but the business world is not clamoring for them.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575827)

EE companies are still hiring like crazy even during the shitty economy. Did you do internships while you were at school?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40579903)

Unfortunately, no. I applied to plenty of co-ops and summer internship programs around the country, placing as an 'alternate' about six *#@@^#@ times, but landing no position. The school I went to for my BSEE was in a rural area and I had no reliable transportation, which definitely hampered any prospects while school was in session.

I'm the first person in my family to go to college and now I wish I hadn't, for all the unnecessary pain and financial hardship it has caused.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575429)

are they factoring in that the online students may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "brick and mortar" student?

Seriously consider the possibility that an in-person student may be taking many classes all at once, with attention diversified versus someone online who may only be taking one class.

As I said, I haven't read the article.

I find your analysis rather unbalanced (one class vs. many?), and the exact opposite is more likely true.

An online student can easily be enrolled in many classes at once, and quite literally be "in" all of those classes at the same time by simply opening up another browser window or tab and signing into the class.

Unless you've figured out how to clone yourself, the in-person student, while enrolled in the same number of classes as the online student, still can only physically attend one class at a time, thus minimizing the distraction issue.

And there are a LOT of distractions to be had for the online student when literally carrying around the internet with your class. This is why most physical classrooms ban all electronic devices (even for taking notes), because instructors know damn well what 95% of students are doing with open laptops in class when internet access is available.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (4, Insightful)

bobdehnhardt (18286) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575479)

As someone currently enrolled at Udacity, I can confirm that I'm only taking a couple courses at the moment. That's the advantage - I can learn at my own pace, in a manner that suits both my schedule and style of learning, and get the most possible benefit out of the classes. I'm not saying that I would outperform a Stanford student; hell, I wouldn't even pass the admissions test. And yet, I'm currently participating in Stanford-level classes in computer science, physics and statistics. For free.

IMHO, that's a pretty compelling argument for the value of this effort.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (3, Informative)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575531)

There are other factors not accounted for as well. I took the course just to experience what the state of the art in online learning is, even though I've taken almost all of the material in my undergraduate and graduate. The course was very easy for someone who's encountered this stuff before. Probably all the Stanford students were experiencing the material for the first time.

Also, I don't know how the class at Stanford was structured. Were those students taking an online class or a real class? As in show up and take the exam for a 3 hour period. People taking the online course had 72 hours to complete the exam, and of course it was open book, open web (even if ostensibly not). With the exams accounting for 70% of the final grade, doing well on those is a major factor.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

dragisha (788) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575543)

are they factoring in that the online students may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "brick and mortar" student?

Seriously consider the possibility that an in-person student may be taking many classes all at once, with attention diversified versus someone online who may only be taking one class.

As I said, I haven't read the article.

First and most important thing first: Thrun is one selling Udacity, Meaning - everything he says is biased. Bias by money, nothing unusual, but bias still.

High education without academy and without personal contact with peers and faculty staff... Looks like Thrun just invented high education without hassle called human factor, err.. professors. Car without driver, education without teachers... Pure genius! :)

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576555)

Or he has distilled from the amalgum of academic and political culture, pedagogy, and bias a purer method by which the greatest number of people can become educated. If there is anything which has a value great enough to be noticed by the "capitalist conspiracy", surely it is the investment into globally educating vast classes of people simply.

Also, many people are pre-engaged in their lives, with jobs, friends, spouses, and obligations, medical, financial, or otherwise, all of which are too important to separate from for any number of years to fly across the globe to a college in California, US to learn similar things as could be taught over their home computer. While they won't gain the personal experience of attending the physical location, perhaps they do not need to be treated like a student to be a student?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575565)

Seems like an argument for doing away with brick and mortar schools since you can't really concentrate. I agree. After
I graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1996. I really don't have a news for a graduate degree but I have taken about 15 graduate level credits over the years in subjects of interest. I have learned much more this way than when I was a full time student taking 18 credits a semester.

It might have been more productive to work full time as a drafter/designer while going to school part time.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40578707)

"Seems like an argument for doing away with brick and mortar schools since you can't really concentrate."

I suppose it depends on the goal. Do you want a degree to improve the chances of getting a job (I'm looking at you, Liberal Arts)? Or, do you want to learn something that you can apply to the real world?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

pnutjam (523990) | more than 2 years ago | (#40590919)

or do you want to drink alot and cheer for people dressed funny and chasing a ball...

Seriously? We do not. (1)

Yobgod Ababua (68687) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575595)

"are they factoring in that the online students may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "brick and mortar" student?"

Are you serious?
Both myself and most of the people I know that have been interested in these online classes are older and have full-time jobs. We squeeze in our lecture watching and homework during lunch hours and instead of the evening TV. We emphatically do -not- have more free time than a standard student (and we should know, since we were students once too, with free time, before our jobs and families took over).

And just to be clear, I know for certain that many of the "400" (twice as good as a movie?) are these sort of people and not, somehow, unemployed layabouts drowning in free time. In fact, logically, the world's smartest people will already be doing something else productive with their free time... either gainful employment or "brick and mortar" education, so this should not be surprising at all.

To summarize:
"brick and mortar" students have (generally) no other obligations on their time but study.
Online students are generally already brick and mortar students as well, or else holding down full time jobs. They do not have more free time.

Re:Seriously? We do not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40578067)

Anecdote against anecdote: I signed up into online class, do not work full time and had a lot of time for it. I ended up with top score.

To answer summarization:
1.) "brick and mortar" students study consists of more then one course. They have to study all classes they signed up for, plus a lot of them work too. Their obligation is not only to this one particular course, their obligation is to all courses they signed up for. They may or may not have more time for this particular course.
2.) Online students may have more free time. It is quite possible that top 411 among thousands had more time then average. Plus, some of them already knew most content, so they have it much easier then those who see it for the first time. To illustrate with anecdote, I personally know one university professor that signed up for a course similar to one he teaches, because he was curious about teaching methods. You can guess his score and required effort (top score very little effort).

Re:I haven't read the article, but (3, Insightful)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575663)

I suspect some of the top people in the class went in with a full understanding of the subject matter, intending to test the class itself.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (2)

Georules (655379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575725)

Many of the people taking these online courses already know the material as well. The top stanford student was probably still looking at much of it for the first time. Myself, for example, have taken a few udacity courses just to see the content delivery. I already knew the material and just blazed through assignments with nearly no effort.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575787)

The attention diversification factor definitely lowers your GPA. When I have a heavy class-load and things get hairy I have to make decisions about what class is going to get the most attention. A lot of times I will get A's in all of them after making these trade-offs, but still. You don't really have time to ruminate ideas and concepts though, one of my complaints about college. Then there is that strained look in the eye of a professor that you get when he/she is trying to run through all of the material while you are trying to put the brakes on and discuss something in class.

Sounds familiar (1)

hawks5999 (588198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575901)

are they factoring in that the automobile drivers may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "horse and buggy" driver?

Seriously consider the possibility that an equestrian driver may be having to feed, stable, and shoe all at once, with attention diversified versus someone driving a car who may only be putting in gas and driving.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576525)

On the flip side, are you factoring in the time online students spend doing their day jobs? I found my Coursera Crypto class very difficult because I still had to work, so I didn't have any more free time than a college student, and what time I did have was less flexible, between job and family obligations.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576873)

Or better still—how do we know some of these students haven't already taken an equivalent AI course and are just messing with the statistics? Outliers come in all shapes and sizes!

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

Yoda222 (943886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576935)

From what I remember from university and if I compare to my current job, I have the same amount of free time. I used to go to the university campus and sit with friends, passing my time playing card or randomly browsing the Internet for 30-40 per hours at University (and sometime following class, says 10hours per week, the rest was not really needed), and now it's the same, except for the card plays (I have to work a few hours every weeks, and to be at work but on internet for some additional hours). And outside of work I don't have anything to do for work, which was not the case during my studies (hum, in fact, I never worked a lot, but some peoples did) So in conclusion I think I had relatively the same amount of free time during the ai-class last year and during my studies a few years ago (start of the third millenium after the cannibal god zombie) But the format of the exams/homework (lots of small multiple choice answer + some problems with numerical answers), combined with the fact that one (or two) questions had some ambiguities, is in favour of the massive number of online students (thats 410 students over tens of thousand if I remember correctly versus no students over a few hundreds)

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577703)

are they factoring in that the online students may have much, much, much... much more free time than a "brick and mortar" student?

Seriously consider the possibility that an in-person student may be taking many classes all at once, with attention diversified versus someone online who may only be taking one class.

As I said, I haven't read the article.

--
I have a job for 50 hours a week and a family with kids. I have much less time now that I had when I was a student. I am taking Udacity classes now and I can barely find the time. However I am learning more that what I did in my undergraduate degree.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40581053)

versus someone online who may only be taking one class

Versus someone with a family and a full-time job (like me).

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40582129)

Then I think they just discovered a much more efficient way to educate university students, huh?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40586431)

I did quite well on Udacity's CS101 course. Of course, I work in IT and did spend many a year doing a Bach Comp Sc. So, it might be that many doing this course are curious people already well versed in AI or who are doing it for the fun of it, to check out how the courses operate, or any number of other reasons.

Re:I haven't read the article, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40589005)

How does Udacity make money? ads? selling user's data?

Re:I haven't read the article, but (1)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 2 years ago | (#40590099)

On the other hand, online students might be working 10 hours a day while studying.
I had much more free time when I was a full time student than I have being a full time employee.

Lol (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575379)

If all the courses are free, and they offer the ones I want, I'd pick up Mechanical Engineering + Physics + Chemistry degrees, then work my way through the liberal arts degrees. That Political Science degree will look nice mounted under my MCSE certificate. ;-)

Re:Lol (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575445)

I don't see how you could get online mechanical engineering, physics, or chemistry degrees, since each requires significant lab experience. Computer Science is probably the only science degree you could do fully on a computer, for obvious reasons.

Re:Lol (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576009)

I don't see how you could get online mechanical engineering, physics, or chemistry degrees, since each requires significant lab experience.

You don't have a lab in your home?

Re:Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40578975)

Well, most local colleges can do the "lab" portion for courses already; they can also be used for writing exams (I know, I have done it). Although I have to admit, getting a chemistry major this way would probably not be the easiest route to take; however, if you wanted to take a course for interest and/or self growth then I can see no reasons this could not be setup.

The logistics of setting this up may be a huge deal; but I could see local colleges converting into mentoring, testing, and lab centers for online courses too....

Well DUH anyone who pays tuition when its... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575391)

Anyone who pays top tier tuition versus someone who pays a fraction of the cost for the class online not only has issues of intelligence but also I think sanity might come into question also.

Re:Well DUH anyone who pays tuition when its... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575547)

Anyone taking the Stanford class -- even if they were a freshman spring semester -- enrolled before Udacity (or the preceding Stanford experimental online classes) existed.

Re:Well DUH anyone who pays tuition when its... (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576015)

But not before books existed, and ebook torrents existed.

certificates can then be sent to employers. (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575437)

That is where we need to go with jobs more certificates / vocational learning / non degree / apprenticeships.

And less big one size fit's all degrees.

Grading on curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575447)

Better hope he doesn't grade on a curve.

Well to be fair to that stanford student (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575453)

If there really were 160k and he finished 401 then he finished in the top 0.25%. BTW, what's this about "Stanford-Caliber" courses? I mean I went to a fairly well regarded private university and lets say the quality of their courses was rather underwhelming. (I later took classes at a public university that is supposedly not in the private's league and the education they offered was as good if not better. Then again they didn't have loads of top researchers which is what those rankings are about anyway. Yes, I'm jaded.)

Re:Well to be fair to that stanford student (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575597)

BTW, what's this about "Stanford-Caliber" courses?

I wanted to make the same point. I've also been to a variety of universities from state to top tier private and found the caliber of teachers to be largely equivalent between them. Because of the competitiveness in academia, almost all professors across the board come from the top school in their field, so they have very similar styles, knowledge, and values. You'll find professors at State U and Ivy U who probably were lab mates.

The real difference between schools is facilities and the quality of equipment for research. But taking your run-of-the-mill intro to AI or whatever course at State U for $400 and Ivy U for $4000 doesn't mean you really learned material of a "higher caliber" at Ivy U.

I'm trying to remember that old saw (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 2 years ago | (#40577069)

The one that goes something "The difference between the education at an elite school and a non elite school isn't the education, it's the other stuff." (IE Like you say, access to research equipment, chance to network with elite professors and other elite students, etc. The classes are pretty much the same.)

Re:Well to be fair to that stanford student (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576217)

I went to a high-ranked public university (Georgia Tech) and also took the experimental online classes last fall (AI, Machine Learning and Databases) and found that the quality of the courses was pretty equal with Tech.

If the classes are good... (4, Insightful)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575461)

If the classes are good, who cares who's on top or not? The whole bit about other students doing better than an in person one doesn't matter a bit to me. Neither does the whole degree / not degree thing.

What matters is whether there's something really interesting/useful to learn. If you're looking to just get your degree and get out of school and forget learning, well... I suggest you get an MBA. This kind of thing is really great for those of us with a thirst for knowledge and learning that merely got its START when we were in college.

Re:If the classes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575987)

Man, the MBA bigots here are becoming unbearable. So you think everyone who studies an MBA doesn't have "a thirst for knowledge and learning"?

I have an MBA, and you are full of shit. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science and have taken the online AI course, amongst others. Right now, it's Saturday and I'm working on a mobile application. Software is my passion and is basically my life.

But no, because I have an MBA, because I wanted to know how to run a business - a bigot like you comes along and judges me as some kind of slacker moron who isn't interested in knowledge and learning.

I would say you are the moron because you have closed your mind to learning about business. There are career and life development opportunities which you will simply never have due to your bigotry. All of this from somebody who alleges to have a "thirst for knowledge and learning". How stupid of you.

Re:If the classes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40578991)

Wow, relax a little, drop the MBA on the weekends and you'll do just fine....

Re:If the classes are good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40580645)

Fair enough.

Re:If the classes are good... (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40587367)

Good for you - I'm glad. I'm glad because at least in your case, you WON'T be that passionless money-seeking-with-no-passion-or-understanding-for-software Pointy Haired boss who is nothing more than a suit stuffed with an MBA.

I applaud you and those like you (those with business degrees who actually have passion for something besides Power Point and quarterly reports)

Still doesn't change my personal opinion... I've worked for those empty suit types. It's a soul-wrenching experience.

Re:If the classes are good... (2)

MacDork (560499) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576427)

If the classes are good, who cares who's on top or not? The whole bit about other students doing better than an in person one doesn't matter a bit to me. Neither does the whole degree / not degree thing.

It matters for Udacity's credibility.

Re:If the classes are good... (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40587281)

Ok, that seems reasonable... though if the classes are good, isn't that really the credibility that matters?

 

What is Stanford Level? (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575465)

This kind of sounds to me like the early Lexus ads. Can't afford a Mercedes? Get the trappings of such a car without the engineering that comes from the creator of the petrol automobile. Feel like you are riding in an incredible machine without actually doing so.

I am sure that that the online courses are good. I am sure that the online students are as collaborative and work just as hard and are just as honest as the students who are working on similar projects at standford or any other university. But the hyperbole is a bit much. And the overly competitive air, that the top students are online, is also a bit much. The purpose of the university is to learn, and the GPA, or winning a single competition, or having someone else take your tests, is hardly a meaningful way of choosing the top students. Serious schools and professors tend not to do this, unless maybe you are in the financial sector. Success to me is determined by who actually goes out into the world and creates some innovative product or some original research.

Re:What is Stanford Level? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575513)

Achievement Unlocked: Missing the Point

Re:What is Stanford Level? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576883)

University should (but not is) be about molding the whole person. When it comes down to it, there is really nothing new here...in my day the option existed to just "read the text book".
However the writing is on the wall about the "value" that Stanford offers. If it is possible to telemetrize the experience of a course then shouldn't the students paying tuition expect more from their profs -- that is critical assessment of original student work; term papers, projects and in this case code.

Meh.

more apprentice programs are needed (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575495)

Too many people go to college just to go. We need more technical schools and apprentice programs to teach them skills that will actually help them get a job.

Maybe the Stanford student just blew it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575539)

Why wouldn't s/he, if s/he was already getting an education and degree from one of the top colleges in the country? Nobody cares about anybody's grades from Udacity, but grad schools and some employers (e.g. Google) do ask for college transcripts.

And that's assuming there really WAS a Stanford student enrolled, and there might not be.

Sounds like stupid small business advertising tricks to me. "Hey, what do we have to lose?"

Re:Maybe the Stanford student just blew it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576049)

s/he

Ever heard of the word "they"?

Re:Maybe the Stanford student just blew it off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577655)

s/he

Ever heard of the word "they"?

+500

This is one of the greatest posts in the history of the web.

Even brick and mortar schools offer online classes (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575563)

My master's program is a "hybrid" - half our classes are in the brick and mortar building, for times when we have guest lectures or exercises that need to be done in person. The other half are conducted via an online classroom, where we can just as easily see the powerpoint and hear our professor's voice, but we don't have to leave home. My husband is teaching his summer session classes entirely in asynchronous online time, posting assignments and readings and grading them and hosting forum based discussions of the topics. (Everyone has to make a forum post for participation credit.)

At this point, the only value coming from a fully paid program versus an online program is accreditation (there's a reason that diploma mill degrees are looked down upon) and the contacts that distinguished faculty members have for their students. Also, brick and mortar institutions are better for lab and research oriented classes. I don't think my plant physiology classes back in undergrad days when I minored in botany would have been as fulfilling without the labs, where we got to blend, electrocute, and otherwise torture plants to measure all the stuff their guts were doing. Sure, we could do all the organic chemistry and mathematics online, but those equations need to translate to the real world too.

IT jobs need to drop the NEED CS degree idea (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575575)

IT jobs need to drop the NEED CS degree idea as that is number more of a programing skill set but some CS is way more the high level theory side then what most programing skills need. Now for all IT jobs some theory is nice to have but the CS level is over kill and the time can be better off doing stuff that is more like real work.

Think taking a EE over some who did electricians apprenticeship to a electricians job. Even power line man have apprenticeship that just need high school to get in.

Also IT need a lot of hands on learning and counting education and the CS degree is a poor fit for that. Also the college time tables don't fit it that well also.

Even worse is IT jobs that they need ANY degree. That would be like taking a hiring for a plumber and saying that your plumber apprenticeship does not count but some with a underwater basket weaving degree gets that job.

Now who do want working on your car some with a car engineering degree or some who when to auto trade school and has ASE Certification?

Re:IT jobs need to drop the NEED CS degree idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576855)

IT jobs need to drop the NEED CS degree idea as that is number more of a programing skill set but some CS is way more the high level theory side then what most programing skills need.

Are there actually IT jobs that require a CS degree? I have never tried to get an IT job (I am an EDA programmer), but that seems so ridiculous that it can't be true. Why would anyone who worked for a CS degree take a job plugging computers in? That would be like a theoretical physicist becoming a truck driver, on the grounds that trucks obey the laws of physics.

Re:IT jobs need to drop the NEED CS degree idea (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40577361)

Likely it's HR non NON tech mangers who put down stuff like need CS degree or any degree for IT job and over look people who have real tech skills.

Duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575579)

Just because a student is attending college (or has) doesn't mean that they are superior. Many folks have other responsibilities and endeavors in life besides college. Also, these other non-college people are just as busy as any college student. I, personally, am more busy outside college than I was during college.

Why do I have to "enroll"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575587)

Why don't they just post the videos, and let me watch them?

I neither want, nor need, any "program" or other stuff. I just want to get the information, as efficiently as possible.

Re:Why do I have to "enroll"? (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575699)

For your own safety's sake, citizen. Stanford must be able to guarantee that you get the optimal "Stanford experience", and probably they also have to ensure that you're not a terrorist. (By asking "Are you a terrorist? Y/N" in the application form.)

Re:Why do I have to "enroll"? (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575729)

My guess is that it's because the process is far more than just videos. It's also about the forums / discussing with other students, doing the homework and quizzes and projects and getting feedback.

I'm not sayng there's no value to videos, but I think you're wrong to imply that there's no added value to the stuff that is "not videos".

With regard to videos and such, (I know there are some learn by video sites for specific topics like laurashoe.com (really good Photoshop tutorials) and that some colleges and universities are providing lectures via iTunes.

Additionally, some colleges allowed folks to "audit courses" where you went to the classes and lectures, but simply didn't get credit.

Here you go: (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576051)

I just want to get the information, as efficiently as possible.

You're welcome. [thepiratebay.se]

Top .26 percent (1)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575605)

So he is still in the top 411/160,000 (.26 %) Same as being first in a class of 400.

Re:Top .26 percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40578527)

Yeah, sounds like they need to hire an expert in probability or stats to help them interpret their data...

Still Time to Enroll in Intro to Statistics (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575653)

Intro to Statistics [udacity.com] : Making Decisions Based on Data

Just wanted to inform /. that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40575761)

... we're in winter, in case you didn't notice.

Just FYI.

As an aside, consider how uninformative is saying software A will be release by Fall.

Re:Just wanted to inform /. that (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576061)

.....and just who are you, again? Here in Jesusland it's summer and that's all that matters, heathen.

Hey, Copernicus (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576089)

Don't you know the U.S. is the center of the Universe? :-)

"400 who outperformed the top Stanford student" (2)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#40575999)

Or outcheated him.

I've taken both (1)

pawned (2673579) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576031)

I have taken classes both at Udacity and Stanford. I found that the Stanford class was more like a traditional classroom brought online. The Udacity course felt like it was designed from the beginning as an online experience.

Not apples-to-apples (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40576177)

I took the class and was tied for rank 1, but I have an engineering degree from a Stanford-caliber school and the 411th guy was still an undergrad. It's an interesting statistic, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison

"Stanford-quality course" may not be that great (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40576767)

I have a Stanford MSCS degree from the 1980s. Frankly, the teaching wasn't all that great. Other than Zohar Manna's class on mathematical logic, none of the lecturers had really good presentations. Having the chance to argue with John McCarthy was fun, though. I know things have improved since then. (CS was moved from Arts and Sciences to Engineering and given adult supervision. That helped.)

More recently, I've struggled through the original online Stanford machine learning course (pre-Udacity) starring Andrew Ng. Hacker Dojo offered it as a class, with meetings, two years ago. There he is, writing semi-legible math on a chalkboard (not even a whiteboard) for an hour at a time. The handouts don't quite match the videos, the motivation for much of the math is lacking, and the notation in the field is awful. (Sometimes a subscript is an exponent, and sometimes it's an index, depending on context. The precedence of operators is non-obvious and unstated. And everything, of course, is written with minimal parentheses.) Most of the concepts in that field have a geometrical interpretation, but there weren't enough pictures to give an intuitive understanding of what's the math is doing. What's actually going on is often not that complicated, but you don't get that impression from the lectures.

Some of the big-name universities work only because their students are so good they can make sense out of mediocre instruction. It's really the labs and the other students that make it worthwhile.

Re:"Stanford-quality course" may not be that great (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577773)

Current Stanford grad student here. The parent is correct; teaching is not much of a priority here.

Re:"Stanford-quality course" may not be that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40578899)

Having the chance to argue with John McCarthy was fun, though. I know things have improved since then.

Yes, you should be able to win that argument now.

Classes online, a radical innovation? (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 2 years ago | (#40577005)

I have been hearing all this hype about how innovative online classes are, how this will change teaching, how we might not have colleges any more because it is so revolutionary. I am a little skeptical of the hyperbole of the "future of education" as the blurb puts it.

I have watched videos on Youtube etc. to try to learn things. Sometimes the videos are not explicitly meant to be educational - Walt Mossberg interviewing some tech guy for All Things Digital can be more educational than a classroom lecture sometimes.

Sometimes they are meant to be educational. The videos I've watched have been in two categories. The first type is a company like Google has someone on stage with a Powerpoint explaining one of their newest APIs. The second type is a video of a professor in front of a classroom explaining some math or computer science concept.

Your mileage may vary. In the case of Google explaining an API, or the professor, many times they have a thick foreign accent. Google is a little better about this then some random professor's class, but not always. Then there's the question about how good of a teacher they are. Yes, they may know the API or math/CS concept in and out, they may have even wrote or discovered it, how good are they at explaining the concept to layman students? Often they have little capacity to do this.

Video is not magic. If a smart person who understands the topic and can also write clearly writes a textbook or manual explaining a math/CS concept or some API, this is often far, far more helpful than some videotape of some professor with a thick foreign accent who is not good at explaining things.

And case in point is Thrun himself! Videotapes of him are streams of sentences like "I haff a-bout an hou-ER too doo thees" (I have about an hour to do this) in his German accent which I struggle a little bit to understand. I'd probably better understand what he is trying to teach if he wrote it down.

In the 1980s, Abelson and Sussman up at MIT made videotapes of their lectures on the structure and interpretation of computer programs. Then going back to the 15th century with Gutenberg's Latin textbooks. Yes it's nice that we have lectures on Youtube now, but the "future of education" sounds a little bit like hyperbole to me. The important thing it seems to me is to find a native speaker of your language, who understands the topic thoroughly, and who can communicate it clearly, who puts it together for you. Then whatever form they take - online lecture, classroom lecture, book - whatever - is helpful. A well-written book or clear and thought out classroom lecture beats an online lecture. I can always ask the professor after class if I don't understand something. I can't watch Sussman's 1980s lecture and then ask him what cons does in LISP (although I guess I could e-mail him).

Re:Classes online, a radical innovation? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40579265)

Udacity is more than just video lectures, they have a great format IMHO. A unit is 20-30 bite size videos of 30sec - 5min, and they are interspersed with quizzes and exercises so you can be sure to understand each concept. Then a set of homework problems which range from quizzes to through to medium sized exercises, and the final is similar. The really big bonus is the active discussion forum for each course, which is where a large portion of the learning is done, bouncing ideas of other students, requesting help with a difficult concept, posting links to other relevant online material.

I've taken 2 complete courses so far, and I'm doing them on top of my fully loaded semester at uni so I can't give them quite as much time as I'd like, but I'm really enjoying the opportunity to compliment my studies.

Regardless of whether they should or could be accredited, I'll keep taking courses! =)

Re:Classes online, a radical innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40580113)

Most instructors at Stanford etc., have intuitive understanding of their subject matter. However to teach, they have make the students crawl, walk and then run with very creative graphic images. If the instructor can generate them using clip-art and other tools using a software like the Harvard Graphics (not power point) and find graduate students from the arts department to help them create them or modify them then the instructor can enable the students to use both their left hemisphere (language part) and the right hemisphere (visual part). Unfortunately, most instructors can not articulate their ideas clearly and they themselves might have cursed some of their own instructors when they were students, yet have not done anything to avoid those problems. You don't need native speakers to be an excellent teacher, rather one who is academically smart, creative smart and also street smart and look at the students as his or her "customers " without worrying about the student's grade. You will see once in a while such a wonderful teacher. But who cares? Do the media honour such great teachers? Or even most students are not grateful to such pioneers.
 

As someone who teaches at the university level... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577211)

(1) There's no way you're getting the same feedback on your work in a class of 400+ as you would in even a normally-sized (~100-150) freshmen level lecture. You are ESPECIALLY not getting the same feedback as you would in a normally sized upper-division, major-area studies course (~20-40). So that's an element of the instruction this Udacity course misses out on.

(2) A well-delivered lesson responds to the students. Every class is different, even if you're delivering two sections of the same material back-to-back. Each group will get some things quicker and need more time spent on other things. Good professors tailor the presentation on the fly to the needs of the particular class, which is why you need actual experts on the subject to deliver a university-level lecture - if it were a set routine, you could write it out and hire someone for minimum wage to run through it! Lecturing is significantly about being able to "read" an audience. Only the least interested, least competent instructors go through the material by rote with no variance and no responsiveness to the classroom. So Udacity has found a way to offer courses that are bottlenecked to the lowest possible level of quality that university instruction can achieve, regardless of the sophistication of the material.

(3) & (4) A LOT of learning in the classroom comes from other students. I'm not talking about group projects and such - I think those are bullshit, too. I'm talking about class discussion. Even when students don't realize it, they often learn a great deal from their fellow students' questions and comments. Ideally, there will be cross-talk among students about the material, too, which is highly productive because a bit part of learning a subject isn't just learning the material as such but learning about how people other than yourself respond to the material - even in the hard sciences, it's enlightening to get a sense of what OTHER people struggle with, as it gives you a better sense of the contours of the subject as a whole. This point is more related to the overall project of the university, rather than just the mastery of a given subject in a given class, but it's important to remember that there IS a whole other kind of instruction going on when you're participating with others in a common curriculum - you're learning about them and yourself, too, while you're all learning about the subject at hand. Udacity classes strip away all of this.

There are undoubtedly no small number of university classes where the students get no meaningful feedback, where the instructor's presentation of the material is not responsive to the classroom, and where students are, for one reason or another, made to feel isolated from other students and cannot learn from their peers while engaging the material. But those are the BAD CLASSES. Udacity is free, sure, but it d**n well ought to be, since it's offering virtually no advantage over just reading a well-written book on the subject. If this ever replaces actual university instruction, we're all screwed.

Re:As someone who teaches at the university level. (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40582173)

Cross-talk and meaningful feedback can be done online nowadays.

Come on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577413)

I don't see how this is newsworthy... China has more honours students than the US has students. The US has what, 300 million people? The world has 6 billion. Chances are pretty good the brightest are going to come from elsewhere.

Popcorn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577751)

This has all the elements for highly-concentrated butthurt, seconded only by bitcoin or political stories. The class happens to be about AI, which becomes meta. Then you have the racism. Plus all the usual baggage that delights us all in the IT industry (yes including me). Bookmarked while I go get popcorn--this'll save me movie money!

That Stat Means Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40577981)

I took exactly one online class and I had way more time for it as when I was a student. I do not work full time currently and I had multiple classes when I was a student. In addition, I took a course about topic I already knew a lot about. Sanford students have seen the topic for the first time in their lives.

Consequently, I ended up with top score. E.g.,if it would be AI, I would be one of those 411 winners. It does not mean that I'm better then Sanford students nor it means that online learning is somehow superior. It just means that I started with huge advantages.

Lastly, there are thousandths of online students and only few hundred Sanford students. There is nothing shocking about finding few hundred talented and hardworking people (not counting me) among those. It still says nothing about whether online university would be equivalent to best traditional university.

stop spreading misinformation (1)

slashdotjunker (761391) | more than 2 years ago | (#40580509)

"a free, Stanford-caliber online course".

Who is making this claim? Normally when you attach a link to a statement it is because the link provides some supporting evidence for the statement. That is not the case here.

As far as I am aware, neither Thrun nor anyone associated with Udacity has made a claim that the online classes are Stanford-level. I have taken two of his online classes. Thrun is brilliant and I enjoyed his lectures a lot. However, the homework and exams are not at a top 20 University level.

Please have some consideration for the more credulous of the online students. Based on my perusals of the class forums, some of them really believe that they are getting a Stanford-level education. I think this is largely due to the copy-and-paste media monkeys that continue to promote the fallacy that these classes are Stanford-level.

Udacity,Coursera a boon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40588195)

Hi
  I took AI,DB and ML from Stanford and am doing my second course from Udacity. For people like me in Asia who cant afford an American education this is a very good opportunity. And most of the people on these courses have full time jobs so please don't assume they have free time to ace AI.I myself had a bit of stuggle and dropped out of the Coursera ones. The Coursera courses conducted by Stanford and 2 other univs are at a higher calibre and more demanding. Try the compilers one, I couldn't survive after 4 weeks just couldnt make up the time to do the assignments.
Udacity is certainly much lighter and am just looking at some as a revision of what I already know.
Will this help get a job, dont know but it has certainly improved my persepective in my job and overall.

How Does Udacity Make Money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40588379)

I was wondering, how does Udacity make money? selling user data? advertisements?

How does Udacity make money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40588989)

How does Udacity make money? ads? selling user information?

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