Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever

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Fascinating article by Steven Leckert at Wired:

Stanford doesn’t want me. I can say that because it’s a documented fact: I was once denied admission in writing. I took my last math class back in high school. Which probably explains why this quiz on how to get a computer to calculate an ideal itinerary is making my brain hurt. I’m staring at a crude map of Romania on my MacBook. Twenty cities are connected in a network of straight black lines. My goal is to determine the best route from Arad to Bucharest. A handful of search algorithms with names like breadth-first, depth-first, uniform-cost, and A* can be used. Each employs a different strategy for scanning the map and considering various paths. I’ve never heard of these algorithms or considered how a computer determines a route. But I’ll learn, because despite the utter lack of qualifications I just mentioned, I’m enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a graduate- level course taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig.

Last fall, the university in the heart of Silicon Valley did something it had never done before: It opened up three classes, including CS221, to anyone with a web connection. Lectures and assignments—the same ones administered in the regular on-campus class—would be posted and auto-graded online each week. Midterms and finals would have strict deadlines. Stanford wouldn’t issue course credit to the non-matriculated students. But at the end of the term, students who completed a course would be awarded an official Statement of Accomplishment.

People around the world have gone crazy for this opportunity. Fully two-thirds of my 160,000 classmates live outside the US. There are students in 190 countries—from India and South Korea to New Zealand and the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than 100 volunteers have signed up to translate the lectures into 44 languages, including Bengali. In Iran, where YouTube is blocked, one student cloned the CS221 class website and—with the professors’ permission—began reposting the video files for 1,000 students.

Aside from computer-programming AI-heads, my classmates range from junior-high school students and humanities majors to middle-aged middle school science teachers and seventysomething retirees. One student described CS221 as the “online Woodstock of the digital era.” Personally, I signed up to have the experience of taking a Stanford course. Learning about artificial intelligence would be a nice bonus. After all, if I’m ever going to let a self-driving car speed me down a highway at 65 mph, it’ll be comforting to have a basic understanding of what’s behind the wheel. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 March 2012 at 9:37 am

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