Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MOOCs get more massive

Remember the course in artificial intelligence that Stanford University offered as a MOOC (Massive open online course) last year? It attracted about 150,000 students from all over the world though the actual number who really participated varies from article to article. Now, according to an article in Wired CampusTenured Professor Departs Stanford U., Hoping to Teach 500,000 Students at Online Start-Up, the teacher from the AI course is heading a start-up aiming at spreading open education even further. Sebastian Thrun, professor of computer science at Stanford, has announced that he is leaving the university after discovering the potential of mass online learning.

Udacity is the name of the latest in a fairly long line of open education providers aiming to provide online lifelong learning to a global audience. This spring they're offering two courses: Building a search engine and Programming a robotic car. According to the article, Professor Thrun hopes to attract hundreds of thousands of participants and provide free education on a global scale. They've already assembled a team of teachers and technical experts and are recruiting more.

"We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Using the economics of the Internet, we've connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth. Know Labs was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence." The class was twice profiled by the New York Times and also by other news media. Now we're a growing team of educators and engineers, on a mission to change the future of education."

Last week I noted the appearance of Next Generation University and now along comes Udacity. The MOOC concept is developing rapidly and more variations of the theme will follow.

Here's the preview video for the search engine course:

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