Stanford’s experiment

As most of us have heard Stanford is providing access to a multitude of free classes online. Last semester they started this program off with a course in artificial intelligence and machine learning, some advanced concepts in computer science. This semester they are continuing with the program after the huge interest they got last semester. I decided to try them out and signed up for classes on the design and analysis of algorithms (similar to EECS281 at UM) and a course in game theory. So far I have had a great experience with both these classes. They allow you to go at your own pace by providing lectures in smaller chunks usually no longer than 30 min with most sections around 15min, so you can watch them as you feel like it and they aren’t too long so they are really able to keep your attention. They have “assignments”, “quizzes”, “projects”, and “labs” for you to try to test your understanding of the material. Everything is of course optional, since its a free class, it is really just a way to branch out an explore new subject areas. For me, I was always interested in taking a game theory class since it seemed interesting but it never quite fit in my schedule, so this provides me an easy way to explore that subject at my own pace and even earn an “electronic certificate of completion” which could possibly be integrated with the Mozilla badge initiative at some point in the future. It is also a way for me to review some stuff I had learned earlier in school through the algorithms class. I can review topics that I am a little fuzzy on and also gives me a chance to see how the “stanford” experience matches up with what I have learned here.

It really allows some self-directed learning as you can choose what courses to take and how much you want to be engaged in them. The course’s staff encourage you to go and find groups online either through google+, facebook, work or school to get together and study or go through the material and assignments. When I interviewed with some companies last semester I would usually ask about how I could grow at those companies and quite a few mentioned that they had groups taking these classes and would meet to work on them, though they were tech companies so it was a biased sample. These classes have taken off much faster than expected and been written about in numerous sources such as But why is this idea more talked about than say or MIT’s open course ware

Building off the idea of MIT’s open course ware, stanford really takes it a step further by creating that class atmoshpere. Instead of just giving old homeworks and solutions to them, it provides interactive quizzes to take for the “course”. Weekly lectures are released and it really encourages the learner to keep coming back to view the new content and helps to keep them more engaged than other sites. while the traditional school structure may seem flawed, its system of deadlines and class times really helps bringing people back to learn more.

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