Ex-Stanford Professors Starting Free Online College


Ever dreamed of getting a Stanford-level education for free, complete with tests, grades and certificates of completion? Well, soon your dream will be a reality.

The two professors behind that free online artificial intelligence class decided, seeing the success of their first pilot class, that they should develop an entire free curriculum.

Sebastian Thrun originally created his “intro to Artificial Intelligence” as a bit of an experiment. He partnered with Peter Norvig, author of the definitive text on artificial intelligence and created a series of Youtube videos with interactive quizzes. They quickly had over 160,000 people signed up to take the class.

Now he has left his post at Stanford and has started Udacity, a site dedicated to providing free, interactive computer science education to people around the world. Their first project? Building a search engine from scratch, no previous coding experience required.

Unlike Thrun’s Stanford course, though, taking these new courses won’t give you any name recognition. While his previous project would let you claim to have passed a Stanford course, and have a sheet of paper to confirm it, Udacity will be purely about the knowledge. Which is good for the learning, but unlikely to score you any points with potential employers.

But the company seems to have some fairly powerful backing. The intro video includes a lengthy monologue from Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google (you know, the search engine company) talking about why the first course takes you through making a search engine. Even if Udacity never gets true academic recognition, it might still become acceptable in high technology companies. And, if nothing else, it should help you seriously refine or build your computer science skills. Which is a worthwhile goal in itself.