online course delivery hardly artificial interest

online course delivery hardly artificial interest

Nov 9, 2011

HARDLY ARTIFICIAL INTEREST: When Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, Stanford profs who have a second gig at Google, said they would teach a class on artificial intelligence for the world, enthusiasm for AI skyrocketed. By the time the class started on October 10, they had signed up 160,000 people online. Hard to imagine all those folks would actually do the homework. But three weeks into the class, EdSurge got some stunning statistics from Sebastian and Peter: sure enough, there's been a big drop off but even so 35,000 people have handed in the first three weeks' worth of homework. Another 175 Stanford students are taking the class live, in situ. Sebastian reports that the percentage of top performers in the online contingent are on par with the percentage of top performers at Stanford.

For those distant students, the class plays out in short videos, each only a few minutes long. (Even if you haven't signed up for the class you can see some of the videos here.) Some students have watched the videos twenty-times apiece. The AI class site gets about a third the number of clicks as the Khan Academy site, according to web analytics available through the likes of Alexa. In terms of the total number of minutes spent per week, the AI class may already be matching the hours clocked (per week) by Khan's students.

The final exam takes place December 18. Sebastian acknowledges that it will be hard to detect cheaters--but of course, they'll mostly be cheating themselves. What they get for intelligent sweat of the class: a "statement of accomplishment," signed with a flourish by Sebastian and Peter.

The class is demanding for the profs, too: Sebastian says he frequently spends seven hours taping the equivalent of a one-hour class, just to get every detail right. He had better: "If I make a mistake, I'll get about a thousand emails about it."

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