Virtual Stanford course draws 58,000

So far, 58,000 people in 175 countries have signed up for a free-, no-credit, online course in artificial intelligence, one of three pilot classes by Stanford computer science professors.

The online students will be ranked in comparison to the work of other online students and will receive a “statement of accomplishment,” reports the New York Times.

Introductory courses in database software and machine learning also will be offered.

The three online courses, which will employ both streaming Internet video and interactive technologies for quizzes and grading, have in the past been taught to smaller groups of Stanford students in campus lecture halls.

. . . How will the artificial intelligence instructors grade 58,000 students? The scientists said they would make extensive use of technology.

In place of office hours, they will use the Google moderator service, software that will allow students to vote on the best questions for the professors to respond to in an online chat and possibly video format. They are considering ways to personalize the exams to minimize cheating.

“I personally would like to see the equivalent of a Stanford computer science degree on the Web,” Dr. (Andrew) Ng said.

Dr. (Jennifer) Widom envisions allowing smaller colleges to supplement locally taught classes with online Stanford classes.


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  1. MIT has been offering this kind of thing for a long time.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    MIT offers lectures and reading lists but it does not offer one very important thing: certification. Stanford will tell the world that you have taken and passed this course just like a real Stanford student.

    One reason to take courses is to learn. But I very, very much suspect that the major reason people go to schools and take courses is to get that piece of paper (or nowadays that electronic record).

  3. Hey, I signed up! I’m interested in the field and just completing the course (whether I get Stanford credits for it or not) meets my ongoing-training requirements at work.

  4. Roger Sweeny says:


    Exactly! Stanford will certify that you took the course and passed it.