Monday, 30 January 2012

Online courses

Last autumn Stanford university offered three programming courses online: machine learning, artificial intelligence and database basics. I took the machine learning one. The course recently ended, with I and over 12000 fellow students receiving a nice statement of accomplishment.

The lectures by Andrew Ng - which you can watch online for free, or download if you register (for free) - were awesome. Having previously taken a few courses on the subject (introduction to machine learning; basic statistics courses; independent component analysis) I knew most of the stuff already, but watching the lectures was still absolutely worth it as a rehearsal, for the excellent clarity of the presentation. The programming exercises were somewhat milder, being sometimes too brief, but still good.

I haven't yet checked out the other courses' lecture videos, but if they're at the same level as the machine learning stuff, this is going to be world-changing stuff. The Stanfordians aren't done with just three courses, and it's not just the Stanfordians. One of the Stanford lecturers is starting his own online education company. Other Stanforders are offering 12 new online courses starting soon - see e.g. the course on probabilistic graphical models, which has links at the bottom to the other ones. MIT has had their Open CourseWare thing for a while now, and they're just launching MITx, a competitor to the Stanford online stuff. And of course Khan Academy has also been around for a while, although it's a different level of education. Probably I'm forgetting some as well.

Based on all this, I predict that online education is going to be pretty big pretty soon. We live in interesting times.

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