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Stanford 'Intro To AI' Course Offered Free Online 148

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i'm-afraid-i-can't-let-you-do-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum reports that Stanford's CS221 course 'Introduction to Artificial Intelligence' will be offered online for free. Anyone can sign up and take the course, along with several hundred Stanford undergrads. The instructors are Sebastian Thrun, known for his self-driving cars, and Peter Norvig, director of research at Google. Online students will actually have to do all the same work as the Stanford students. There will be at least 10 hours per week of studying, along with weekly graded homework assignments and midterm and final exams. The instructors, who will be available to answer questions, will issue a certificate for those who complete the course, along with a final grade that can be compared to the grades of the Stanford students. The course, which will last 10 weeks, starts on October 2nd, and online enrollment is now open." When asked how they would deal with ten thousand students, Professor Thrun replied: "We will use something akin to Google Moderator to make sure Peter and I answer the most pressing questions. Our hypothesis is that even in a class of 10,000, there will only be a fixed number of really interesting questions (like 15 per week). There exist tools to find them."
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Stanford 'Intro To AI' Course Offered Free Online

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  • Just like personal robots, flying cars, and apartments on the moon, a worth while dream.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, e-book, 3/E
      Stuart Russell
      Peter Norvig, Google Inc.

      ISBN-10: 0132126842
      ISBN-13: 9780132126847
      Publisher: Prentice Hall
      Copyright: 2010
      Format: Electronic Book
      Published: 12/29/2009
      Status: Out of Print

      I don't think that e-book means what they think it does :)

    • If you think machine learning is a dream, you're living under a rock. Neural net models of a synapse based brain may not be as advanced as our brains, but they're certainly capable of some pretty powerful things. And that form of simulated AI is only one genre of artificial intelligence, there's still hill climbing / gradient ascent and simulated annealing which use monte carlo to initialize to random variables, slowly iterate changes, observe those changes, and then make decisions based on the results. Its
    • by perpenso (1613749)

      Just like personal robots, flying cars, and apartments on the moon, a worth while dream.

      Or the robots assembling and inspecting parts on a production line, or autonomous vehicles navigating from point A to point B on land or in the air, or software that screens medical imagery to hilight anomalies for doctors, ..., character recognition, voice recognition, facial recognition, ... All of these are applications of AI. Pardon the emphasis on computer vision related examples, computer vision was my research area in grad school.

      • I work in the power grid automation field and AI is even used there to solve things like distribution of power across the grid (transmission network applications) and I have heard of it being used in or proposed to be used in vehicles to control the timing and fuel injection systems as more sensors and and data is gathered. Additionally this usually comes up when discussing switching to electronically operated valves as well. This would allow the engine to operate better across a broader range of speed, tem
  • AI Thesis! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:29PM (#36987896) Journal

    Proposed:

    A software program which can successfully pass this course.

    Related: Turing Test

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      an AI avatar to do just what you said is a pre-req for the advanced course. makes for a quiet classroom.

  • TFA is wrong (Score:4, Informative)

    by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:31PM (#36987916) Homepage
    The actual website for the course says "The class runs from Sept 26 through Dec 16, 2011." http://www.ai-class.com/ [ai-class.com]
    • Re:TFA is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by daenris (892027) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:41PM (#36988072)
      Actually no, the article is right. The online portion starts on October 2nd. If you look at the course website [robot.cc], under Course Description it makes this clear.
      • That also says that the course starts Sept. 27. So EVERYONE is wrong :P
        • by daenris (892027)
          I suspect maybe Stanford's term starts the 26th and runs through December 16th? Because the course website also lists the last day of the course as December 8th, not the 16th, though it doesn't mention when the final is, but for the online portion the final is due December 18th. So yeah, seems like they can't agree with themselves on dates.
  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:33PM (#36987956)
    I dont buy that. There were times in grad school when a class of 20 students generated enough questions on a topic that threw the instructors schedule out of whack. I know this is not grad school but I am assuming there are enough good students in Stanford itself and most people who will sign up voluntarily will be the ones who are interested about it. I still love the idea though. Although, it makes me wonder how the students feel about it. Stanford is pretty expensive. They have paid all that money only for coming to class now, given that the exact same class material and the instructors as well are available to anyone for free ?
    • by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:48PM (#36988198)
      You're paying for the service, not just the knowledge. Having the professor / TA available for answering your questions, having other students around to study with, ask questions of, work on projects with, etc. College is about the environment. Stanford and other big name schools have begun putting their lectures on youtube available for free to anyone; not even requiring an account or that you sign up for a course. Did this send people to leave the college in droves and just watch the youtube videos? No. Because you still get the certification of a degree, which youtube doesn't give you (although that BS is meaning less and less these years). Some people don't need a teacher, they buy the books and don't go to college and teach themselves. And those people are already doing that. This helps spread some general knowledge, mostly intro 101 courses, but its not going to make you an established expert on a subject overnight. I don't think students will be upset at all.
      • by ipwndk (1898300)

        It is also a great service in terms of knowledge sharing. I watched a lot of youtube videos from Stanford and others, while studying CS and AI. It's great for helping with reading up, as I can't remember everything that happened at my own lectures. Also some professors explain some things better than others; if confused about something in your lecture, look it up from other sources, and clear it up. In that sense I think it benefits CS study in general. If someone outside of college can learn it in this for

      • I know that when I have been in large classes, the added value of taking the class compared to just learning from a book was much lower than with small class sizes. Stanford students may feel cheated if they think that the online portion of this class takes time and attention away from the Stanford class and students.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    about AI is a little too recursive for me...

    "When asked how they would deal with ten thousand students, Professor Thrun replied, 'We'll let Skynet handle the sorting and choose the best questions'"

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      "When asked how they would deal with ten thousand students, Professor Thrun replied, 'We'll let Skynet handle the sorting and choose the best questions'"

      So if you ask a mundane, typical question you get no answer?

      It was obvious that an AI course being offered for free would be taught by AI programs. This is the perfect testing grounds for the latest generation of AI programs. Much more difficult than "what is AI, Alex?" or "who was that strange woman in your bedroom, Alex?"

      • by orkysoft (93727)

        I think they'll just make an FAQ with about 15 questions and answers, which should answer almost all questions the students are expected to have.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          I think they'll just make an FAQ with about 15 questions and answers, which should answer almost all questions the students are expected to have.

          If simply reading an answer was what learning was all about, then why not just read the book and know everything?

          I think the reason for recitiations and help sessions is for the interactiveness of the teacher/student experience. Eliza spitting back a canned answer to what it thinks your question is isn't teaching.

      • by syousef (465911)

        "When asked how they would deal with ten thousand students, Professor Thrun replied, 'We'll let Skynet handle the sorting and choose the best questions'"

        So if you ask a mundane, typical question you get no answer?

        No, Skynet sends a Terminator to the past to kill your mum for wasting Professor Thrun's time.

  • by Thud457 (234763) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:36PM (#36987992) Homepage Journal
    Now I don't have to live in Massachusetts to learn me about some artificial intelligence!
    • by Desler (1608317)

      Why would you have to live in Massachusetts to go to Stanford?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Being that Stanford in is California and not in Massachusetts, I'd say you are the winner since Artificial Intelligence will never be a match for Genuine Stupidity.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's your deal?
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2359264&cid=36951064

  • Interesting. Now is a good chance to find out for one-self if the famous USA universities really are as elite as their reputation. And I will learn basics of AI at the side!

    I already learned (thanks Wikipedia!) that Stanford is not part of the ivy league, though :)

    • The university is more than just a course lecture, its an environment. If I didnt know something I just asked across the coffee table or a door down the hall.
      • IMHO, the level of a university closely correlates with the level of education. Every university has a coffee room or two where to ask (and smart people who drink coffee in said rooms). That is true even for the company I work for! But I have no way of feeling up the atmosphere in Stanford, so I must extrapolate from my experiences at the local university, by comparing the level and atmosphere in this course.

        Anyways, the true value of a university is measured by the level of knowledge/wisdom/insight that

    • Interesting. Now is a good chance to find out for one-self if the famous USA universities really are as elite as their reputation. And I will learn basics of AI at the side! I already learned (thanks Wikipedia!) that Stanford is not part of the ivy league, though :)

      Actually you've been able to do this for a while. Check out iTunes U, http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/what-is.html [apple.com].

      FWIW, Ivy League is a marketing gimmick. :-)

  • Can I earn college credit that will transfer to other institutions? That's what I want to know.

    • by daenris (892027)
      No. The online course just offers a certificate from the instructors of the course. It will not count as college credit anywhere.
      • by Aladrin (926209)

        That's actually really good value. Just having the certificate is worth something if someone wants to know if you know the subject. I'm kind of surprised they would acknowledge successful completion with anything other than a 'good job!'.

        • by daenris (892027)
          I suspect the value of the certificate relies directly on how well-known and respected the instructors are in the field. Personally, I'm considering on going back to school for a Master's in Computer Science, and since I've been out of school for awhile and my undergrad degree is not in CS, I figure it couldn't hurt to have this certificate from Stanford AI instructors to show a more recent academic performance to complement my work experience.
    • I'm almost certain the answer is absolutely not. This is just something you're electing to do, for fun, for education. Its not actually a college course, you're not actually enrolled, and they will not give you any credit or say that you've passed the course or anything of that sort.

      Effectively, they're letting you audit the course for free, over the internet. You get to see the work, you can do it along with the students if you'd like, you can see your grades comparison, you can watch all the lectures,
    • Well, you aren't going to earn college credit that you can transfer; however, depending upon the school you might gain the information required to test out of a course and maybe get credit through that route. Very dependent upon the school though and the most you can usually get with that is just not having to take the course as a prerequisite.
  • by DickBreath (207180) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:50PM (#36988224) Homepage
    Haven't read his AI book "Artificial Intelligence, A Modern Approach".

    But about 20 years ago when I was really into Common Lisp, I read his book "Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp". It was one of the best books I had ever read. Lots of fantastic examples and code.

    Makes me think I should get his "modern approach" book. Maybe think about the online course.
    • by ipwndk (1898300)

      It's really good actually. It's part of my collection in "classic" AI.

      It doesn't deal with neural networks, evolution or monte carlo sadly. But it does deal greatly with the Intelligent Agent (IA) architecture, which is the foundation of any AI, classic or not. And its chapters on search is superb; and you almost always need search. (Obviously DFS, BFS, Dijkstra, A* etc., are part of normal CS curriculum, but it delves into local search which usually is not part of CS curriculum as it is non-optimal and app

      • by ipwndk (1898300)

        Oh, the container stowage problem is important economically and environmentally, because it shortens the time a container ship has to stay in harbor. Their research is obviously funded by that industry. Its product is simply a list of instructions to the crane operators, that results in both the fast unloading of containers, but also optimal placement; those two compliment each other.

        Added it in with my thoughts of the book, because they based it on some of the theory of the book. Almost same algorithm, but

    • by Lando (9348)

      Looking forward to checking out the class. Took another AI class years ago which used this book, so I won't have to buy new material. It should be pretty good, since the course is being taught by the person that wrote the book. We'll see how it turns out, I expect a lot of people will drop the course as it actually turns out to be work. It's hard to imagine 100k people that would be interested in this sort of stuff beyond just a passing interest.

  • by Ghiora (1004216) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:59PM (#36988350)
    It is about time the universities go the way of the book, music, news, encyclopedia and information industries in which the Internet has brought down prices significantly. There is no justification to the huge amounts of money the universities charge for the education they provide and for the learning materials. This course is a live demonstration of how it can be done for pennies. The only thing that should cost more then a few dollars is final testing of a course which can be done for about $50.00 per course. Beyond that if remote testing is used it will be very hard for any one to get a whole degree by cheating on the total amount of courses needed to graduate. A few random tests on key subjects where you have to be present physically are more then enough to put an end to any shenanigans. The only reason it has not happened yet is psychological, people (those who study and those who hire) being conservative by nature want a degree from "a well known establishment". (Yes some courses need labs and cadavers but they are a small minority)
    • by f()rK()_Bomb (612162) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @02:13PM (#36988518)
      Only because the american model runs colleges like a business. Over here in europe university is basically free. My fees this year are 1.5k. There is a benefit to universities though, you get to meet and interact with a lot of smart people. Abandoning universities entirely is not the way to go, reforming the broken model is.
      • by Ghiora (1004216)
        You will meet lots of people from many countries on line when taking on-line courses; if the courses are set up right. I am not for abandoning universities I am for making them adjust. Unfortunately like all normal organizations they are clinging to the money they made the old way..
      • by mosseh (1014255)

        Only because the american model runs colleges like a business. Over here in europe university is basically free. My fees this year are 1.5k. There is a benefit to universities though, you get to meet and interact with a lot of smart people. Abandoning universities entirely is not the way to go, reforming the broken model is.

        Clearly you don't live in the UK, where the majority of decent universities will be charging the maximum tuition fee of £9000 per year ($14.7k at the current exchange rate). University is most definitely not free here.

        • That has only changed this year though right? It used to be more like 3k before the whole economic crisis. Even at that higher price its half the average price in america and id say the total amount over 4 years might be less than one year in the high level american universities.
          • by mosseh (1014255)
            Yeah I'm currently paying about £3.3k which is the cap. Anyone starting next year gets completely shafted with an almost three-fold increase. In my opinion this government are idiots for not investing in education which is the future of the country. Guess I should be glad I don't live in America anyway!
          • by swillden (191260)

            That has only changed this year though right? It used to be more like 3k before the whole economic crisis. Even at that higher price its half the average price in america and id say the total amount over 4 years might be less than one year in the high level american universities.

            OTOH, lots of people go to American universities without paying tuition. I paid very little for my two four-year degrees... so little that I never borrowed a penny, or got assistance from my parents, or even had to work much.

            I think lots of Europeans seriously overestimate the difficulty of attending a university in the US. The fact is that anyone who really wants to go can find a way. Those with the brains and the talent can even go to Stanford, MIT, etc. In fact many of the Ivy League schools effect

  • Three words: Graduate Teaching Assistants.

  • by AtlantaSteve (965777) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @02:17PM (#36988572)

    If the content of this class is exactly the same as the "real" version, and at the end you are evaluated on the grading curve right alongside "real" students... then you have to question why the cost of "really" being a Stanford student is $55,385 per year [stanford.edu], while the cost of receiving the same product without the formal diploma is $0.

    How much of the expense of modern university education today is actually tied to the core product, and how much is simple sociology? That is, only a certain percentage of society can be in the "elite" ranks by definition... and so elite institutions must price themselves accordingly to maintain the appropriate exclusion.

    • First hit's free. Next one's gonna cost you $55,385.
    • by damiam (409504)

      Stanford undergrad tuition is essentially free [stanford.edu] if your family makes less than $100k/yr. Need-based financial aid policies mean that the $55k number is an upper bound, typically paid in full only by families making $200k and above (with various exceptions, of course, but that's the general pattern). In any case, this is a grad course, so the price of undergrad tuition is not really relevant to the discussion.

      Stanford CS PhD students generally have their tuition, as well as an additional stipend for living ex

      • In any case, this is a grad course, so the price of undergrad tuition is not really relevant to the discussion ... This is all to say that I don't think Stanford's trying to rip anyone off here (quite the contrary, since they're providing the course for free).

        [nitpick] It is in fact an undergrad course. [/nitpick]

        Ultimately, I didn't so much intend to comment on the cost of elite-level education as I on the exclusivity of it. If it turns out that there are thousands of "general public" people who outscore the Stanford students on the grading curve... then on some level it would call into question why those students are "Stanford material" and the higher-scoring public members are not. We often presume that the system is a meritocracy, and what I'm basically tr

        • by damiam (409504)

          I had to go recheck the Stanford course numbering system - looks like a 200-level is "advanced undergraduate/beginning graduate". So we're both right.

          I agree that people might interpret the grades in the way you say, and that it could be a PR issue for Stanford, but I don't think it would actually be indicative of deep flaws in Stanford admissions (and here I mean undergrad admissions - my understanding is that admissions to the professional masters program mostly consist of "can you breathe, and does your

  • TFS says that the online enrollment is open. I couldn't find any way to enroll, only a page [ai-class.com] where you can enter your name and email to "sign up [...] to receive more information about the online version when it becomes available". Am I missing something? Does anyone have a link to where you can truly enroll for the free version of the course?

    • by daenris (892027)
      No, I think the summary/article is referring to exactly that name/email entry form. The page you linked says that "Official registration will open later this summer. Your information will be kept private and only used to contact you once registration is available. "
  • I took an A.I. course in college my senior year and one of the very first assignments we were tackled with was the classical N-Queens problem and different variants of the problem was introduced. Since then I have been intrigued by A.I., specifically in terms of games like starcraft so this will be very helpful.

    One thing that i havent looked at closely was that it was noted on one of the links that there were some prerequisites that the students had to meet before taking this course. I'm not sure what th
    • i found the quote: "PrerequisitesA solid understanding of probability and linear algebra will be required."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The text for this book is over $100... I know textbooks are expensive, but for a course that will not lead to college credit? Isn't that a BIT excessive...?

    • i wonder if the book is absolutely necessary? he said in the video that will go through some chunks of the book but not all of it. how much of a disadvantage would it be to not have it?
      • Depends upon how the questions are formatted, if they are asking you to solve questions 1 - 5 on page 100 then you might have some problems but if they spell out exactly what they want then the textbook really shouldn't be required beyond having the relevant information package neatly in front of you.
      • by Viewsonic (584922)

        Probably dependent on how well you want to pass the course. I am guessing the book itself isn't useless, and that having it would greatly enhance your understanding of the subject. If you're the Chris Knight type of person, you probably don't need the book to pass anything. You just "get" it. Some people are like this, sadly most are not.

    • Knowledge is valuable. If you don't value the bit of knowledge taught in the course at $100, that's your choice. But I'm sure there're people who think it's well worth it.
  • If you have any interest in A.I. you should check this out. These two guys are legendary in the A.I. world and they are not even dead! Among AI-studens Norvigs book is referred to as 'the bible'. Thrun did more make self-driving cars a reality than anybody else because he is not just very smart but also very charismatic.

  • Can you really earn college credits by taking course on Al Gore?

    Sounds like a politically oriented school.

  • This is a shameless plug for their own book. (required course material) Is this legal? At any rate, if this is the ethical standard exhibited by their professors, then how can I how can I in good faith hire their students?
  • I thought it said "Intro to Al" and thought it was a music appreciation course for Weird Al. Stupid lowercase letters that look like capitals...
  • I'd love to take this course but I know next to nothing about CS. I'm good with computers and I learned python and I can do a lot on the command line -- but anybody can do that. Basically, do people think I can float this, or is a lot of background knowledge necessary?
  • Does anyone know whether students have to complete the exams under timed conditions?
  • nothing more.

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