Stanford University has announced two new online educational platforms bringing the number of Stanford courses available online this Fall to a total of 16.
Last year Stanford online courses broke set new records for interest and participation in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) with three courses that were taught both on campus to Stanford students and online to all-comers.
Due to its combination of topic and high profile presenters, Professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence attracted over 140,000 signups and over 23,000 students successfully completed the 10-week course. The other outcome of its success was Udacity - a venture co-founded by Sebastian Thrun with the aim of providing high class university level education free via the Internet. Udacity's new classes are developed in-house rather than being based on established courses and so it no longer offers Stanford branded courses.
Professor Jennifer Widom's describes her experience of teaching her Stanford course, Introduction to Databases, as "one of the most rewarding things I've done". On campus the course normally attracts around 100 students so it came as something of an eye-opener that 60,000 online students from 130 countries enrolled. Of these 25,000 submitted assignments and 6,500 achieved a strong final score. The course materials for this are still available on-line at its dedicated website, which suggests that it will run again as part of Coursera, the company founded by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng that offers free online courses from top universities.
Of the 16 Stanford courses available online this semester, 9 are from Coursera and two of them, Andrew Ng's Machine Learning and Dan Boneh's Cryptography are already well underway. Also, despite Stanford claiming them as "new", another two, Human-Computer Interaction taught by Scott Klemmer and Probabilistic Graphical Models taught by Daphne Koller are second online presentations. Stanford courses being presented for the first time by Coursera are Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, Writing in the Sciences, Organizational Analysis, Introduction to Logic and Algorithms: Design and Analysis, Part 2
What is new for Fall 2012 is that Class2Go, which is Stanford Online's internal platform is offering two courses on open access: Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, and Batteries and An Introduction to Computer Networks which:
focuses on explaining how the Internet works, ranging from how bits are modulated on wires and in wireless to application-level protocols like BitTorrent and HTTP. It also explains the principles of how to design networks and network protocols.
The other "new" platform is Venture Lab and it is has already run Technology Entrepreneurship - which attracted around 40,000 students from 150 countries when Chuck Eesley taught it earlier this year. The distinctive feature of Venture Labs is that students work in teams. For the new presentation of Technology Entrepreneurship, alumni of the last class will be mentoring new student teams.
One Venture Labs course that sounds as if it might tackle some the problems outlined in Mike James' recent article, MOOCs Fail Students With Dark Age Methods, is Designing a New Learning Environment. It's description open with questions:
What constitutes learning in the 21st century? Should reading, watching, memorizing facts, and then taking exams be the only way to learn? Or could technology (used effectively) make learning more interactive, collaborative, and constructive? Could learning be more engaging and fun?
and Paul Kim's stated goal is:
to promote systematic design thinking that will cause a paradigm shift in the learning environments of today and tomorrow.
Other classes from Venture Labs are in Finance, Creativity and Advanced Entrepreneurshipp and all of them are project-based and involve working in teams.