Stanford to Experiment with Massive Open Online Course

Since the advent of online learning, tech-savvy educators in the realm of higher education have been experimenting with its possibilities. Right now, one of the newer applications of online education has been massive open online courses, or MOOCs. MOOCs allow one or more facilitators and/or educators to host a course that can be accessed by an unlimited number of people at any location, provided they have Internet access. The MOOC can be a one-day or week-long course, or a full-fledged, semester-long course. MOOCs are "open" in the sense that participants do not have to pay for the course, and are usually only required to register.

Stanford University will be experimenting with a MOOC this fall by allowing open online access to a course titled Introduction to Artificial Intelligence taught by computer science professor Sebastian Thrun and Google research director Peter Norvig, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The course on artificial intelligence is already a popular one at Stanford, drawing in about 200 students for the classroom-based course. Thrun is hoping that by bringing the class online, he and Norvig can create the largest course on artificial intelligence ever taught, according to his video announcement.

In preparation for the course this fall, Thrun and Norvig have been carefully making all of their lectures, homework assignments, and exams compatible with a virtual setting. The two even plan to set up the MOOC in a way that they can even answer their online students’ questions through virtual office hours.

The course is free for all takers, which is helpful considering how selective and pricy Stanford is. However, that doesn’t mean the course will be easy. Thrun said in his video that online students will still be required to complete eight homework assignments and two exams on deadline and to expect to work at least 10 hours per week to pass the class. While online participants will not receive college credit for the course, they will receive a certificate of completion and a grade to see how they stack up against actual Stanford students. Online students are encouraged to purchase the textbook for the course.

Those interested in the artificial intelligence MOOC, which will run from October through December, can sign up for further information by visiting the website, although it should be noted that registration has not yet officially begun.

Another notable MOOC was a course offered through UI-Springfield titled "Online Learning Today…and Tomorrow" that takes a look at the state of online learning today and where it could go in the future. The Chronicle reported back in June that this particular MOOC would run through Aug. 19.

While MOOCs have only more recently gained traction, it’s evident that they have the potential to continue to bring together people across the map for a single learning objective. It remains to be seen how these popular MOOCs will impact the future of open higher education.

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