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AI Education

Stanford AI Class 'Beta' For Commercial Launch? 66

Posted by timothy
from the monetizing-disaggregatiion dept.
First time accepted submitter Lyrdor writes "The Terms of Service for the Stanford Artificial Intelligence class points to how the free class this fall will be used for 'developing and evaluating the Online Course prior any commercial release of the Course' by a startup called KnowLabs. Although all of the press accounts so far have pointed to how the course would be a new example of Open Educational Resources from Stanford, the terms of service point to something else going on. On the LinkedIn page of David Stavens, Co-Founder and CEO at Know Labs, the startup is described on his profile as an 'angel funded startup to re-envision and revolutionize education using the social web and mobile apps. We launched www.ai-class.com and attracted over 130,000 students in 190+ countries.'"
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Stanford AI Class 'Beta' For Commercial Launch?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't want to be the grader that receives 130,000 lab assignments.

    • One of the assignments is to make a program to grade assignments for the class. Your grade is the average that everyone's programs gives yours.

  • We're seeing education become like television, advertising-funded.

    While this is sort of crass, it might mean lower student loans.

  • I don't think it's just a cynical stealth-focus group; I think they actually intend to lower to barriers and cost of education in the long run.

    Then again, what with schools like Stanford raising money ten times faster than even the best public schools and supporting less than half as many students on that cushion of raw cash I like to imagine that they're somehow more philanthropic. To keep me from sending letter bombs.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      If they lower the cost OR improve the quality, it's a win for everyone. I'd prefer they improve the quality, but I'm not really in a position to be picky.

  • Peter Norvig? That's enough of a reason to join the course.
    Though I am not sure how involved he will be in a student when there are 100,000 enrolled in one class.
    • by PPH (736903)

      It'll probably be pretty much the same way anyone with a seven digit UID gets treated on Slashdot.

      Sorry to break the bad news to you.

      • by vlm (69642)

        It'll probably be pretty much the same way anyone with a seven digit UID gets treated on Slashdot.

        Sorry to break the bad news to you.

        At least he won't have it as rough as the six digit UID ers.

    • Well most probably direct involvement with the virtual students (I understand that class will also have some physical ones) will be 0. But this is not the point of the course, is it? They want to test if they can effectively create and maintain a distributed teaching environment and measure the differences in the quality of knowledge obtained. Most of the people who enroll might not be fully aware of that but you will be a product, as well as a student, in this course.

      Wouldn't stop me from enrolling had I h

  • Can someone please translate what they intend to do into English?
    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      From what I understood, next time they do something like that it'd be paid for. People who applied now are the guinea pigs.

      • by anyGould (1295481)

        From what I understood, next time they do something like that it'd be paid for. People who applied now are the guinea pigs.

        Or, to put a teeny bit of spin on it, they're doing it for free this time around, and if it works well, they're going to see if they can make money doing it.

        TOS doesn't say I have to sell my soul or anything, so I'm game.

    • by exploder (196936)

      Automate the hell out of it so they can have 130,000 students paying tuition (eventually) for a class taught by one (or a few) faculty. Of course, automated grading does not give very meaningful feedback, but maybe if they had some really great AI doing it. Hmm...maybe that could be the class project? Quick, somebody call Ray Kurzweil!

      • by vlm (69642)

        Of course, automated grading does not give very meaningful feedback, but maybe if they had some really great AI doing it.

        For grade inflation reasons, everyone already gets an "A".

        A 3.5ish GPA in 1990 means top quartile. A 3.5ish GPA in 2010 means bottom quartile, does it not? If not "quartile", at least "third" correct?

        Might be more useful to automate and computerize and digitally sign a system of using class projects as a kind of portfolio. The class moron adds a "hello world" program that doesn't even compile without errors to his portfolio. The class genius adds a "reasonably full featured mini operating system" to his

        • by jpapon (1877296)
          It depends on the courses, and the curving system.

          At my undergrad institution (USNA), the GPA distribution of the graduating class was essentially a normal curve centered at 3.0 (2.0 being the minimum to graduate, 4.0 the highest possible), with a small local maxima at 4.0 to account for the few students who put in the effort to maintain a perfect GPA.

          When I did my masters at Stanford the distribution was a little different, but that was because you needed to maintain a 3.25 in your specialty to get you

        • by exploder (196936)

          By feedback, I don't mean an accurate assessment of the quality of the work (which is also [ideally] a function of grading). I mean specific feedback like I write on my upper-division students' papers, e.g. "you were doing well up to this point, but then you made which gave you . Here's an example of why is not valid." This is the kind of feedback my lower-division students, whose homework is submitted and graded online, do not receive, and which I assume 130,000 AI students will likewise not receive.

          • by exploder (196936)

            Crap, should've read the preview, and/or not used angle brackets. Above post should read:

            By feedback, I don't mean an accurate assessment of the quality of the work (which is also [ideally] a function of grading). I mean specific feedback like I write on my upper-division students' papers, e.g. "you were doing well up to this point, but then you made [wrong assumption] which gave you [bad result]. Here's an example of why [wrong assumption] is not valid." This is the kind of feedback my lower-division students, whose homework is submitted and graded online, do not receive, and which I assume 130,000 AI students will likewise not receive.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:54AM (#37316010) Homepage Journal

    "Good," I say. Bringing education online will reduce the costs and increase the availability. Of course there will still be costs associated, Stanford shouldn't expect to offer these for free, but the current rate of cost increase [inflationdata.com] is unsustainable. So, perhaps this will align interests better.

    I realize that chart compares the rise to CPI-U, which is rigged [shadowstats.com] for political convenience, but even still the cost rises are too much to continue unabated for decades to come. There will be downstream consequences for the economy to having millions of college graduates starting life under a heavy debt burden. When the 18-35 year old demographic no longer has much disposable income, many changes will have to occur. Instead of buying new washers and dryers for that new house, they'll be paying interest to bankers. Some people don't even know that the student load industry was recently nationalized to hasten this transition.

    My daughter has 10 more years until College and I really doubt a traditional live-away 4-year program will be the prevailing model by then. People tell me that's too soon until I point out that we just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first web browser. 10 years ago, lots of people thought AOL on dialup was pretty neat, then we throw in Moore's Law for the next ten years, along with those slopes, and I think it's more likely we'll see online education with live-away intervals for labs and such.

    • by vlm (69642)

      My daughter has 10 more years until College ... People tell me that's too soon until I point out ...

      I started at an on/offline college in Wisconsin before your daughter was born and graduated when your daughter was 2, so I'm guessing when she hits 18 the technology might finally be ready for her to replicate my accomplishment.

      It was on/offline in that I could sign up for a class held at any site (they had at least 2 within a short drive) or online. I happened to sign up for all online, although if I wanted I could have gone to the campus 10 minutes from my home for at least some classes, whichever might

      • I'm guessing when she hits 18 the technology might finally be ready for her to replicate my accomplishment.

        Surely you recognize that people still go to on-campus programs because they have advantages over online programs, right?

        I don't mean to diminish your degree, but the intent of my message was to convey the idea that the gap will have closed in the next decade enough that the online degree is the preferential mode of the College student.

        • by exploder (196936)

          Not likely. You can improve the in-"class" experience, but it's the outside-class socializing and BSing with like-minded people that makes the on-campus experience so much richer. What gap do you predict will have closed in 10 years so that this is no longer true?

          • What gap do you predict will have closed in 10 years so that this is no longer true?

            Ubiquitous access to high-speed Internet is the most important one (it's still 65% in my area, census area size 225,000). Telepresense really has a long way to go as well. Skype is OK, but we need more resolution, better optics, better compression (and hardware acceleration) better immersive experience, more echo cancellation and acoustic modeling, head/eye tracking, plus rapid document sharing and better human input devi

            • by exploder (196936)

              Do you think we'll have enough of that stuff in 10 years that it'll be natural and productive to "hang out" with your virtual cohort the same way traditional on-campus cohorts do today? Personally I think 10 years is very optimistic.

              • No, I think the College learning experience will drift away from the young-people-leaving-the-nest experience. They've been combined for matters of technology and geography, but the two don't really need to be coupled.

                Learn at home until 21 or so, then go away for 'labs' for a year, maybe live in a young-people's community for a few years after that.

  • by Giant Ape Skeleton (638834) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @10:54AM (#37316014) Homepage
    I completed my enrollment the other day and am extremely psyched to have the opportunity to participate. Opted for the 'Basic' track as I don't have the time/energy for the whole enchilada. If they want to use my feedback to help develop a monetized version, that's fine with me; I get to learn cool stuff from smart people, and the provider of the service gets to improve their product.
    • I'm happy to beta-test too, but I wonder how the folks who are paying Stanford tuition feel about it.
      • by Ecuador (740021)

        You won't get a credit and you can't directly participate in class. I am sure those paying Stanford tuition won't have a problem.
        And I won't even go into the other benefits of being part of a good academic environment.
        If you think about it, you could probably learn the things that a university teaches by getting the textbooks and studying. So by the same logic everyone who pays for school is stupid.

        • by Rik Rohl (1399705)

          That's pretty much what's happening here, but rather than buying a textbook, you're getting a series of video lectures and course notes for free
          I signed up for the full course, mainly because having homework and assignments due will force me to stay on a study timeline, and eliminate the "fuck it, can't be bothered tonight" factor that usually happens to me when trying to learn stuff out of a textbook on my own time.

      • by anyGould (1295481)

        I'm happy to beta-test too, but I wonder how the folks who are paying Stanford tuition feel about it.

        They likely don't care - this class doesn't count for credit, so it's only useful for the curious and for continuing education.

    • If they want to use my feedback to help develop a monetized version, that's fine with me; I get to learn cool stuff from smart people, and the provider of the service gets to improve their product.

      Sure. But why didn't the just say it in the first place? Maybe they expected that some people wouldn't have been as happy as you. Or maybe not, but it would still have been the polite thing to do. I'm not on the course (I did two years of AI at university anyway), but I assumed that the results would be used within Stanord. The idea of an "angel-funded startup" - well, it's generating funds for private investors, when people thought they were donating their time to a university....

    • by williamhb (758070)

      I completed my enrollment the other day and am extremely psyched to have the opportunity to participate. Opted for the 'Basic' track as I don't have the time/energy for the whole enchilada. If they want to use my feedback to help develop a monetized version, that's fine with me; I get to learn cool stuff from smart people, and the provider of the service gets to improve their product.

      Personally, I'm kinda tempted to use their course to beta test my own software [blogspot.com]... I've been teaching a course this semester with a social semantic learning platform I originally came up with during my PhD. But it'd be interesting to go from 80+ of my own students using it for a course (there was an educational reason we needed it -- I didn't just foist it on the course for my own benefit) to seeing whether it also works for study groups on someone else's 80,000+ student course. (We're using a local serve

  • 1. Interesting that /. is making such a big deal of recognizing 1st time contributors. It's an "interesting" editorial policy.

    2. I, too, wondered whether or not to complete the enrollment process. We never:
    o had a realistic opportunity to interact with the instructor(s). I know that a certain set of questions will be answered, but what are the odds /my/ question will be answered? Apparently about 1 in 100K;
    o never had an opportunity to get feedback to quizzes/exams;
    o Maybe I missed it, in the initial furor,

    • by TobascoKid (82629)

      1)" Interesting that /. is making such a big deal of recognizing 1st time contributors. It's an "interesting" editorial policy."

      I've noticed that. I guess they're trying to make up for when it seemed like it was always the say people getting their stories posted. I hope it stops soon (not the more people getting their subs posted, but the hornblowing over it).

      2) "what are the odds /my/ question will be answered"

      Seeing whose running the course + what it's about, I would expect the probability of your questio

      • by Jerslan (1088525) *

        "Does anyone here doubt Acacia is assessing its patient portfolio in light of this now becoming a startup?"

        Who?

        That was my thought too. I recognized the name, but the closest I can find to anything related to this topic is Acacia Social Fraternity [wikipedia.org]. Maybe I'm just ignorant or missing something, but I fail to see why/how they would *have* patents relating to this; much less be able to defend such patents.

  • by Cutting_Crew (708624) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:13PM (#37316854)
    to be effecient in the class or is the book only required for the course there at Stanford. For just a cert i dont see many people signing up to buy a $100 book that they will only use a few pages of and possibly never use ever again.
    • Like 90% percent of college courses?

      Even if it weren't optional, a single $100 book is tame compared to most courses I've taken.

  • I'm participating in the full course online, and am excited to do so. A large part of my motivation is for learning about the challenges that the instructors face, and their design solutions to meet their goals. I emailed Dr. Thrun asking if I could ask some questions, or if there were plans to present their experiences at the end. The response, as I expected for a very, very busy professor, was that they will probably report our generally at the end. Which I'm totally cool with. However, this seems li
  • Based on what I can tell, KnowLabs is very much played-down on the ai-class.com website and Stanford's role is played up. It looks like the start-up is looking to act as a contractor to Universities to help them setup, run, and possibly maintain better, more useable, more scalable online education services. Keep in mind that the free AI Class gives you no real credit, it's just there if you're interested in the subject and want to learn a bit more before taking the plunge (back) into academia.

    Personally,
    • by Archwyrm (670653)

      Maybe they can help unseat Blackboard

      Ugh, don't get me started on that digital turd. Just about anyone could half-ass something better.

      • by Jerslan (1088525) *
        Agreed, but it is firmly entrenched as "THE" tool of choice for most schools. Yes, I know that makes no sense, but they probably marketed heavily to School District Superintendents and University Presidents/Chancellors. They're the ones who ultimately make the decisions.

        Stanford throwing their name behind the startup and making use of it will actually make a good selling point. "Hey, Stanford's doing this? It must be awesome!" Not a great selling point from a technical perspective, but good technical sel
    • by Finite9 (757961)

      - "Personally, I applaud what they're doing. Maybe they can help unseat Blackboard and other god-awful "Online Education Tools". "

      Me too, but before you throw pie at online education tools, check out khanacademy.org.

      After registering for the ai-class, and having read the prereqs, I realised i'd have to brush up on my maths. They have Linear Algebra as a prereq, and i've never done it. So I read the slashdot article on the release of ai-class and someone mentioned khanacademy. I think it's a brilliant too

  • It's listed as a free course, yes?

    The startup is listed as "angel-funded", yes? That implies the online version of the course will also be free. (And doesn't fit the description of "commercial" in my book.)

    Other than the misleading title, I don't see any issue here.

    • "Angels" aren't pro-bono investors, they're silent investors. They give you money, and they ask for money back.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:32PM (#37317844) Homepage

    Back in 1991, Stanford University spun off the management of their endowment into the Stanford Management Company [stanford.edu]. At first they were into classic passive investments, like most university endowments. But they've gone beyond that. They invest in venture capital companies. They're located out on Sand Hill Road, where all the Silicon Valley venture capitalists have offices. Executives have moved between the Stanford Management Company and venture capital firms for years. The ties to that community are very close.

    This has worked out very well. Stanford tends to take an equity stake in companies spun out of Stanford. Stanford owns part of Cisco, part of Yahoo, and part of Google. It's getting to the point that Stanford University is becoming a VC firm that runs an educational operation on the side as a tax break.

    So a deal to run educational operations through a VC firm is perfectly normal for Stanford.

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