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Professor Resigns From Stanford To Launch Online Education Project 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the distributing-bits-of-knowledge dept.
mikejuk writes "Professor Sebastian Thrun has given up his Stanford position to start Udacity — an online educational venture. Udacity's first two free courses are Building a Search Engine and Programming a Robotic Car. In a moving speech at the Digital Life Design conference, he explained that after presenting the online AI course to thousands of students he could no longer teach at Stanford: 'Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It's like a drug. I won't be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting.' Let's hope Udacity works out; Stanford is a tough act to follow."
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Professor Resigns From Stanford To Launch Online Education Project

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  • Gack! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Hope it turns out better than his class did. The other classes were far better managed than the AI course.

  • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:35PM (#38797425)
    how will it be monetized, and I don't mean that in a negative way. (also, bad first link in summary)
    • by Dr Max (1696200)
      I would of happily paid $100 for the ai class, and the class had over 100 000 people in it, that's $10 000 000. Also advertising on the site would do well.
      • I would of happily paid $100 for the ai class, and the class had over 100 000 people in it, that's $10 000 000

        I love how you state this as though $100 is the average amount the 100,000 people who took his free course would be willing to pay. You do realise how unlikely that assumption is to be anywhere even near correct, don't you?

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Of course $100 isn't the perfect amount on the supply/demand curve - the point is that you don't have to support a professor with a room full of maybe 100 people - you now have 100,000 people, and the work isn't that much greater. It's a problem that scales very well.

          • by Dr Max (1696200)
            Fair point, how about if it was $10 per student, $1 000 000 goes a long way to building more interactive videos. Also most of the class would of bought the textbook which was over $100, so if you made a better solution for that students will have more money to play with.
          • I don't think you should discount the marginal cost of infrastructure to support that many people streaming online video content, engaging in interactive graded exercises and submitting questions. No, I'm not saying it's anywhere near the cost of supporting that many people in-real-life; which is why we're not comparing it to the marginal gain of one student's university tuition fees.
            Say you'd have x people who are willing to pay $y - does x*y cover the ongoing hosting/content development/web development
          • If your professor goes from teaching 100 people to 100,000 people without much increase in workload, then either your professor sucked when teaching 100, or you are missing the point of attending his class entirely.

            It's not just a matter of reading the notes and listening to the lecture. The professor needs to respond to problems the students are having, adjust pacing based upon performance, and be able to handle individual questions from students. That's why good professors hate classes that large (100).

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              I think other threads cover the topic of quality of instruction better, and we don't need to re-hash that here. I was just commenting on the economics of the effort. Once you've made videos and created message boards and figured out automatic online testing and scoring, the amount of effort moving from 100 to 100,000 people is not 1000x - it does not scale linearly. Mostly your costs will be additional bandwidth and hosting charges.

              Granted, at some point even this won't scale... for instance maybe the discu

        • by gknoy (899301)

          For someone like me to take a university class of similar caliber, not only would I (normally) have to pay tuition, I'd need to meed prerequisites and so on. I could easily see people paying $10-$50 for a web seminar series.

          Hell, do it on a pay-as-you-like basis as a trial, similar to what the Humble Bundle does, and I'd bet that while many people would freeload, others would donate/pay a hundred dollars. I'd think twice at $50, but likely would just spend $20 in a heartbeat if I were taking something like

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        It's a pretty safe bet that the class wouldn't have 100k people in it if it cost $100. These courses are most useful for people without the means to obtain traditional education, and of course the audience will diminish after initial demand is met.

      • by wanzeo (1800058)

        I took it and wasn't impressed. I found his accent difficult to listen to for long periods of time, and a disliked having a lecture punctuated with short problems. I would prefer an uninterrupted lecture that deals with the theory, and then problems in a recitation section.

        Not that it wasn't useful or interesting, but I would not pay $100 for it, and I think most of the people who took it did so because it was free.

        Quitting his professorship at Stanford to try to monetize the concept seems like an awful big

        • Quitting his professorship at Stanford to try to monetize the concept seems like an awful big risk to me.

          Was he a tenure-track full professor, or just someone hired as a lecturer? I couldn't find any details about that.

        • The GP was way over the mark here. Would you pay $5? That is a more viable amount.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I won't pay anything for a class that won't lead to a degree or college credits.

        Employers tend to actually care about the sheepskin in general. You could be the next Kevin Mitnick, but a lot of places will immediately dismiss you because you don't have degrees or certifications of any sort.

        While these are great for general learning and expanding your knowledge base, I won't take them seriously until they're accredited in some fashion.

        • by Dr Max (1696200)
          It's true it's not the same as a uni degree, and an employer wont value an online course much; but add in 'introduction to artificial intelligence' and 'machine learning 101' from Stanford online to your resume and it'll defiantly add to your chances. Even if it's not a proper degree (and it will never substitute a real degree) it shows your interested in continued learning, rather then only doing what is necessary to score a job. Also I'm not trying to get jobs with these courses you only make other people
          • Toward the end of the ai-class an email was sent around to those who had scores in the top 1%, offering to submit their names for consideration to mulitple Silicone Valley companies. So, biz was using the ai class as a recruiting tool.

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              Toward the end of the ai-class an email was sent around to those who had scores in the top 1%, offering to submit their names for consideration to mulitple Silicone Valley companies. So, biz was using the ai class as a recruiting tool.

              Well, I can submit my name for consideration to multiple Silicon Valley companies any time I want, it really doesn't prove a great deal. Did you lucky 1% end up paying any additional handling fees or anything?

              • Haha, I didn't get the email. But some in freenode #ai-class said they did. There was a reddit post with a screenshot too I think.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            The trick is to start your own business then it doesn't matter what qualifications you have, providing you have a good business plan.

            Start a business young and you can kiss your youth goodbye. Working for yourself is pointless unless you have some sort of deep inteest in money for its own sake and a love of working 16 hour days.

            Bar the odd Mark Zuckenberg, you'll end up working hard for thirty years and retiring a broken, embittered man with no interesting memories and the charisma of a pocket calculator.

    • by vlm (69642)

      how will it be monetized, and I don't mean that in a negative way. (also, bad first link in summary)

      I have an idea for an interesting, although evil, business model. No idea if these guys are doing this or not. In fact they probably are not.

      None the less... there is a long standing business model of giving away or subsidizing training for copyrighted trademarked patented software.
      What if we had education, but only for certain business method patents?
      For example, a free crypto class that only taught patented licensed expensive algorithms, and forgot to mention that free algorithms exist?
      Admittedly this b

      • by KhabaLox (1906148)

        There are plenty of business education companies that charge thousands of dollars to teach you about any number of proprietary software packages for a few days to a week. You can even get Certified(TM).

        • by vlm (69642)

          There are plenty of business education companies that charge thousands of dollars to teach you about any number of proprietary software packages for a few days to a week. You can even get Certified(TM).

          I was thinking more along the lines of "buy more than $25 million of our new DEXCS / firewall / router and receive a week of free training for everyone in your engineering department". For some reason the city name Romeoville IL which was for all intents and purposes "suburban Chicago" rings a bell.

          In "the good ole days" this was pretty standard. I sat in many a "free" class from Tellabs, Fortinet, DSC, a couple others. Fortinet had a bar in their training room and after class they'd serve you a drink an

      • by morgauxo (974071)
        Yeah, that sounds exactly like something professor Thrun would want to do.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      I wonder too, but it's not like people aren't spending fantastic sums of money for conventional higher education. In other words, he could charge quite a bit of money and still save students quite a bit. Or in the immortal words of Scarface, "this town is like a giant..." (NSFW).
    • If the price is on the order of the cost of a book ~$75-$100 I think it is a great deal. The class had it's issues but far few than I imaged.
    • by kaiidth (104315)

      The AI-course was used for recruitment purposes (ie. the top 1k students were invited to apply to Google), which I'm sure made many of the top 1k students very happy.

      That said, someone less squeaky-clean than Google might take the approach slightly further, deciding to run a carefully targeted education project, retain data from student use of virtual learning environments and, in the long run, use it to screen out sub-standard potential recruits. However, that would be kind of evil - so I'm sure nobody wou

  • What is their business model? I checked out their page, they've got a couple employees, they're offering stock options to new hires... I'm seeing this as one of those /. jokes:
    1. teach a free class at a profitable school
    2. quit and teach a free class at a startup
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!!!!

    Is the plan to operate on donations, or ... ?

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Sheer selflessness will give them all the profits they need.

    • Re:Business model? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cruciform (42896) on Monday January 23, 2012 @06:34PM (#38798083) Homepage

      If they do as mentioned above and use the class as a way to drum up interest from companies that want to recruit the best students then it can pay for itself via finders fees. That would be a great way to subsidize education.

    • by hweimer (709734)

      I think one possibility will be that degree-granting schools let their students take some courses on Udacity, while the site recieves a financial compensation for doing so. This could work especially well for highly specialized courses which the school cannot offer in-house. Ultimately, the goal might be to offer degrees themselves, but that would require significant resources for supervising exams all over the world in order to prevent cheating.

      • That's going to be tricky, though, because he's going to be up against MITx [mit.edu], an open-source platform designed inside a university to allow exactly that to happen. With the option to set up your own internal servers and to trade your classes and class components with other universities, I think MITx has the upper hand in this one....
      • by vlm (69642)

        Ultimately, the goal might be to offer degrees themselves, but that would require significant resources for supervising exams all over the world in order to prevent cheating.

        Having taken quite a few accredited online courses and also some certification tests (CCNA, CCNP, stuff like that) they simply push the cost onto the student.

        Either drive to a free campus testing center an hour or so away (the proctor was a receptionist) or pay a cert mill testing center $200 for the privilege of using their computer to log into a website for an hour or two while their receptionist watches you.

        The student of the future may stop whining about paying $100 for a textbook and start whining abou

  • That was unexpected (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:42PM (#38797517) Homepage

    That was unexpected. But then, his automatic driving work had already moved to Google.

    He turned around the Stanford CS department, which was embarrassingly bad for years. (I have a degree from there; I know.) It was being run by the mathematical logic people, who were trying to make AI work through predicate calculus and expert systems. That turned out to be a dead end, but the existing faculty didn't want to admit it. Thrun reoriented the department towards statistical methods for AI, and things got moving again.

  • This is the future. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:43PM (#38797527)
    When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

    When books can be copied for free, why pay 200$ for a physical version of the book?

    I think the only thing we'll have in terms of live people will be live tutors you can ask questions via advanced IM

    The cool thing about this is that it is the opposite of the "No child gets ahead act", if a kid is motivated, they can watch hundreds of supplemental optional videos related to their course. Or with proper understanding of the subject at hand, they can move ahead to the new videos. Also this is all available for free or nearly free, so the cost of an education is simply 100$ or less for a laptop. This means people across the world who couldn't have access to quality education will. If you're in a 3rd world country with nothing to do all day, maybe you'll devote your life to getting a grand education. We might find new Einsteins popping up and at younger and younger ages.
    • by blueg3 (192743) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:58PM (#38797723)

      When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

      If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

      When books can be copied for free, why pay 200$ for a physical version of the book?

      If all of the distributed copies are free, I'm thinking the major problem is going to be finding people to write and edit them. Don't get me wrong, there are some older math texts you could probably use for ages, but that will only get you so far.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When lectures can be saved to a video format on the Internet, why pay the teacher to deliver the same lecture every year?

        If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

        If seeing the lecture online is only as good as seeing it live, then it is a bad web site. Online, you can put additional content, have links that go to the exact point in the video where a question is answered, break up the video into topics so that students can spend more time on topics that are most relevant to them. You can also have more interactive tools and such.

      • by tibit (1762298) on Monday January 23, 2012 @06:12PM (#38797869)

        If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

        I'd be careful with that statement. If you claim there must be some interaction, then let's get real: you don't want to be interrupted by questions every 15 seconds. So live questioning as a feedback from students to the lecturer is out. Then the most interaction you'll get is the lecturer looking at faces and body language of students.

        But what does that tell the lecturer? Nothing that's very applicable when the medium is video!! In a video lecture, if you feel like falling asleep, you pause it, get up, walk around, come back refreshed, start watching again a few minutes back into the recording to get back on topic. If you need to look something up, you can pause, google for it, look in a book, look in previous lectures, then resume when you're ready. Those two situations cover most of the realtime feedback a lecturer would use, I'd presume. So, failing to show particular examples of how the reverse channel helps in a prerecorded lecture, I call your claim an gross exaggeration at best. Audience feedback is important in a live lecture setting, recorded lectures are really quite different because the student controls the playback. Good luck pausing the professor when you feel like dozing off for 45 minutes in the auditorium :)

        • I actually think that the way the lecture videos were presented in the AI Class were superior to most conventional lectures. They were broken up in bitesize chunks of 2-10 minutes each, which meant that as soon as you started to lose focus, you just walk away, whether that be after 15 minutes or 2 hours. Also, if you found a topic confusing you could stop moving forward, read up on the topic yourself or consult your fellow students on the discussion boards (which were incredible) until you were happy with i
        • by Cruciform (42896)

          A lecturer can also do what a comic does and spend a considerable amount of time fine-tuning their presentation on live audiences before recording the final event for the class. Once you've got a solid feel for what works you can bang it out.
          And if you need to you can edit together footage from a couple of different events to get the Director's Cut.

          • by Dahamma (304068)

            Which works for "good" lecturers as well as it does for "good" comics. The difference is the great lecturers (like the great comics) can adapt on the fly based on the audience, in a way making each individual performance/lecture better (for that particular audience) than the impersonal "average"...

            • by Cruciform (42896)

              But the whole goal of this is to reach hundreds of thousands or millions of viewers.
              So that means he either has to refine his lectures or start construction on a new venue.
              Which makes more sense?

              • by Dahamma (304068)

                I suppose if it's an entry level AI survey class, it's a good way to present basic information to a large audience.

                But I just can't imagine there is that sort of audience (that is interested or even capable) for the 300+ level graduate AI and robotics classes that Thrun (or other similar professors) would be qualified to teach as well. It sure doesn't seem like the best way to train a new batch of teachers and AI researchers, at least.

                I just think the whole "I resigned because I can't go back to a 200 pers

        • I don't know. I agree more with GP.

          The best video lectures I've seen are the ones from Sandel, and they actually were recordings from his lectures. I also enjoyed those MIT videos that were live recordings. The way AI Class was structured around sound bites made the whole chapter disconnected at times.

          But maybe this is comparing apples to oranges, so I considered Khan Academy instead. His videos are usually longer and I don't get as distracted or feel the pace is slow. Everything looks more integrated.

          But m

      • The point is: Do we really need that many teachers around the world? Wouldn't be much more productive to have them working on their respective fields and do either research or at least development and innovation. Turning theory into practical things and stimulates the economy rather than teaching? What's the best usage of all these brains? Have a few of them teaching, writing books and the rest of them leading projects or having all of them teaching?
        • Clearly, there has to be a balance. Things are rapidly changing and people have to keep abreast of research. However, the best researchers, although perhaps poor lecturers need to communicate new ideas. There is much need for more education everywhere in all disciplines, since this will lead to more work and more productivity hence an expanding economy and jobs. Given the threat global warming poses there simply isn't much time left to get people thinking about the consequences of technology on our live

        • The point is: Do we really need that many teachers around the world? Wouldn't be much more productive to have them working on their respective fields and do either research or at least development and innovation.

          The saying goes, "the best way to learn something is to teach it."

          There's a famous anecdote by Richard Feynman about himself. He was working on some knotty area of quantum physics with colleagues. After some time, the group felt it had a good understanding of the topic and could move on. Feynman s

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        If you're referring to interaction (which is really the only thing lacking from a properly produced video), well lectures, by definition, are not Q&A sessions. It's only a poor lecture that requires questions form the audience, usually because the lecturer glossed over a point or made a mistake. Video allows these weaknesses to be corrected in editing, and with feedback they can get *better* over time rather than requiring a perfect delivery every time.

      • > If a video of a lecture is as useful as the live lecture, it's a bad lecture.

        With video you can do things you can't do live. E.g. a lecture about history could contain actors with costumes and look like a movie. You can show maps with animations, cut out the dull scenes and perfect it.

        The only advantage of a live lecture is that you can ask questions, but how often can that really be used if there are 200 people? You could actually, with computers, allow people to ask questions in the middle of the vid

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          I think this is in many ways the fundamental *problem* with modern education, not the solution.

          I don't even think you need an analogy to a different field. Just look at public elementary and secondary education and what happens when you try to cut costs with large class sizes. What you lose is any individualized education and personal interaction with the educator, which ends up boring some students while leaving others behind. Additionally, not everyone learns most effectively in the same way.

          Continuing

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Try this [youtube.com], you may learn something.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        GP no doubt lives in the fantasyland beloved of slashdot readers, whereby we have achieved full AI and unlimited energy (*handwaves*) so that everyone can basically live for free, spending their time studying and enjoying themselves before somehow magically creating a start up company that makes them billionaires even though they have nothing to sell and no one needs to buy anything.
    • The Open University have been doing this stuff literally for decades. I fondly remember as a child watching lectures from teachers with excruciatingly bad 1970s hair styles and clothes.

      http://www.open.ac.uk/ [open.ac.uk]

      Note the fees are the standard (substantial) UK university fees, so it isn't free by any means.

    • The modern lecture format originated in medieval Northern Italy, and hasn't changed significantly. The rationale for the lecture as a method of transmitting knowledge and skill was that books were extremely costly, due to the cost of scribes.

      Since Gutenberg [oxy.edu] the rationale for lectures has disappeared.

      Rather than moronically scaling up lectures in a TV-like way, we need some R&D done on better methods of teaching. This has finally been realised and academics are - with great trepidation - starting to mea

      • I know teaching will change drastically. I have my own theories. I'm thinking of a computer program like the one in "Time Machine" where AI teaches us. But we don't need AI to teach us. We can simply have interactive computer aps. This is different than the failed edutainment movement of the 90s. You have aps which teach a certain subject and all sorts of books/lectures on the same subject. What I think would make this software great is that when you first come to it, you don't enter your age for it
    • "If you're in a 3rd world country with nothing to do all day"

      Maybe they are interested in eating at least one meal each day. That may require more work than opening a refrigerator or going down to the corner market.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:47PM (#38797573)

    In the first universities anyone could stop in and listen to a lecturer for free. If they were interested in perusing individual education they would work out a fee between the professor and the student. There wasn't any strict curriculum or degrees. The professors paid the university a cut similar to the way a barber shop works today.

    The business model should be the same. Free to watch the lectures and pay for individual attention.

    • by nessus42 (230320)

      In the first universities anyone could stop in and listen to a lecturer for free.

      I've worked at a few top-tier universities, and they've always allowed people to sit in for free on nearly any class they might want to. It's not an official policy, but I've yet to see a professor turn down anyone who asks. Or in a large class, they'd never notice that you're there anyway.

      |>ouglas

      • by trout007 (975317)

        I know students have audited courses but I didn't know they would allow non-students.

        • by nessus42 (230320)

          I know students have audited courses but I didn't know they would allow non-students.

          Most professors I've met seem perfectly happy to actually have someone in the class who really wants to be there. They'd probably change their minds about this if there started to be crowds of people doing this, or if the people doing this asked a lot of stupid questions, though.

          |>ouglas

      • by Talennor (612270)

        But they haven't started allowing you to sit in from the internet, which is just so much more awesome.

  • Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It's like a drug. I won't be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting

    I had the exact same feeling of elation when my Chicks with Dicks site really took off. How could I go back to being just another carny running a ring toss game after that?

  • This is a big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jholyhead (2505574) on Monday January 23, 2012 @05:59PM (#38797739)
    Thrun is (I think) the first tenured Professor at a major University to stand down in order to try to bring learning online. Unlike the offerings from Stanford, MIT, Berkeley etc etc, Udacity wont be under the same "Don't damage the university's business model" constraint, so they are truly free to go for broke.

    There has been a lot of criticism of the AI course - most of it by people who didn't attend beyond the first couple of weeks. I finished the course and had a good time doing it. It wasn't without flaws, but I have no doubt that with the necessary financial backing, they can make the necessary improvements and push on to create some remarkable content.

    If they can solve the question of certification, they, and those who will inevitably follow, might just revolutionise the educational landscape.

    And if it all goes wrong, Google wont kick him out of bed.
    • by gknoy (899301)

      Even without certification, it's still awesome.

    • by AlgUSF (238240)

      I attended the first six weeks, I feel horrible that I didn't finish. But life gets in the way; wife, kids, house, work. I am glad I earned a high quality education while I was young and had nothing better to do.

  • The Edison Project was private for-profit K12 schools combining modern business management and high technology. Possibly a good idea, but got little traction. The wiki site said it was had to get the "education establishment" to buy in and build many of these.

    Around where I am now there is a flourishing charter school ecology. Some are to escape the low-expectation public schools. Others have religious slant. And still others advocate challenging education like Chinese language immersion or computers
  • What's the problem with their "Enroll" Button? This isn't exactly a good start for a course called CS101.

  • But what about research grants?

    What makes some professors interesting is the part of their time they spend 'pushing the envelope' doing research. The online stuff can (if used properly) allow them to reach more students with less demand on their time. So, more research. I'm fine with that.

    What made Sebastian's class interesting was some insight into his (award winning) work on the DARPA challenges and other robotic car stuff.

  • I registered for a couple of free online Stanford classes that were supposed to start yesterday (Machine learning, NLP, game theory). All were delayed for an indefinite time (couple of days to couple of weeks, no exact number was given). Might this be the reason?
  • You only need to record a lecture one to three times with possible editing. Maybe update it now and then. It's the equivalent of a electronic textbook. Only thing left is answering questions and office hours per session. If he does this it just seems to me he will just be the director of a tutoring group. Are professors/teachers really needed anymore?

  • Udacity seems to have been over-whelmed as of the time of this post: 9:11p EST (maybe apropos?).
  • by RandCraw (1047302) on Monday January 23, 2012 @11:59PM (#38800899)

    I doubt Thrun intends to offer a few courses and stop there. I think he'll offer an entire CS curriculum within maybe 3 years, and offer some soft of CS degree program soon thereafter.

    It seems like you could offer other degrees using this same technology -- probably all engineerings, physics, probably math and statistics, maybe biology (but without labs).

    Not only would the degrees be FREE (a huge thing for the poor in the third world and BRIC countries), but they'd be FAST. By excluding all the non-essentials, the equivalent of a BS in CS could be completed three times faster, in no more than 1.5 years.

    Based on what I've seen from Thrun so far, I bet the degree will be widely respected, and frankly, better than 3/4 of today's CS degrees.

    Universities beware. You're about to run smack into The Innovator''s Dilemma [amazon.com]. And in my humble opinion, it's about damned time.

    • by dkf (304284)

      I doubt Thrun intends to offer a few courses and stop there. I think he'll offer an entire CS curriculum within maybe 3 years, and offer some soft of CS degree program soon thereafter.

      That's a heck of a lot of work to create. I know from experience that a half-semester part-time course requires a massive amount of work to create (though not so much to maintain afterwards, to be fair) and you need a lot of those to build a proper curriculum since at degree level you can't just teach everyone the same thing.

      Not only would the degrees be FREE (a huge thing for the poor in the third world and BRIC countries), but they'd be FAST. By excluding all the non-essentials, the equivalent of a BS in CS could be completed three times faster, in no more than 1.5 years.

      All that effort to make it has got to be paid for somehow. Yes, it doesn't have to be by the students, but it's too much work for it to be reasonable to expect it to just spontaneously

    • Not only would the degrees be FREE

      No they won't -- just like Coursera and MITx, Thrun's business model involves free training and paid-for certification. The classes are free, but the qualification isn't.

      By excluding all the non-essentials, the equivalent of a BS in CS could be completed three times faster, in no more than 1.5 years.

      Based on what I've seen from Thrun so far, I bet the degree will be widely respected, and frankly, better than 3/4 of today's CS degrees.

      There's still the issue of accreditation, and one of the stipulations of an accredited degree programme is the amount of study time. If this methodology really is much more time-efficient than traditional universities, then what we would expect to get out of it (and I would hope we would want this, too) is a higher quality education, not a

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