When I heard about Stanford’s class in artificial intelligence to be taught online for free this fall, I knew I had to take it. At High Tech High, we have been thinking about how to use technology so that students can learn more effectively, particularly in terms of our work in our graduate school of education in working with teachers and school leaders from a distance.
I got an email on Monday telling me that class was starting, that 160,000 students had signed up, and that students are taking the class from 190 countries! I was pretty busy this week, and then when I logged on this morning, I found out that I am already behind! Yikes!
I have spent a few hours working on the course. It is fascinating. I studied physics at a liberal arts college. I find watching the lectures to be very reminiscent of attending lectures in college. Only it’s better, because I can pause to take notes, there are quizzes where the instructors “check for understanding” before moving on, and of course I can attend the lecture whenever I want, wherever I want, and can pause when I need a break.
In terms of consulting with peers, I have spent time on the forums getting help from classmates. In terms of real person to person interactions, I have signed up to attend a meetup study group session next week in San Diego which 113 people (and counting) are tracking. While it’s true that I can not stop the professors to ask questions, in fact I did not do that really all that much when I was in college anyway, and there is way more interaction on the forums (with students challenging the assignments, linking to resources to support their point of view, etc.) than I ever remember in undergraduate courses.
Also, while I am sure there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes to make the course function, the instructors have chosen to go quite low tech in their approach, which I really appreciate. They have recorded videos on youtube, (30 seconds to 5 minutes each), simply pointing a webcam at a piece of paper that they write on, and the quiz questions are embedded directly into youtube.
Finally, one of the things that I find quite interesting about the class is that having 160,000 classmates actually makes the class work better than if there were only 400. In either case, professor-student interaction would be quite limited, but with so many students, there are bound to be classmates in your geographic region, plus there are that many more students interested in posting to the forums, which means that I can learn a lot, even if I don’t post there myself.
Will I be able to keep up with the work for the next 10 weeks? Not sure, but I’m thinking a lot about what this means for distance learning for educators in the meantime.