Professor quits Stanford to teach online

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Professor quits Stanford to teach online

When a Stanford University professor first offered a free online version of his "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" class, he attracted 160 000 students from around the world, MSN reports.

Now he has given up his tenured academic position to create a startup that could deliver university-level education at low cost to anyone with an Internet connection.

The move by Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist who has worked on Google's self-driving cars, came as a surprise announcement, first reported by Reuters at the Digital Life Design conference, held in Munich, Germany, from 22 to 24 January. But his startup idea, called Udacity, joins a growing number of tech-driven efforts to revolutionise the traditional classroom model that has prevailed for hundreds of years.

Udacity is a free online university with a mission to “change the future of education,” WebProNews says.

The class currently being set up is a seven-week course that aims to teach anyone to build a search engine, no previous programming experience needed.

Online, the course went viral, according to Singularity Hub. More than 100 000 people enrolled in the initial weeks. By the time the lessons began, Thrun and fellow AI giant Peter Norvig were instructors for a class size of 160 000. With students all over the world, they enlisted the help of some 2 000 volunteer translators to translate the classes into 44 different languages. Discussion groups were set up on social networks like Facebook so students could help each other, forming what Thrun called an “entire counterculture”.

Thrun also proudly pointed out that he was teaching more students than all the students of Stanford.

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