GOOD

Why Stanford's Free Online Education Experiment Is Booming

Professors want virtual students to have the same experience as the ones in the physical classroom.


This fall, Stanford decided to experiment by offering its three most popular computer science classes to the public—for free. Within weeks, 200,000 people from around the globe signed up, with Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, taught by renowned Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun (pictured above), attracting a whopping 160,000 students.

Norvig’s tracking found that more than 3 million users have come to the page since the university announced the artificial intelligence class. And more than 35,000 of the people who signed up have stuck with Intro to A.I., turning in assignments and taking midterm exams right along with the 175 students paying to take the class in person.


Because of the interest, Stanford plans to offer seven more computer science classes beginning in January, and will expand its offerings to two entrepreneurship courses. Next semester, students will be able to take Technology Entrepreneurship—a class on how to launch a successful startup, and The Lean Launchpad, which will teach how to turn "a great idea into a great company."

The unique aspect of Stanford’s effort compared to MIT's decade-old Open CourseWare and other first-generation online learning projects is that Stanford’s professors aren’t just posting a syllabus and hoping people follow along. Norvig and Thrun have worked to give their virtual lectures the same feel as the in-person Stanford experience. They even take questions from their virtual students and respond to them in live office hours via Google Hangouts.

Of course, the online students don’t get credit for the classes—Stanford verifies a "badge of completion" instead. But that hasn't cut down on demand, and a growing number of professors are invested in making knowledge available to the masses, regardless of their ability to pay. If the school keeps expanding its offerings, an entire Stanford education could soon be available for free online.

Articles
Pixabay

Two years after its opening in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art acquired a painting by Sarah Miriam Peale — its first work by a female artist. More than a century later, one might assume that the museum would have a fairly equal mix of male and female artists, right? But as of today, only 4% of the 95,000 pieces in the museum's permanent collection were created by women.

The museum is determined to narrow that gap, and they're taking a drastic step to do so.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet