Stanford’s Free Online Course Experiment Grows

This fall, a group of Stanford IT professors launched an experiment to offer their courses online to the public for free. Starting with just three classes (Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Introduction to Databases, and Introduction to Machine Learning), interested parties across the globe were able to follow along with the class online, listening to the lectures and taking exams.

The Stanford News announced in October that the free online classes have led to wild success. According to a recent article written by Joe McKendrick posted on his blog, Service Oriented “Three million people have checked out the AI course page since it was announced,” when only 135 students were officially enrolled in the campus class, and “35,000 students have stuck with the course and exams.”

In response to the program’s popularity, Stanford plans to expand their online offerings this January to include courses in medicine, civil engineering, electrical engineering, complex systems, and entrepreneurship. Additionally, they have increased the computer science courses from three to ten, including subjects, such as Software as a Service, Game Theory, and Cryptology.

Online learners receive the same lecture material as classroom students, but do not earn Stanford credit or interact with the professors directly. When it come to enrolling for the courses, it is as simple as entering your name and email address. Each course has a webpage, which provides a summary of the class and the background of the instructor, as well as a set of answers to frequently asked questions, elaborating more on the class format and the prerequisites required.

On a similar note, Stanford has also launched a new iPhone application development course on iTunes U, where individuals can download course lectures and materials for free. Stanford’s first iPhone app course launched in 2009, and broke iTunes’ download record by receiving a million downloads in seven weeks.

Interested in learning about more opportunities for tuition-free education? Check out our post on free online courses.