Stanford prof quits to teach for free online

Looking for a university-level education in computer science but don’t want to pay for it, or even leave the house?

No problem!

Last fall, Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun spearheaded a revolutionary new program that offered free computer science courses —specifically covering Artificial Intelligence — to anyone with an Internet connection and the desire to learn.

The free courses consisted of YouTube videos with computer-marked quizzes and programming assignments. They attracted over 160,000 students —23,000 of whom have since graduated with a prestigious Stanford University certificate — and, seriously, they didn’t pay a penny for it.

Thrun was so impressed with the turnout and overall results, he announced yesterday his plans to leave Stanford and start Udacity – another, more comprehensive, online learning environment. He’ll continue to teach college-level computer science courses, and again, they’ll be completely free of charge.

The first course, “CS 101: Building a Search Engine,” aims to teach the fundamentals of computer science in seven weeks and requires no previous knowledge of programming.

The second, “CS 373: Programming a Robotic Car”, is a follow-up to the Stanford AI course.

At last year’s TED conference, Thrun got to show off some self-driving cars he had worked on as a Google engineer, and he shared some of his personal motivation in researching that sort of thing: When he was 18, his best friend died in a car accident. Thrun has since “dedicated himself to saving a million lives a year by eradicating driver error.”

Thrun thinks he can reach around 500,000 students with his new Udacity courses, but without the prestigious Stanford University name brand on his side, only time will tell.

I’m so ready to drive my very own KITT. Can one of you smarty-pants’ get on that for me?