Stanford University Introducing Free online classes

[Techtaffy Newsdesk]

Stanford University is introducing five free online classes this month, following a pilot last fall that drew more than 350,000 participants around the world, says the university. Three classes will launch on March 12 – Design and Analysis of Algorithms, Natural Language Processing and  Cryptography. Two more, Game Theory and Probabilistic Graphical Models, are scheduled to launch on March 19.

Last fall, 356,000 people from 190 countries expressed interest in one or more of the first three classes offered, and approximately 43,000 successfully completed a course. Participants came from as close as Stanford’s Palo Alto campus and as far away as Ghana, Peru, Russia and New Zealand.

The online classes are taught by regular Stanford faculty and are highly interactive. Participants view short interactive video clips that include live quizzes and instant feedback that allow them to quickly determine their understanding of the material and to work on problem areas. At the same time, participants help each other through online discussions similar to a comment thread on a social networking site.

Those enrolled in the free classes do not get Stanford credit for their work, but they do receive a statement of accomplishment if they successfully complete a course.

For Stanford students, online content supplements the classroom experience. Professors are experimenting with a “flipped classroom,” shifting classroom time from lectures to interactive activities such as problem-solving, reviewing difficult material and working in teams.

Online, students can view the interactive videos at their convenience and progress at their own pace. The interactive video questions and quizzes keep them thinking about the material and help them learn more effectively. At the same time, professors gain instant feedback on how students respond to lectures and course materials.

The five new classes will be powered by Coursera, a startup company founded by Stanford Engineering professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.

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