Udacity Talks A Huge Game

Sebastian Thrun:

I just want to congratulate you. You’ve actually in these three classes learned pretty much as much as any of my Stanford students learn in my specialized AI classes on robotics when it comes to robot perception. In fact, you’ve learned pretty much what there is to know when it comes to being a successful practitioner in robotics.

I have no way of evaluating the truth of those claims, but the numbers beggar belief. If Thrun has managed to do in three weeks what previously took him ten in Stanford’s classrooms, that raises a few possibilities:

  1. Thrun wasted a lot of time in his Stanford classrooms.
  2. Thrun covered the same quantity of material in his Stanford classrooms but the quality of that coverage declined.
  3. Thrun is exaggerating.

My bet is some combination of two and three. It’s just awfully hard to get anything for nothing, and transferring lectures from the classroom to the Internet doesn’t buy much time.

2012 Sep 10. A blogger writes about the Udacity statistics course:

As if the content-based problems noted above weren’t enough, running throughout Thrun’s presentations is a routine, suspiciously hard-sell call for how stellar the class was and how much you, the viewer, have learned.

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I’m Dan and this is my blog. I’m a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve taken or tried out the various free online Stanford, Coursera, Udacity courses, and I’ve also taken actual undergrad and grad courses at Carnegie Mellon. I don’t think it’s possible to compare the experiences in a simplistic way.

    I believe there really is a lot of time waste in non-online classes, in my experience. There is time waste in the sense of students getting bored when they could just fast-forward, time waste when they are confused but the lecture must go on. There is time waste in trying to cover too many topics, rather than focusing on what is most important (by some deliberate definition of “important”).

    And of course, Thrun is also exaggerating. These online courses have tended to avoid deep coverage of theoretical foundations. That has been an interesting compromise, but I can’t help feeling that there should be some attempt at discussing those (perhaps in optional lectures and assignments) rather than covering the bare minimum.