Udacious Learning

Udacious Learning

This fall, I enrolled* in the free, online, Stanford artificial intelligence course. For me, this class was a watershed moment. I have followed the development of many online courses over the years. I have often felt that the courses are really just a textbook copied onto a screen followed by a multiple choice question that asks you to recall what you just read. In other words, 19th century pedagogy, but it’s on a computer, so now it’s really exciting. In contrast, this Stanford course had a number of features that make me think very differently about what is possible in an online space. For example, although as a teacher I would really prefer smaller class sizes, I was surprised that a class with 160,000 students could lead to more learning than a smaller class would.

As a result, when I learned that Sebastian Thrun, one of the professors from the artificial intelligence class, had created a new free online university (udacity.com) and is offering a new online course this spring in computer science (tagline: create your own search engine in seven weeks!), I immediately signed up for the class. But then, as I thought about it more, I thought, “I bet there’s some students in our schools who would be interested in this course too.” I had started to compose an email to all the high school math and science teachers in our schools telling them about the course when I thought, “You know what, I should take this on myself.

A few weeks ago, I met with a group of juniors and seniors at High Tech High International and made the following pitch. Join me for 7 weeks. We will all take this online class and will support each other through a study group that meets twice a week. We’re going to learn some computer science. We’re going to learn something about how we do or don’t learn in this environment. A bunch of students said yes. I am going to post about what we are learning.

* I can’t say I “took” the course: with full disclosure, I did stop working on the class in week 4. Life interfered, which could be the subject of another post.

Written by Ben Daley

Ben Daley

Chief operating officer for High Tech High


  1. Reblogged this on the Squished Diorama and commented:
    I have just heard about Sebastian Thune, Udacity.com, Solomon Khan, and Khanacademy.org from Bill Handle, a talk radio show host on KFI640.com. This is amazing stuff. I was worried that there was going to be a bidding war for education, and those at the lower income spectrum would just be lost in the struggle for knowledge and power with no real resources to overcome their position in life.

    With udacity.com courses, and khanacademy.org courses, the lessons are free, the materials are low cost, and there is no tuition. Not only are these instructors able to affect change across a much larger spectrum, their teachings are recorded and can have a much larger retention ratio because it can be seen over and over again over the course of several years to decades.

    I applaud these type of scholastic accomplishments anywhere I can find them. Another place I see this type of break from the typical Universities and Colleges charging astronomical fees to hold students hostage to their own source of knowledge – is with the latest release of iTunes U from Apple Computers. It is becoming clear to me that there is a political message here. Education is a priority, even over capitalism. We need to educate. And we need to do so on a level that reaches as many people as possible. I love it.

    I also love your post. It took me to a totally different perspective as I was now following your path, as you are taking these classes, and your wide eyes as you realize what you have stumbled upon.

  2. Hi I am not sure what the latest take on Udacity courses but it’s one thing to put some nice comments to support the course of udacious free learning platform and another to hear it all changed to promoting paid courses. Couldn’t that be misleading?
    It goes to show that profit always comes before people’s genuine needs like education.


  1. Project based learning in an online course | Blend My Learning - [...] have written earlier about the free online course from udacity.com on computer science I am taking with high school…

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