Monday, January 09, 2012

A student's evaluation of Stanford's massive, free, online courses

I wrote a couple of blog posts about Stanford's experiment with massive, free online classes when they were announced. The courses are now over, and Ben Rudolph, a Stanford student who took one of them on campus, has written a blog post describing his experience.

The basic format of the class was: watch 5-6 short (~10 minute) videos with interspersed review questions and complete a programming assignment each week.

Rudolph thought the video lectures were excellent, but found the programming exercises and review questions too simple. It seems the programming exercises were simplified so that they could be graded automatically and, while he found that the review questions helped him refresh what he had learned, "they hardly ever asked anything that the lecture didn’t explicitly state."

(This is not surprising, since making up short answer questions that require thinking and deduction is very difficult).

The bottom line is that he considered the course to be easier than other Stanford computer science classes he had taken.

There has been lively discussion of his post on his blog and others. I would particularly recommend that you read Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford, which includes the reaction of Andrew Y. Ng, the professor who taught the course, to Rudolph's criticism.