It’s been a while since the emergence of university courses on the web. Currently, almost all major universities maintain projects regarding on line courses such as Open Course Ware provided by MIT and Open Yale Courses, by Yale University.
In these projects, at first, only written material such as student’s notes and exercises were provided. However, with the arise of video distribution through the web, it didn’t take long before cameras were used to record the classes and make the videos available on the web.
This initiative seems to be very nice and seems like it is working as more projects like these appear every month. Among them, it is worth mentioning Academic Earth, which serves as an index to other courses of many universities, Udemy, which besides indexing university courses, also houses some free courses and Khan Academy, which indexes a series of short videos with lessons in many areas such as math, physics, and finance.
I don’t believe that e-learning can replace the traditional university courses very soon but I think the idea is very interesting and must be improved and explored more and more. In this context, Stanford University brought an innovation in the last months of the year. It launched three courses that go beyond the simple provision of multimedia material, with the proposal of classes and exercises with monitoring by teachers according to predetermined schedule. In these courses, of introduction to artificial intelligence, introduction to databases and, machine learning, the students participate handing in exercises and doing tests and can obtain a certificate at the end of the course. The participation is not worth credits for the university but the result for the student ends up being much better in this model of course. The idea seems to be working since the university recently announced that intends to increase the number of courses available in 2012, including game theory, natural language processing, SaaS software engineering, probabilistic graphical models, computer science, human-computer interaction, technology entrepreneuship, cryptography, information theory, anatomy and, design and analysis of algorithms.