Stanford expands free, online information technology course offerings

New online courses set to start in January 2012 include Software as a Service and Computer Science 101, as well as primers on entrepreneurship. Be sure to check out Stanford's iTunes U as well.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

A couple of months back, we reported on how some IT professors at Stanford University were opening up their courses for the world to participate, with no tuition cost. This fall, courses on Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Introduction to Databases and Introduction to Machine Learning were launched, all delivered between October and December.  (I have been participating in the AI course, it's really extremely well presented and informative.)

Three million people have checked out the AI course page since it was announced (now doubt driven by my blog post here), and course co-professor Peter Norvig reports that 35,000 students have stuck with the course and exams.  There are also 135 students taking the course onsite, Norvig is quoted as saying in the Good News site,

Now it is being reported that due to the great success of the program, Stanford plans to offer eight more computer science classes beginning in January, including Software as a Service, Computer Science 101, Machine Learning, Cryptography, Natural Language Processing, Human Computer Interaction, Design and Analysis of Algorithms I, and Probabilistic Graphic Models.

Here is the write-up on the SaaS course:

"This course teaches the engineering fundamentals for long-lived software using the highly-productive Agile development method for Software as a Service (SaaS) using Ruby on Rails. Agile developers continuously refine and refactor a working but incomplete prototype until the customer is happy with result, with the customer offering continuous feedback. Agile emphasizes user stories to validate customer requirements; test-driven development to reduce mistakes; biweekly iterations of new software releases; and velocity to measure progress. We will introduce all these elements of the Agile development cycle, and go through one iteration by adding features to a simple app and deploying it on the cloud using tools like Github, Cucumber, RSpec, RCov, Pivotal Tracker, and Heroku."

Being in the heart and brains of Silicon Valley, Stanford professors will also be offering two online courses on entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurship courses include Technology Entrepreneurship—a class on how to launch a successful startup, and The Lean Launchpad, which will teach how to turn "a great idea into a great company."

In a separate but related development, Stanford also says it has just released the iOS 5 incarnation of iPhone Application Development on iTunes U, where the public can download course lectures and slides for free. Some of the most talked-about features of Apple's latest operating system include iCloud, streamlined notifications and wireless syncing. When Stanford's first iPhone apps course appeared online in 2009, it made iTunes history by rocketing to a million downloads in just seven weeks.

Two Stanford prerequisite courses, Programming Methodology and Programming Abstractions, are available on iTunes U.

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