The "college experience" as we've known it for the last 50 years is beginning to break apart. The disaggregation of education is visible all over the place. Knowledge once transmitted in very specific places to very specific people for a set amount of money is spreading in new ways.
That Stanford is now offering it's "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" course online for free to anyone who wants to take it is a new and exciting example of this trend.
Anyone taking the class will be graded right alongside the Stanford students and they'll receive a certificate of completion from the university. This isn't just following along with a syllabus posted to a website. This is a level of interaction deeper and more exciting.
I think we'll see these sorts of alternative learning arrangements really flourish around technology topics. And then over time, they'll leak into other fields. For now, though, imagine you're a supersmart 16-year old nerd in a random part of the country. Instead of taking classes at a community college (like a lot of motivated kids where I grew did), they could take this class, competing against and measuring themselves against some of the best engineering students in the world.
Kudos to professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig for taking this on!
Via IEEE Spectrum.