Sebastian Thrun resigns from Stanford to launch Udacity

January 24, 2012

Professor Sebastian Thrun has given up his Stanford position to start Udacity — an online educational venture, I Programmer reports. Udacity’s first two free courses are Building a Search Engine and Programming a Robotic Car.

As Thrun explains on his homepage:

One of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life is to teach a class to 160,000 students. In the Fall of 2011, Peter Norvig and I decided to offer our class “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” to the world online, free of charge.

We spent endless nights recording ourselves on video, and interacting with tens of thousands of students. Volunteer students translated some of our classes into over 40 languages; and in the end we graduated over 23,000 students from 190 countries. In fact, Peter and I taught more students AI than all AI professors in the world combined.

This one class had more educational impact than my entire career. Just watch this video (shown below — Ed.). Now that I saw the true power of education, there is no turning back. It’s like a drug. I won’t be able to teach 200 students again, in a conventional classroom setting.

The Udacity website is already open for signups and the first two course are due to start next month:

CS101: Building a Search Engine is to be taught by Dave Evans, Professor at the University of Virginia and Sebastian Thrun, requires no previous experience and aims to teach not only “enough about computer science that you can build a web search engine like Google or Yahoo” in just seven weeks.

CS 373: Programming a Robotic Car will be taught by Sebastiam Thrun and does require knowledge of programming and ideally of probability and linear algebra. All programming will be in Python.