In a post earlier this year, I called attention to Udacity, a recent initiative led by Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun. Udacity’s stated goal was to reach 500,000 students with a completely free online course on artifical intelligence. At the time of a Chronicle of Higher Education profile on Thrun and his project, he had already served the course to 160,000 students. In my post, I suggested four reasons why I thought Udacity ought to make the higher-education establishment nervous.
Now we can add a fifth reason to that list: according to a story in this week’s Chronicle, Colorado State University “will give full transfer credit to students who complete a free introductory computer-science course offered by the online-education start-up company Udacity.”
There are a few things that I would suggest are noteworthy here. First, Colorado State is not some fly-by-night diploma mill; it’s a serious place with a solid (and well-deserved) international reputation. Second, Udacity now offers 14 courses, employs 10 people, and has openings for eight more. As time goes on, what Udacity is doing seems more and more like something substantial — and potentially disruptive.