Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Go to Class Challenge - part 2

MoCh - Challenge #6 September 2012 - The Go to Class Challenge

Just one of those ml nights in front of my computer.

The Challenge
The September challenge was a tough one, and it will continue until the first week of November. It has been several late nights and early mornings, however it's a truly rewarding challenge. I love studying and learning new subjects. Artificial intelligence is something I knew nothing about in August, now I know a bit. I hope I'll manage to complete the course, but it is not easy finding time, as I have a few things cooking at the moment. To get a glimpse into the world of "ml" (machine learning, which is the course I'm studying) check out this post about the challenge, this post about the assignments and these images from my life as a student.

Training my neural network.

The Future of Education
I believe that our education system is about to change dramatically over the next few years. And it's about time, as the method used for teaching more or less seems to be stuck in the past (I could write more about this, but that will have to be another time, you can read this if interested though). For my challenge I enrolled an online course. And yes, it is all online. Each week all students are given video lectures, lecture notes, reading assignments and programming assignments. We submit our assignments online, and if we need help we can ask questions in an online forum, which most likely will be answered by fellow students. I can study, or go to class, whenever I have time. As long as I do the assignments and tests within the deadline I'm all good. The quality of the course is fantastic and our lecture in charge is brilliant. I've studied a few years earlier, and finished a couple of degrees (Masters of Engineering Science and Graduate Diploma in Visual Effects, I did start a third degree as well). The online course I'm doing now has far overgone my expectations. It's heaps better than the subjects I did at University of Oslo, and it's not at all bad compared to my great masters from UNSW.

Here I am, located in Oslo, Norway, and doing an awesome course from Stanford University, which is ranked as the 15th best university in the world (complete ranking here). And you know what? It is completely free! I find it hard to believe that it's true. This opens a new world and new opportunities to a lot of people around the globe.

I'm planning to do several other subjects in the near future. Game Theory starts in January.

My course, and at the time of writing, 197 other subjects, are provided to everyone in the world with internet access via a site called Coursera. Here is what they write about themselves on

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.
Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

There were about 58.000 people that signed up to the course I'm doing in machine learning. A few years ago one teacher teaching 58.000 people was an utopian idea. Today it is being done. Below is a message from my teacher, Andrew Ng, to me and his other 58k students.

Hi all, 
About 58,000 of you had signed up for this offering of the machine learning class. I'm thrilled that there're so many of you still excited to learn this topic! 
I also hope you're enjoying learning about machine learning and linear regression. As a friendly reminder, the homeworks for the Week 2 content (Review Questions + First Programming Exercise) are due tomorrow Monday September 10th. Doing the programming exercise will help you make sure that you're understanding the material deeply, and that you're able to apply these techniques to new problems yourself. 
Please try to submit the homework on time, and best of luck!

Logging on to your Coursera account you get access to all your courses, learning materials, tests and what have you got. Everything nicely organised and presented.

Video lectures from Andrew Ng and Stanford University, via Coursera.

Weekly review questions to make sure you don't sleep in class.

Weekly programming assignments.

If you are interested in learning something new I can highly recommend checking out New universities join and new courses are offered all the time. There should be something for everyone, as you find subjects in categories like:
- Biology & Life Sciences
- Computer Science: Programming & Software Engineering
- Economics & Finance
- Health and Society & Medical Ethics
- Mathematics
- Statistics, Data Analysis, and Scientific Computing
- Business & Management
- Computer Science: Systems, Security, Networking
- Education
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Medicine
- Computer Science: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Vision
- Computer Science: Theory
- Electrical and Materials Engineering
- Information, Technology, and Design
- Physical & Earth Sciences

Below are some of the universities that have joined Coursera:

See you in class!


  1. An interesting follow up on online education, Coursera and machine learning:

    Why becoming a data scientist might be easier than you think

    In particular, Ng said, “Machine learning has matured to the point by where if you take one class you can actually become pretty good at applying it.” Familiarity with algebra and probabilities are certainly helpful, he added, but the only real prerequisite to his course is a basic understanding of programming.

    And with machine learning becoming “one of the more highly sought-after skills in Silicon Valley,” Ng said, corporate recruiters say just completing a single course can significantly boost someone’s salary and job prospects at companies where such knowledge is still in short supply.

    “I bet many students are going on to [do] great things because of these courses [even if we never hear about it],” Ng said.

  2. Another follow up:

    Andrew Ng champions online education as 'the great equalizer'

    “The world is a very unfair place today, where the circumstances you’re born in either give you or deny you the opportunity to have a good life. But the technology now exists to offer a high quality education to everyone at a very low cost.”
    Andrew Ng, associate professor of computer science and co-founder of the education technology company Coursera, is a leader in the world of online education. Working with fellow professor Daphne Koller Ph.D. ’93, Ng established the company in April 2012. Coursera has become the darling of the online education movement, with over 1.5 million students worldwide enrolled in at least one of 200 available courses.

    Read more at:


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