Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Learn how to program a robotic car. From the Fellow who knows about these things. Free.

How would you like to learn how to buid a search engine, without having any existing knowledge of programming language? In seven weeks? And get a Certificate signed by respected University professors if you get things right? Free!

Image from Udacity.com

Or, for the more advanced, how about learning Programming a Robotic Car? From the Google Fellow (that's Fellow with a capital F) who has been doing some of the work you may have heard about on the news. Free.

There are some wonderful things happening on Google+ these days. I doubt that I would have found out about some remarkable free courses being offered by Udacity. Not the best of names they've chosen there but then I suspect the talents of David Evans and Sebastian Thrun, the guys behind this venture, are better suited to teaching us amazing technology stuff than marketing.

David Evans is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia where he teaches computer science and leads research in computer security. He is the author of an introductory computer science textbook and has won Virginia's highest award for university faculty. He has PhD, SM, and SB degrees from MIT. 

Sebastian Thrun is a Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, a Google Fellow, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the German Academy of Sciences. Thrun is best known for his research in robotics and machine learning, specifically hiswork with self-driving cars.

I copied those bits from the Udacity web site. Hope they don't mind but it was easier than trying to add all the useful links myself. So they're pretty expert in their fields. 

There are also a host of other computing courses in the pipeline but the Internet Browser one would be a great place for any students with some interest in this field to start.

You enrol with Udacity and get a series of video sessions where you're taught what to do, with exercises to try in your own time. There's a test at the end too. It's not one of those live series where you have to be on-line at a particular time - just watch and learn at your own pace, similar to the Khan Academy approach that I have been shouting from the College rooftops about for a long time now.

Do take a look at the Udacity site. It's just so great that this is being offered a no cost and they're at the forefront of a whole new movement that I detect of this sort that I think will have a huge impact on the way traditional further education, if not some school learning, is provided in future.

Here is their summary of what the Internet Search Engine course comprises (again copied from their site):
This class will give you an introduction to computing. In seven weeks, you will build your own search engine complete with a web crawler and way of ranking popular pages. You will understand some of the key concepts in computer science, and learn how to write your own computer programs. No previous background in programming is expected.
Week 1: How to get started: your first program
Extracting a link
Week 2: How to repeat
Finding all the links on a page
Week 3: How to manage data
Crawling the web 
Week 4: How to solve problems
Responding to search queries 
Week 5: How programs run
Making things fast 
Week 6: How to have infinite power
Ranking search results 
Week 7: Where to go from here
Exam testing your knowledge
Just sounds great. Do give it a try and let me know how you get on.

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