More than 20k students signed up for free Stanford artificial intelligence course

Two Stanford professors are offering "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" online for anyone who wants to sign up. The idea is to offer a core background in AI to more than the usual 200 undergrads the course attracts each year. And so far, the experiment has proved a huge success: The professors announced on Twitter that at least 20,000 people have taken them up on their offer, and enrollment is still open for another month.

"We'd really like to see if we can teach the entire world with this class," Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun said in a video on the course. His co-teacher is Peter Norvig, Google's director of research.

But even though the course is free, it looks like a lot of work. The professors give two 75-minute lectures each week, which will be broken into smaller chunks and posted online. Students will also have to complete eight homework assignments and two exams, which will be graded automatically. A special program will sift through online comments and questions and pass on the best ones to the professors, who will post their responses online. Students will learn about robotics, Markov decision processes and machine-learning--among other things that The Lookout doesn't really understand.

Everyone receives a grade and a "letter of completion" at the end of the course, but only Stanford students get college credit. "If you take this course online, you'll be graded just like a Stanford student," the course description says.

The class begins Oct 10 and runs 10 weeks. You can sign up here.