The pitch for the online course sounds like a late-night television ad, or maybe a subway poster: “Learn programming in seven weeks starting Feb. 20. We’ll teach you enough about computer science that you can build a Web search engine like Google or Yahoo.” Part of a lesson for computer science students in a Massive Open Online Course.
But this course, Building a Search Engine, is taught by two prominent computer scientists, Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford research professor and Google fellow, and David Evans, a professor on leave from the University of Virginia.
The big names have been a big draw. Since Udacity, the for-profit startup running the course, opened registration on Jan. 23, more than 90,000 students have enrolled in the search-engine course and another taught by Mr. Thrun, who led the development of Google’s self-driving car.