The University of Texas will offer a large-scale online master’s degree in AI

The University of Texas will offer a large-scale online master’s degree in AI

The University of Texas will offer a large-scale online master's degree in AI

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The University of Texas at Austin, one of the nation’s leading computer science schools, said Thursday it was launching a large-scale, low-cost online master of science program in artificial intelligence.


The first of its kind among elite computer science schools, the new program could help rapidly expand the AI ​​workforce in the United States as tech giants like Microsoft rush to invest billions in the domain.

The university announced the initiative amid a clamor over new technology powered by artificial intelligence that can generate human art and texts. And while some of the biggest companies in the tech industry are laying off workers after years of rapid growth, AI hiring is expected to remain strong.

University officials said they plan to train thousands of graduate students in in-demand skills like machine learning, for tuition of around $10,000, beginning in spring 2024. Officials from the school said the cost was aimed at making teaching AI more affordable. In contrast, Johns Hopkins University offers an online master’s degree in artificial intelligence for over $45,000.

“AI is becoming a critical tool in areas beyond the scope of a handful of tech companies,” said Adam Klivans, a Texas computer science professor and director of the online master’s program at AI. ‘IA. Noting that AI experts are in high demand in sectors like biotechnology and finance, Professor Klivans said the new online degree was “something professionals can participate in to gain the expertise their businesses need without leave their job”.

Funding to develop the new master’s program came in part from the National Science Foundation. In 2020, the foundation awarded the University of Texas a five-year, $20 million grant to establish a machine learning AI institute. It’s a field in which computer algorithms learn to make predictions by analyzing large datasets – such as predicting which drug formulations might be best used to treat new viruses.

University officials said tenure-track professors in computer science and related fields, such as computer engineering, would teach master’s courses online through recorded video lectures, as well as interactive sessions. Faculty members involved in an interdisciplinary research program at the university called Good Systems, which aims to develop AI tools whose potential societal benefits outweigh their drawbacks, will also participate.

The online master’s program will include advanced courses in areas such as machine learning; Applications of AI in health; and natural language processing, which helps voice assistants like Siri and Alexa understand human speech. Each course will also include formal training in ethics to give students a framework to understand the societal implications of AI systems.

“In each of the courses, the instructor will ask students to think about the possible advantages and disadvantages of the technologies they are learning,” said Peter Stone, a Texas computer science professor who teaches an ethical robotics course. “People developing the next generation of technologies, as well as users, need to have a realistic view of the strengths and limitations of AI”

These creative and critical skills may be increasingly in demand. Tech companies are scrambling to develop advanced chatbots and other AI tools that can generate images and text in response to short prompts — though some researchers warn that the rush to deploy these new systems could present challenges. risks, such as political manipulation.

The Texas program was inspired in part by the Georgia Institute of Technology, which in 2014 became the first major computer science school to launch a large-scale, low-cost online master’s degree in the field. Thousands of students have completed the program.

In 2019, the University of Texas at Austin launched its own large-scale online master’s degree program in computer science, followed by a similar online master’s degree in data science in 2021. Together, the programs enroll approximately 2,800 students.

The university plans to open applications for the new AI master’s program in June with the goal of enrolling more than 2,000 students a year, said Don Fussell, director of the computer science department. To be accepted into the online program, he said, students won’t be required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but they will need to have expertise in a technical field like engineering or computer science.

With widespread layoffs at Amazon, Google and other tech companies, the online program may already have a ready-made audience: tens of thousands of unemployed tech workers looking to specialize in technology. ‘artificial intelligence.

“If these layoffs continue, I think we’re going to see a shift among a lot of people from general computing and technology to AI,” Professor Fussell said. “That’s how the pitch evolves.”


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