April 1, 2023

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

The first of its kind at an elite computing school, the new program could help rapidly expand America’s AI workforce as tech giants like Microsoft rush to invest billions in the field.

The university announced the initiative amid calls for new technologies powered by artificial intelligence that can generate human-like art and text. Hiring in artificial intelligence is expected to remain strong even as some of the biggest companies in the tech industry are laying off workers after years of rapid growth.

University officials say they plan to start training thousands of graduate students in popular skills such as machine learning starting in the spring of 2024, at a tuition cost of about $10,000. School officials say the fee is intended to make AI education more affordable.In contrast, Johns Hopkins University offers an online master’s degree in artificial intelligence Over $45,000.

“AI is now becoming an important tool in fields outside the purview of a handful of tech companies,” said Texas State computer science professor Adam Crivens, who directs the online master’s program in artificial intelligence. Noting that AI specialists are in high demand in industries such as biotech and finance, Professor Klivans said the new online degree is “in which working professionals can engage to learn what companies need without leaving their jobs.” expertise.”

Funding for the development of the new master’s program comes in part from the National Science Foundation. 2020, Foundation Awards to University of Texas A five-year, $20 million grant Establishment of artificial intelligence research institute in machine learningThis is an area where computer algorithms learn to make predictions by analyzing large data sets — such as predicting which drug formulations are best for treating new viruses.

Tenured professors in computer science and related fields, such as computer engineering, will teach the online master’s program through recorded video lectures, as well as some interactive courses, university officials said.Faculty and staff involved in the University’s interdisciplinary research program are called good systemAI tools aimed at developing AI tools whose potential societal benefits outweigh the harms will also be involved.

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

“In each class, the instructor asks the students to reflect on the possible benefits and possible harms of the technology they are learning about,” said University of Texas computer science professor Peter Stone. Ethical Robotics Course“Those developing next-generation technologies, as well as users, need a realistic view of AI’s strengths and limitations”

These creative and critical skills are likely to be in increasing demand. Tech companies are scrambling to develop advanced chatbots and other artificial intelligence tools that can generate images and text based on brief prompts — though some researchers warn that rushing to deploy these new systems could pose risks, such as political manipulation .

The Texas project was inspired in part by Georgia Tech, which in 2014 became the first leading computer science school to launch Massive, Low-Cost Online Master’s Degrees in that field. Thousands of students have graduated from the program.

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

Don Fussell, dean of the computer science department, said the university plans to open applications for a new master’s program in AI in June, with the goal of enrolling more than 2,000 students a year. To be accepted into the online program, students don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but they do need expertise in technical fields such as engineering or computing, he said.

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

“If these layoffs continue, I think we’re going to see a lot of people moving from general computer science and technology backgrounds into artificial intelligence,” Professor Fussell said. “That’s how the field has evolved.”

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