The University of Texas at Austin, one of the nation’s top computer science schools, announced on Thursday the launch of a massive, low-cost online Master of Science in an artificial intelligence degree program.
The new program, which is the first of its sort among prominent computer colleges, may help rapidly grow the A.I. workforce in the United States as corporate titans such as Microsoft hurry to spend billions in the sector.
The institution unveiled the idea amidst a commotion surrounding emerging technologies driven by artificial intelligence that may produce art and literature that resemble human creations. And while some of the largest corporations in the IT industry are laying off employees following years of fast development, employment in artificial intelligence is projected to remain robust.
Beginning in the spring of 2024, university authorities intend to teach thousands of graduate students in-demand skills such as machine learning for the tuition of around $10,000. The expense, according to school administrators, is designed to make AI education more affordable. In comparison, Johns Hopkins University charges more than $45,000 for its online Master of Science in artificial intelligence.
Adam Klivans, a computer science professor at the University of Texas and head of the online A.I. master’s degree, stated that A.I. is becoming an indispensable tool in sectors much outside the boundaries of a few tech businesses. Noting that A.I. specialists are in great demand in fields such as biotechnology and finance, Professor Klivans stated that the new online degree was “something working people may engage in to gain the knowledge their companies want without quitting their employment.”
Part of the financing for the development of the new master’s program came from the National Science Foundation. In 2020, the foundation granted the University of Texas a $20 million grant over five years to construct an artificial intelligence machine learning institute. In this subject, computer algorithms learn to make predictions by examining massive data sets, such as determining which medicine formulations would be most effective for treating new infections.
The online master’s courses will be taught by tenure-track academics in computer science and allied subjects, such as computer engineering, via recorded video lectures and interactive sessions, according to university authorities. Faculty members working in the university’s Good Systems multidisciplinary research program, which aims to build A.I. technologies whose potential social benefits outweigh their potential drawbacks, will also participate.
The online master’s program will offer advanced courses in topics such as machine learning, A.I. applications in health, and natural language processing, which helps Siri and Alexa comprehend human speech. Each course will also incorporate formal ethics instruction to help students comprehend the societal ramifications of A.I. systems.
Peter Stone, a computer science professor at the University of Texas who offers a course on ethical robotics, stated, “In each lecture, the instructor will challenge students to consider the possible advantages and potential risks of the technology they are learning about.” “People building the next generation of technologies, as well as consumers, must have a realistic understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of artificial intelligence.”
These innovative and analytical abilities may be in more demand in the future. Tech companies are rushing to build sophisticated chatbots and other A.I. tools that can produce pictures and phrases in response to brief cues, even though some scholars warn that the rush to deploy these innovative systems might pose problems, such as political manipulation.
The Texas program was partially inspired by the Georgia Institute of Technology, which in 2014 became the first prestigious computer science institution to provide a large-scale, low-cost online master’s degree in that discipline. Thousands of graduates have completed the program.
The University of Texas at Austin launched its own online master’s degree program in computer science in 2019, followed by a similar program in data science in 2021. Together, the programs enroll around 2,800 students.
Don Fussell, chair of the computer science department, stated that the university would begin accepting applications for the new A.I. master’s degree in June, to enroll over 2,000 students annually. Students would not be required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science to be admitted into the online program, he added, but they will need to have experience in a technical subject such as engineering or computers. The artificial intelligence courses will be delivered through edX, a famous online learning platform that currently offers the university’s online master’s courses in computer and data science.
Due to the enormous layoffs at Amazon, Google, and other large companies, the online school may already have a ready-made audience: tens of thousands of jobless computer professionals interested in specializing in artificial intelligence.
Professor Fussell stated, “If these layoffs continue, I believe a large number of individuals with general computer science and technology credentials will transition to A.I.” This indicates the direction the field is going.