Online AI Courses – From Microsoft and IBM…

When I joined the OU as an academic, I was recruited to work on the rewrite of an AI course (T396 Artificial Intelligence for Engineering), adding a genetic algorithms block to complement the neural network and rule based systems / fuzzy logic materials that formed the majority of the course.

That course came to an end, was replaced by another that has also since come to an end, and leaves the current OU computing curriculum largely void of AI materials (there are little bits and pieces of related materials scattered through different courses, but nothing substantial).

Discussions are afoot as to whether – and where – we might be able to AI topics back into the curriculum. Quite by chance, I noticed today a reference to the Microsoft AI School which provides education materials for getting started with Microsoft’s AI services on Azure.

IBM also offer online courses in AI and related topics under the brand, again using their own cloud services:

They also offer badges

I’m not sure where this sits in the greater scheme of things when it comes to OU courses, but there are precedents of us having wrapped vendor training courses from IBM and Cisco with additional academic credit…

PS As well as the online services offered by Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Google, etc, I also note what may be fumblings towards a market in pretrained models in the form of

The unwary use of third party models – and the biases they incorporate, is something we may need to start to be a bit more concerned about sooner rather than later (for example, MIT Technology Review: Forget Killer Robots—Bias Is the Real AI Danger).

Towards Vendor Certification on the Open Web? Google Training Resources

Earlier this year, Google opened up a Google Apps Authorised Reseller programme (announcement) that encourages third parties to support, and sell, Google’s online applications.

For some time, I’ve been suggesting that there may be an opportunity for HE to start innovating in the area of open web and cloud app vendor certified training schemes (e.g. Google/Yahoo/Amazon Certified Professionals…) in the guise of IT professional development courses. (We already do something similar in the OU in the form of our “Cisco course”: T216 Cisco networking (CCNA), which wraps CIsco’s training materials with an additional layer of academic support and assessment; and the course TT381 Open Source Development Tools, which focusses on how to use CVS and LAMP stack. T320 Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice looks at web services and APIs, I think, though I’m not sure of the extent to which it actually does (or should) provide ‘training’ in how to use actual third party APIs? )

So for example, I don’t find it too hard to imagine that we might rejig our web certificate courses to include an element of formal appraisal of how to use javascript frameworks such as JQuery, or YUI, or webservices from Amazon or PayPal, finessing the creation of vendor or foundation recognised ‘vendor qualifications’ along the way…

With Google just announcing that they are going to launch a “dedicated Google cloud for government customers in the US” (Google Apps and Government) I thought it might be timely to do a quick survey of the training materials that Google already provides, to see whether there was enough already in place for us to produce a quick wrapper and get a course launched.

Here’s what I found:

There are also various API libraries that don’t (yet) have training associated with them; e.g. Google visualisation API, (see a list of all the available Google Developer “products” here: Google Code: Site Directory), as well as things like the Google Code University.

For web-based, hands-on activities, these playgrounds could be really useful:

  • Google Code Playground – an interactive playspace for tinkering with Google APIs
  • KML Interactive Sampler – mess around with KML code and see how Google Earth treats it. (I notice that the Google Earth API is also available in the Google Code Playground… so maybe this sampler is deprecated?)

Google code playground

For more general user interface and javascript training, I’ve always found Yahoo to be pretty good… For example, there are plenty of resources on the Yahoo User Interface libraries site, and I’ve always thought that the Yahoo Design Patterns site would be a great resource for teaching web design. (There’s also the YUI Theater, which I’ve dipped in to from time to time…)

Just by the by, on the UI design front, the flickr Design Patterns collection is worth a look, as is UI Patterns; and Product Planner is a handy resource if you want to get into the right state of mind for thinking about user flows through a website.

PS as this post has largely turned into a round-up of Google stuff, it’s probably also worth adding these in: Google Research publications and Google Talks.

PPS if you like the interactive Google code editor, you might also like: