Elements of AI online course launches in Ireland

30 Oct 2020

From top clockwise: Ann O’Dea, Barry O’Sullivan and Teemu Roos speaking at Future Human. Image: © Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

The University of Helsinki and UCC have teamed up to bring AI ‘into the sitting rooms and kitchens of Irish homes’.

Today (30 October), the Elements of AI online course officially launches in Ireland, hosted by University College Cork (UCC).

The launch was announced at Future Human this afternoon by Prof Teemu Roos of the University of Helsinki and Prof Barry O’Sullivan of Insight, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for data analytics at UCC. At the event, Roos described Elements of AI as much more than an online course.

“It’s not just something that is sitting online, waiting for people to find it, but it’s also an initiative where we’re trying to engage with people, trying to encourage people and trying to invite people to join the AI community,” he said.

Elements of AI is a free online course designed and organised by the University of Helsinki and Finnish tech company Reaktor. The aim is to reach 1pc of the Irish population with the launch of the course here.

Speaking at Future Human, Roos said the course is designed to be accessible from the beginning, starting with what exactly artificial intelligence is and how we encounter it every day, before moving onto how it works and what the basic principles are.

“There’s no programming in the course, you don’t have to know any programming to get started and complete the course. There’s hardly any mathematics,” he said.

Coming to Ireland

While the course has been free and available online all over the world since the beginning, Roos said that partnering with companies and institutions plays a significant role in building the AI community and creating a grassroots movement for the course.

In Ireland, the course will be supported by UCC under the leadership of O’Sullivan and Dr Derek Bridge. Speaking at Future Human, O’Sullivan said it will bring AI “into the sitting rooms and kitchens of Irish homes”, adding that it’s a great opportunity for ‘de-hyping’ AI.

“You read a lot of science fiction about AI and a lot of nonsense frankly, and this is a way of demystifying it and help people who might never have had any background in computer science to get under the hood and see what AI is really all about,” he said.

‘All you need is a connection to the internet’

While the course itself is online, O’Sullivan said there will also be a team, including PhD and post-doctorate students, who will be supporting learners on the course. Additionally, UCC will offer two formal ECTS university credits to those who complete the course.

“There’s also going to be an Irish language version, so people will be able to study artificial intelligence as Gaeilge,” said O’Sullivan. “One of the great successes of Elements of AI is the European Commission love this and they want to roll it out in every European language.”

Roos said that the best experiences he has heard from those who have completed the course already are from people who have done it with others. “There was this amazing case of a lady who did it with her own mother and her daughter, so they had three generations studying together,” he said.

O’Sullivan added that as well as being free of charge, the course has no age limit. “So, if you’re a kid and you want to study AI, this is a way to get started. It’s a way of understanding whether this is a topic for you.

“It knows no boundaries. All you need is a connection to the internet.”

You can find out more about the Elements of AI course here.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic