Nov. 29, 2021
Thousands of students take up fundamentals of artificial intelligence
In summer 2021, UCalgary Continuing Education teamed up with Microsoft Canada and the Royal Bank of Canada to offer a free course that provided training in the fundamentals of artificial intelligence. Over 6,000 students enrolled to learn about AI for the first time or to deepen their existing knowledge and experience Microsoft’s Azure Platform.
Roberto Lahud, who had no experience with or prior knowledge about AI, is one of many students who took advantage of this opportunity. He said it was low risk for him to participate because the first session was offered at no cost to students.
Lahud has worked in Alberta’s oil and gas sector for more than 10 years and wanted to try his hand at something new without making an immediate career change. Being at the mercy of the ups and downs of the oil industry, Lahud wants to branch out into an industry that has a more stable future, which led him to enrol in the ICT 901 Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals course.
“It was a very interesting learning experience,” says Lahud. “As someone who doesn’t have the technological background, there was a steep learning curve, but it started to click when I was able to use the Azure platform for myself.” He now hopes to continue learning more about AI after completing his certification.
The course explores a hands-on approach to AI and the Azure AI services through Microsoft and provides industry-recognized certification upon successful completion. The training is designed for individuals with no prior technical knowledge of AI, and for those who already have a background in cloud computing or AI.
Adnan Ahmed, director of the office of institutional analysis at the University of Calgary and a Continuing Education instructor, says he taught people from many walks of life in his classes, ranging from those who wanted to understand AI at the beginner level and those who had years of experience as machine-learning engineers.
“Because the course was developed not with AI engineers or AI developers in mind, but for the general population, I was hoping my students would get an appreciation and understanding of AI and the democratization of AI that these platforms are enabling now,” says Ahmed, who is currently a PhD candidate specializing in AI.
It’s not a secret that AI is here to stay. The more we can use AI to make our processes more efficient, the better.
Ahmed’s sentiment is echoed by third-year UCalgary software engineering student Hassan Khan: “I strongly believe that cloud computing is very important, and AI is the future. By mixing the two together there was no better course for me.”
Khan has a technical background, making him one of the more experienced individuals to take the course. He found the training was easy to follow, and the concepts related to his current studies at the university.
“Considering that cloud computing is quite big these days and machine learning is not going away anytime soon, I’m hoping to expand on this course, whether that’s by taking another certification or by other avenues,” says Khan. “Either way, I believe this was a fruitful endeavour to take part in.”
According to Burning Glass Technologies, more than 4,000 AI jobs were posted in Canada in the past year, and this number is projected to grow over the next two years.
Continuing Education’s collaboration with Microsoft Canada continues. In response to demand, a full suite of Azure courses is now available and can be found at conted.ucalgary.ca/azure.