With the recent surge in the demand for Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data courses — more so after the pandemic — Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) is offering two free online courses on AI through the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) platform. These courses will be conducted by Professor Deepak Khemani from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the institute. Both the courses are scheduled to begin from January 2021.
Students can enrol for the courses free of cost, however, the institute will conduct an exam before awarding the candidates with e-certificate, which if opted for will cost Rs 1,000. The certificate will be awarded by IITM in collaboration with the NPTEL platform.
Professor Deepak Khemani
Speaking about the importance of learning AI in today's day age, professor Khemani tells us, "A famous computer scientist from Ireland once said AI is the holy grail of computer science. It's a common person's view of computers, they feel that computers can do everything. The user states the problem and the computer solves, that is the broad goal of AI. It is a pretty long-term goal and we are not yet nearly close. However, the availability of data, increase in computing power, use of AI solutions in fields like medical diagnosis, has brought it into the limelight. I personally feel that it is important for students and specifically computer science students to opt for AI courses."
Professor Khemani further goes on to add that, "IIT Madras recently began an online BSc programme in Data Science. We have seen the rising demand for such courses and the AI courses are mainly aimed at people who are working professionals or are pursuing another degree elsewhere. They can attend these courses part-time online and thus increase their qualification. This programme is aimed at helping people acquire new skills and thus become job-ready."
The two courses IITM is offering along with NPTEL includes — an eight-week-long course that begins in January 2021 and another which is 12-week-long, which begins from January 18, 2021, and goes on till April 09, 2021. The first course, called AI: Constraint Satisfaction, is designed to teach students how to solve problems in various ways. The course focuses on how AI is inspired by diverse approaches. The course curriculum includes constraint networks, equivalent and projection networks, search methods for solving CSPs, lookahead methods, dynamic variable and value order, model-based systems, model-based diagnosis, truth maintenance systems and more.
The other course is called Artificial Intelligence: Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, which is designed to help candidates become problem solvers. It is mainly for those with some exposure to formal languages, programming and logic. The course curriculum includes Proof Systems, Natural Deduction, Tableau Method, Resolution Method, Description Logic (DL), Structure Matching, Classification, Default Logic, Autoepistemic Logic, Epistemic Logic, Multi-Agent Scenarios and more.
The courses are open to students and professionals across all age groups. "Among the people who have registered, the oldest learners are over 80 years and the majority are around 30 years of age. Most of these individuals are already working. Thus, these courses are not designed to be a primary degree but a secondary one. If you are already pursuing another full-fledged degree even then one can apply for this. It is mainly to help upgrade ones' skills," adds professor Khemani.
Finally, explaining how online platforms are helping educational institutes to offer such courses easily, the professor adds, "Definitely because of the pandemic educational institutes are finding it easier to rely on these platforms. It was happening earlier too, colleges had tied up with ed tech platforms, however, currently, this is higher. The government has also been conducting free courses on SWAYAM, which are extremely helpful for students and working professionals amid such time of crisis."