AI Enhancements Power McGraw Hill's ALEKS Math and Chemistry Program

OpenAI’s introduction last November of the ChatGPT chatbot shifted what was already an accelerating artificial intelligence sector into a higher gear, bringing the capabilities of generative AI within reach of businesses and individuals alike.

Unsurprisingly, enterprise interest in adopting generative AI and large-language models (LLMs) is high. According to a survey by the AI Infrastructure Alliance of more than 1,000 companies with at least 10,000 employees, more than 18% said that adopting the technologies this year was their most important priority. Another 49% came in just below that. Less than 1% said it was least important.

The level of interest surprised the report’s authors, but they added that “it seems enterprises are hungry to unlock the value of generative text models and don’t want to get left behind.”

However, like cybersecurity, data science and other hot IT areas, one concern is a looming skills gap between trained AI experts and companies that need them.

“We see the urgent need for tech and AI training at both the individual and corporate level,” Anant Agarwal, founder of online learning platform edX and chief platform officer at edX parent company 2U, told “There is a palpable AI skills gap here and a real need for technical training programs that can quickly adapt to market demands.”

Off to Boot Camp

Closing that gap is the key behind the launch this month of edX’s Artificial Intelligence Boot Camp, a part-time 24-week intensive online learning program that is being run in partnership with seven universities, including the Ohio State University College of Engineering, Michigan State University, Columbia Engineering and the University of Denver.

The boot camp is aimed at people early or in the middle of their careers and is starting this fall at those schools as well as the University of Utah, Southern Methodist University’s Continuing and Professional Education program, and the Charlotte School of Professional Studies.

It’s the latest in a series of boot camps edX runs that touch on such subjects as cybersecurity, data analytics and visualization, coding and financial technology.

EdX already offers a range of AI-focused online courses – including shorter MicroBootCamps and ChatGPT-focused offerings – but interest has surged since the release of ChatGPT, Agarwal said. In the first six months this year, searches for “artificial intelligence” on the platform have jumped 80%.

Demand is Soaring

Such interest dovetails with the results of a recent survey of technical hiring managers and learners in the United States commissioned by edX, which found that 82% of the learners said they had researched AI-related higher education programs during those months.

“This highlights a proactive stance among learners,” he said. “They’re not just curious. They are actively seeking structured learning paths to equip themselves with AI capabilities, as exemplified by the immense interest we’ve witnessed in our AI-related offerings.”

That interest is going to be needed as the job market starts to put an emphasis on AI skills. In that same survey, hiring managers said they expect 42% of job candidates hired in the next five years will need AI skills, but that fewer than 20% now have those skills.

The combination of the interest generated by ChatGPT and similar generative AI programs and programs like edX’s and those offered by a growing number of companies and schools may help to reduce that difference.

“We … recognize the power and impact of tools like ChatGPT and [Google’s chatbot] Bard,” Agarwal said. “Tools that democratize AI, like ChatGPT, have ushered in a new era of interest and accessibility, and we are here to ensure that learners not only use these tools but truly understand the intricacies behind them.”

Teaching the Basics

The goal of the AI boot camp program is to teach students the AI concepts and techniques that are foundational to understanding artificial technology, including machine learning algorithms, deep learning architectures, natural language processing, and programming languages like Python, according to edX’s website. Other subjects including the TensorFlow open AI and machine learning software library, Agile development, and data science.

Tuition costs differ from school to school, with the price ranging from $11,245 and $12,745, with a $1,000 discount for those who enroll in the pilot cohorts.

Agarwal expects that interest in such programs like edX’s AI boot camps will grow as AI continues to make its way into all aspects of companies’ IT environments.

“Emerging technologies, especially AI, are not just trends but the very bedrock upon which the future is being built,” he said. “Looking at the landscape of the next year or two, given the rate of technological advancements and the tangible shifts we’re seeing in industries across the board, the interest in AI training will only increase. The era we’re entering is one where AI won’t be an optional knowledge; it will be embedded in the fabric of every profession.”