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  • Universities and Enterprises Collaborate to Produce AI Textbooks

    Universities and Enterprises Collaborate to Produce AI Textbooks

Reading guide: With countries around the world focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, training specialists in the field is now a priority. In China, the compilation of teaching materials between universities and enterprises can help establish an elite AI talent training system.

In 1956, the field of AI science was founded at Dartmouth College. Since 2015, computing has been used to support deep learning technologies. And, in recent years, machine-based image recognition accuracy has even exceeded that of the human eye for the first time.

With a technological and industrial revolution underway, AI is at the forefront of industrial development and has become an engine for the digital economy's development. Enterprises are strengthening their competitiveness by building a labor force that includes intelligent robots, driving the digital economy's rapid growth. According to the GIV 2025 Upholding the Industry Blueprint of an Intelligent World released by Huawei in 2019, 97% of large companies will adopt AI technologies and 14% of households will have "robot housekeepers" by 2025.

Countries around the world are planning the development of AI technology, treating AI technology as a strategic development driver. In July 2017, China issued the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, aiming to seize major strategic opportunities to boost AI development in China.

In the past five years, the demand for AI applications has increased by an annual average of more than 70%. With this rapid growth in applications, industries urgently need AI specialists. In China's AI industry, there's a talent gap of 300,000 people, and the supply-demand imbalance in some technology fields and positions is particularly prominent, according to the Talent Exchange Center of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China's Artificial Intelligence Industry Talent Development Report (2019–2020).

Training AI Specialists

In the scientific computing field, the famous Matlab software was created in the higher education teaching process, then was gradually developed into the basic software in the scientific computing industry worldwide, and finally achieved commercialization. In the Internet field, the Google search engine and Facebook were also created in universities. Seizing the opportunity of AI's rapid development and establishing an advanced AI talent training system in colleges and universities will shape the future of China's AI industry, determining whether the nation can lead AI development worldwide.

To provide optimal AI training, in April 2018, the Ministry of Education, set out three development goals for 2020, 2025, and 2030 in its Action Plan for Artificial Intelligence Innovation in Colleges and Universities (Action Plan): to optimize the scientific and technological innovation system of AI technologies in colleges and universities, to improve the AI skills training system in colleges and universities, and to advance the application of AI scientific and technological achievements of colleges and universities.

The Action Plan encourages colleges and universities to plan AI-related majors as well as corresponding secondary or interdisciplinary courses based on regional and national industrial development needs to support the innovation of science and education integration and collaboration between universities and enterprises. The Action Plan also states that China's universities will become the driving force in building AI innovation centers by 2030, leading AI development around the world.

To date, China has approved AI undergraduate major programs at 345 colleges and universities, and three of those universities — Zhejiang University, Wuhan University, and Huazhong University of Science and Technology — have been approved to set up interdisciplinary AI courses. Meanwhile, a tiered training system that covers undergraduate and graduate students is also being developed.

Teaching Materials Are the Cornerstone of Training

In March 2018, the National Strategic Advisory Committee for Next Generation Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education Press selected the editorial board for the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Textbooks Series.

The textbook series covers basic theories of AI, algorithm models, technical systems, hardware chips, ethics and security, and the intersection of "Intelligence+" disciplines, which can link cutting-edge technologies and integrate technologies from different fields. In terms of teaching, online and shared course model will be adopted to promote the sharing of high-quality teaching materials.

Developed by the Higher Education Press during the 13th Five-Year and 14th Five-Year Plan period, the textbook series integrates the AI teaching resources of leading domestic scholars, the latest AI technologies of top domestic IT enterprises, and the high-quality teaching services of Higher Education Press. While covering the basic knowledge, it also teaches the latest application cases and rapid upgrade of AI technologies.

In the foreword to the textbook series, Professor Pan Yunhe, a Chinese Academy of Engineering academician, wrote that he hoped to "compile first-class teaching materials; build open online courses; and form a teaching system links cutting-edge technologies and different disciplines."

Universities and Enterprises Collaborate to Compile AI Textbooks

The editorial board believes that university-enterprise collaboration is the best approach to use those teaching materials to train AI specialists with an understanding of theory and practical skills that will meet the developing needs of industries. Colleges and universities provide basic theories and teaching resources, while enterprises have application scenarios and technical practices. Making use of their respective advantages to compile teaching materials together will help to build a talent training system that integrates both theoretical teaching and practical production scenarios. So, in 2019, the editorial board started collaborating with Huawei to develop AI teaching materials.

Based on the framework established for the textbook series, the two parties worked together to plan a series of AI practice teaching materials based on Huawei Cloud and Ascend. All of the textbooks are jointly developed by respected university professors, Huawei senior technical experts, and the Higher Education Press. The series capitalizes on the respective strengths of academia, the ICT industry, and the textbook publishing community, developing a series of AI teaching materials that are oriented to future technology evolution and industry development, and are attached to corresponding high-quality Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). By the end of 2020, all nine books in the series were completed and ready to be published.

The textbook series has the following features:

An elite compilation team: The compilation team includes AI teachers in colleges and universities who have solid theoretical foundation and experience in teaching as well as Huawei AI experts who are familiar with AI practices and understand enterprises' talent requirements. Most of the chief editors are deans (or hold similar positions) at the first 35 universities that have been approved to set up AI major courses, with each bringing years of experience in teaching and researching AI technologies.

A supportive practice platform: The textbooks focus on training students' application and innovation capabilities. ModelArts, a one-stop AI development and management platform provided by Huawei, can transform the latest real cases in the industry into experimental projects for teaching.

A well-constructed teaching material system:With the integrated design of textbooks, courseware, MOOC courses, digital courses, and exercises and experiments, the textbooks construct a complete AI knowledge system from basic theory, core technology to industry application, which meets the demand for educational informatization and drives the reform of teaching modes.

This textbook series is suitable for teaching AI majors in all universities and for the AI innovation and entrepreneurship courses in domestic key universities, empowering the teaching reform and curriculum system development of AI majors in colleges and universities.

To build a better AI ecosystem and enable the co-development and sharing of high-quality resources, the editorial board has built and released a next-generation AI science and education platform — WISDOM OCEAN — with several leading technology companies, including Huawei. The platform will enable collaboration between colleges and universities and enterprises, drive the technological innovation of combining AI with other digital technologies (sometimes known as "AI + X") through joint development of training resources, and streamline the entire process — from AI theoretical knowledge, industry solutions, to intelligent product production — building a complete AI ecosystem.

China is forming an AI talent ecosystem that unites government bodies, enterprises, and colleges and universities. We are confident that our textbook series will be valuable in that ecosystem, helping to train AI specialists across China.

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