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Preparing for the future with micro-certificates

UM Extended Education offers two timely new programs

December 13, 2022 — 

Advances in technology and our aging population have inspired two timely new programs offered by University of Manitoba Extended Education. Both are micro-certificates, a new type of credential that is compact and convenient. For a limited time, register for the courses for either program at a special introductory price.

Micro-credentials are short, focused credentials that provide an opportunity to fill in learning gaps or build competencies, says Rod Lastra, Acting Dean, UM Extended Education. “They are an upskilling opportunity, to build on your knowledge and experience. This is one way we are responding to industry needs and the shift to ‘skills-first hiring’. Degrees are still valued but employers also want potential employees to show them what they can do. Micro-credentials like these micro-certificates can play an important role, complement a degree, be stand-alone and provide employers with what they are looking for.”

Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning Solutions

The Micro-Certificate in Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning Solutions is for anyone looking to understand the possibilities of AI and Machine Learning and what they can do for their business or organization, and for their career.

For a limited time, students can register for all three courses to earn this convenient and compact credential for one special introductory price. They will complete the program in just 16 weeks.

When many people think of Artificial Intelligence, they think of that scary robot assassin in the Terminator movie. But don’t be afraid, says Briana Brownell, content provider for the Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning Solutions micro-certificate program. AI is good for every industry and savvy professionals must be aware of the technologies and how they can determine effective solutions to their most important business challenges like retaining customers, making better products, reducing risk, marketing effectively, innovating and leading in their marketplace. The power lies in AI’s ability to quickly analyze large volumes of data, enabling complex pattern recognition, predictions and powerful decision-making capabilities.

“This is mission critical for most industries now. There is a push to have technology infrastructure, the ability to collect and analyze data quickly, and to create solutions,” says the founder and CEO of Pure Strategy Inc. noting examples of AI and Machine Learning in action are all around us providing us with relevant data from Netflix recommendations to Facebook news, and even auto-correcting us on our phones.

“One of the biggest challenges in any business is to understand the possibilities of AI and Machine Learning and how to use them in order to achieve what the organization most needs to do. It’s not about AI for its own sake. This program provides a basic understanding of what’s possible and how you can apply it,” says Brownell. “AI is such an effective and useful area for business.”

For alumni, professionals and graduate students
It’s designed for professionals who have some experience in the business world, to provide them with relevant, real-world AI and Machine Learning applications. It will also complement the studies of graduate students and IT professionals alike by providing them with additional practical experience with real-world data and problems.

Brownell’s courses, “Machine Learning Algorithms and Frameworks” and “Developing Machine Learning Solutions”, will incorporate examples and case studies featuring a variety of data including customer information, music, images, and photos. “It’s not just numbers and financial data. This applies in every type of industry.”

The courses will also have an important discussion of AI ethics including big questions like how to manage its privacy implications. “These are important conversations for everyone in every business or organization. It’s not just the responsibility of tech or governance. We want people to think about the implications and be involved in the conversations.”

With AI and Machine Learning, “It’s all about the data,” says Arooj Ahmed Qureshi, content provider for the “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning” course.

“There is no magic. The processing is too complex for the human mind to understand so we train AI to make decisions. We need to understand the steps. We need the tools. We need to do this responsibly. That’s what this program is all about,” says the data scientist at EnPowered.

For IT professionals and aspiring CTOs
For this program, you don’t need to be a computer programmer to understand the industry, how to make a product, and how to keep a check on it. But experienced IT professionals who are usually focused on coding can also benefit from this program because it offers them the bigger picture of the industry. For those who would like to position themselves as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) in their firm, says Qureshi, she would especially recommend the first course. “It gives you the overall picture to add to your coding. That puts you in a strong position, providing you with good insights on the industry.”

As a busy data analyst with over a decade of experience, even Qureshi learned something new from creating this course. In the process, she finally realized why a previous AI Machine Learning project of hers was destined to fail. Medical privacy laws would never allow it.

“You just can’t make everything you can imagine,” Qureshi says. “You need to be responsible for what you design. You may have a great idea and good technical skills but you need to understand the rules and regulations that govern an industry and technology as well.”

Understanding “Responsible AI” or how to operate within privacy and other laws that apply to such technology, is also an important part of this program.

“I realized a lot by doing this content. Even as a working professional, you don’t always get time to look into things in so much detail. This also gave me a good insight and good perspective… Extended Education programs are created with industry people. It’s important to make this connection with the real world and prior experience or knowledge. This is very good.”

Artificial Intelligence is the backbone of all advances in technology, says Cuneyt Akcora, program consultant from the Faculty of Science. Over time, any intelligent developments in computer science are AI-related. If you want to use them, you need to know the basics.

A new kind of literacy
“I see it as an important new kind of literacy. If you don’t understand AI and Machine Learning, others have an advantage over you. You don’t need to program but you need to understand,” says the professor of computer science and statistics.

“Machine learning is the intersection between computer science, statistics and mathematics. It can be applied to anything, in any company with a lot of data like readings or photos, to clearly predict results. If you have data in a system, if you work in a company, it is good to have an overview of algorithms needed. Automation is becoming even better. These are easy things to do.”

For example, a farmer may want to reduce the use of chemicals in farm operations so they would need to know which data and algorithms to use and then the robots can lead. Or, if you work for a bank, AI is used to assess credit applications. The algorithms automatically deny some applicants and approve others. Or if you work in human resources, algorithms on job search websites narrow down applications for specific jobs. You need to know how they are figuring this out.

“Understanding AI will help you and your company in most of the jobs today,” says Akcora.

“I very much like the practical aspects of this program. It is not coding, and not using data searches. Coding is often automated these days. It is about understanding the decisions made by AI, understanding the main direction, where to focus, the tools needed to know. It is a very nice view of this.”

Facilitating Older Adult Learning

Older adults want to keep learning, contribute to society, and find meaning in their lives. For those who work with them in every capacity, including university instructors who welcome older students to their undergraduate and graduate classes, there is a now a convenient and compact credential to help you to help them to continue their lifelong learning.

The Micro-Certificate in Facilitating Older Adult Learning was funded by the Centre on Aging at the University of Manitoba in its development. For a limited time, students can register for all three courses to earn this credential for one special introductory price. They will complete the program in just 12 weeks.

Knowledge and skills in a short time
“It’s not a whole degree. In a short time, you get a lot of knowledge and skills,” says Michelle Porter, Director, the Centre on Aging, noting the program could be beneficial for anyone who works with older adults.

“People are living longer and living well. I encourage everyone to think about older adults as part of the lifelong learning continuum. You may not have always aspired to work with older people, but then you do. You may not have the tools to do that.” Or maybe you would just like to learn more, she says.

With Facilitating Older Adult Learning, students will learn how aging affects learning by looking at the developmental lifespan. They will also learn to design and provide learning experiences for older adults, and to use appropriate learning technologies to do so.

Work more effectively with older adults
This is a micro-certificate for anyone who works with older adults, sometimes or all of the time. It’s for health care professionals and those who work in seniors’ organizations. It’s for teachers, instructors and educators. Potential students may volunteer, or work with them in other capacities like as a consultant working in banking and financial services.

For example, while the university is often focused on traditional age students, university instructors can find a diversity of ages in the classroom. They may not be used to having older students and like many people, may hold some misconceptions about older adults and their ability to learn.

Unfortunately, a lot of agism still exists, says Porter. People still often talk about providing care for older adults rather than supporting their need for autonomy and their desire to continue their lifelong learning. “Older adults may still be working. We are seeing more of that, so human resources and training professionals will work with them. Older adults may want to upgrade their education and skills. They want to learn. They want to find meaning in their lives. They are a great addition to any classroom, and we want them to feel welcome.”

Older students do pursue degrees and audit courses and UM is an Age-Friendly University, trying to make the university a better place for people of all ages. “Older adults bring something to the university classroom, for intergenerational learning. Many didn’t get degrees when they were younger for many reasons.” 

There are still some unfortunate stereotypes that linger, but “most older people have skills for learning. They can be highly articulate and can achieve benefits from being involved in educational programs. Lifelong learning is important for all of us as we age. And we are all aging.”

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press

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