How Deakin sets AI students up for jobs of the future

Once just an abstract concept imagined in Hollywood films, artificial intelligence (AI) is now operational and impacting lives in many ways. Deakin's Bachelor of Artificial Intelligence recognises AI is no longer just a sub-discipline of computer science: instead it's an increasingly important discipline in its own right.

Professor Peter Eklund, from the School of Information Technology, says the reach of AI will continue to grow. 'With things like Google Home, Alexa and Siri, AI is an everyday occurrence for a lot of people but that’s at the consumer product level,' he explains. 'AI is yet to really penetrate the back office systems of big companies and government and that's where we see the growth being in terms of jobs.'

A uniquely challenging course

Deakin offers a full suite of courses in computing and IT, and Prof. Eklund considers the Bachelor of Artificial Intelligence to be one of the most technically challenging. 'It covers more programming than the Bachelor of Computer Science and it's a special kind of programming – AI programming in a sense,' he says.

'There's traditional programming embedded with it but this is next level, involving large computational algorithms and linear optimisation which are traditionally in the realm of operations of research or high-end engineering.'

One of the most important elements of the Bachelor of Artificial Intelligence at Deakin is the focus on ethical AI. 'Students not only reflect on the technology of implementing and building programs that are AI enabled but they also think about how it's applied in society and in ways that are used for good and not for evil,' Prof. Eklund says. 'There’s a big movement around deweaponising AI in regards to weapon systems and defence applications. Our course encourages students to reflect on the ethical applications of artificial intelligence and I think that's a really important principle.'

Another element that sets the course apart from the competition is the focus on enabling everyday objects to send and receive data. 'The application of AI in the Internet of Things is another important feature of our program,' Prof. Eklund says. 'We look at embedded systems, for example smart devices and smart grids etc. and the device level of AI.'

When looking at the predicted jobs of the future, the ability to analyse data and big data is a vital skill. AI can be seen as a kind of cutting-edge platform for performing analysis of datasets large and small.

'If you're doing a Bachelor of AI you'll not only have technical skills that will give you the capacity to re-design business processes, you'll also have the capacity to analyse and interpret data,' Prof. Eklund explains.

Artificial Intelligence at Deakin

Artificial intelligence (AI) is driving digital disruption and enabling us to utilise the power of machines for intelligent automation. Study at Deakin and gain the skills to develop cutting-edge AI-driven software solutions.

Learning real world skills

Industry based learning is an integral part of studying AI at Deakin through both paid and unpaid internships.

'Work Integrated Learning is an unpaid internship and Industry Based Learning is a paid position,' Prof. Eklund says. 'We have around 50 paid Industry Based Learning positions that come up every year and students apply to them competitively. Both of these programs are really important to us and they're embedded within every course that we offer.'

Industry capstone projects in third year of study provide students the opportunity to work together in a team on a project that's created by an industry external.

'Students don't start from scratch, they are constantly inheriting the work of other project teams and then they have to continually improve on that product,' Prof. Eklund says. 'Because the projects aren't starting from scratch each trimester, you quickly move up the value chain in terms of complexity of the project. Students have to deal with real systems and real software and the kind of complexity that they'd encounter in an industrial setting in the ICT industry.'

The real-life nature of the projects being passed from team to team is incredibly unique. 'It's a model that we've adopted from Spotify and we believe that no one else has done this before in an educational setting,' Prof. Eklund says. 'Spotify has this kind of agile development framework that has products and then has 'tribes' that respond to a certain product line.'

'We've created a purpose-built collaborative space for our students to do these capstone units and that's the DISCovery Lab at Greenwood Park,' Prof. Eklund says. 'It's just like visiting Google or Apple – it's a really cool space with meeting rooms and video conferencing and lots of whiteboards and the ideation and discussion that goes on there is great.' The facility allows for Deakin students to work on world-class projects.

According to a forecast by Deloitte, the demand for technology workers is set to grow by 100,000 between 2018 and 2024 across all sectors. 'The industry is going to be looking for people who know how to modernise back office systems by making them AI enabled and know how to analyse, present and draw inference from big data sets,' Prof. Eklund explains. 'Embedding AI within more traditional back office systems will result in productivity gains that will be really quite dramatic from an economic sense.'

Interested in being at the forefront of technical innovation? Explore the Bachelor of Artificial Intelligence.