I’m an MIT graduate! (sort of…)

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Education

I have fulfilled my lifelong dream of becoming an M.I.T. graduate!!! Kidding, it’s only a certificate, but it was a fun experience.  I enrolled in the Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy online course at M.I.T.

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I really enjoyed the course.  It was a 6 week course, outline below:

Module 1: An introduction to artificial intelligence (history, collective intelligence, how to gain strategic advantage

Module 2: Machine learning in business (how ML can be be applied in business context to gain strategic advantage

Module 3: Natural language processing in business (how NLP can be applied to gain strategic advantage)

Module 4: Robotics in business (how robotics and robotic process automation can be applied…)

Module 5:  Artificial intelligence in business and society (human-machine partnerships and ethical and organizational concerns)

Module 6: The future of artificial intelligence (developing a roadmap for implementing AI)

The Platform: B

MIT uses a platform called “getsmarter” for its online course offerings.  The platform itself is clean and easy to use.  Below is a typical lesson plan and tracks progress, encourages interaction with other students through discussion boards, incorporates interactive videos, supplemental materials, and of course, the homework assignment.  The only gripe is that some of the search functionality didn’t work for me when I was trying to search for previous posts in the discussion board.  I probably could have called the support line, but it wasn’t an obvious fix.

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The lectures: A-

The interactive videos are well produced and the faculty is world class from both the business school and the computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory.  The B-school professors would typically introduce the lessons and then have conversations with the AI experts about real world applications and their research.  This was definitely not a technical course and they only touched on what you needed to know to make a fair assessment of when and how AI could be leveraged in business.  The B-school spin was that each AI initiative had to help further a business strategy by adopting one of Porter’s competitive strategies: i.e. cost leadership, differentiation, and focus.  It was helpful to think in these terms to gain eventual top down support for the initiatives.  The module on robotics was very heavy on autonomous driving, which was fine, but I think they could have expanded a bit more on RPA, which will be a more likely application of robotics for many professionals.

The homework assignments: B +

The homework assignments mostly involved applying the “AI tool of the week” to an organization of your choice.  I, of course, chose an multi-national law firm.  Prior to that, one of the assignments was to analyze current state of the organization.

In module 2, for example , the assignment consisted of:

  1. Describing processes where machine learning could be used
  2. Explaining how the machine learning applications would give the firm a strategic advantage within Porter’s structure
  3. Describing what technical and organizational support was needed to make it happen

This structure was repeated for the modules about NLP and robotics.  While it was a bit mechanical, it was necessary to have materials for the last assignment, which was a full blown roadmap to implement AI within the organization.  All assignments are due within the week and I probably spent about 50% of the time that was suggested and received “exceptional” marks throughout.  Not tooting my own horn, but if you’re a decent writer and have been a professional for a bit, you’ll be fine.  I probably spent about 3-4 hours total/week.

The discussion boards/collaboration: A

I was impressed with how engaged many students were on the discussion boards.  We had folks from pretty much all industries, but the most interesting person I connected with was the COO of National Geographic magazine.  There were also a few legal professionals on there and we have connected on Linkedin and have discussed where AI in legal is going.  Lastly, there is also a closed Linkedin group for alumni of the program, which I joined.

Conclusion: B+

This was a well organized, interesting, and fun course.  The roadmap as the last assignment is an excellent tool to use to drive actual AI projects forward within your organization of choice as it’s a comprehensive collection of all the other homework assignments prior.  The community and collaboration between the other students and teaching facilitators was excellent.   The price of the course is a bit steep at $2600, but given all of the positives and the end deliverable, I’d say it was worth it.  I probably could have gotten all the information through free courses out there, but it would have taken me a bit to organize.  I would recommend this course for anyone who is interested in taking an introductory course to AI business applications and coming out with good fundamental AI knowledge and a real deliverable, i.e. the roadmap.

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