Learn the fundamentals of AI and machine learning with our free online course
Join our free online course Introduction to Machine Learning and AI to discover the fundamentals of machine learning and learn to train your own machine learning models using free online tools.
Although artificial intelligence (AI) was once the province of science fiction, these days you’re very likely to hear the term in relation to new technologies, whether that’s facial recognition, medical diagnostic tools, or self-driving cars, which use AI systems to make decisions or predictions.
By the end of this free, online, self-paced course, you will have an appreciation for what goes into machine learning and artificial intelligence systems — and why you should think carefully about what comes out.
Machine learning — a brief overview
You’ll also often hear about AI systems that use machine learning (ML). Very simply, we can say that programs created using ML are ‘trained’ on large collections of data to ‘learn’ to produce more accurate outputs over time. One rather funny application you might have heard of is the ‘muffin or chihuahua?’ image recognition task.
More precisely, we would say that a ML algorithm builds a model, based on large collections of data (the training data), without being explicitly programmed to do so. The model is ‘finished’ when it makes predictions or decisions with an acceptable level of accuracy. (For example, it rarely mistakes a muffin for a chihuahua in a photo.) It is then considered to be able to make predictions or decisions using new data in the real world.
It’s important to understand AI and ML — especially for educators
But how does all this actually work? If you don’t know, it’s hard to judge what the impacts of these technologies might be, and how we can be sure they benefit everyone — an important discussion that needs to involve people from across all of society. Not knowing can also be a barrier to using AI, whether that’s for a hobby, as part of your job, or to help your community solve a problem.
For teachers and educators it’s particularly important to have a good foundational knowledge of AI and ML, as they need to teach their learners what the young people need to know about these technologies and how they impact their lives. (We’ve also got a free seminar series about teaching these topics.)
To help you understand the fundamentals of AI and ML, we’ve put together a free online course: Introduction to Machine Learning and AI. Over four weeks in two hours per week, learning at your own pace, you’ll find out how machine learning can be used to solve problems, without going too deeply into the mathematical details. You’ll also get to grips with the different ways that machines ‘learn’, and you will try out online tools such as Machine Learning for Kids and Teachable Machine to design and train your own machine learning programs.
What types of problems and tasks are AI systems used for?
As well as finding out how these AI systems work, you’ll look at the different types of tasks that they can help us address. One of these is classification — working out which group (or groups) something fits in, such as distinguishing between positive and negative product reviews, identifying an animal (or a muffin) in an image, or spotting potential medical problems in patient data.
You’ll also learn about other types of tasks ML programs are used for, such as regression (predicting a numerical value from a continuous range) and knowledge organisation (spotting links between different pieces of data or clusters of similar data). Towards the end of the course you’ll dive into one of the hottest topics in AI today: neural networks, which are ML models whose design is inspired by networks of brain cells (neurons).
Before an ML program can be trained, you need to collect data to train it with. During the self-paced course you’ll see how tools from statistics and data science are important for ML — but also how ethical issues can arise both when data is collected and when the outputs of an ML program are used.
By the end of the course, you will have an appreciation for what goes into machine learning and artificial intelligence systems — and why you should think carefully about what comes out.
Sign up today to take the course for free
The Introduction to Machine Learning and AI course is open for you to sign up to now. Sign-ups will pause after 12 December. Once you sign up, you’ll have access for six weeks. During this time you’ll be able to interact with your fellow learners, and before 25 October, you’ll also benefit from the support of our expert facilitators. So what are you waiting for?
Share your views as part of our research
As part of our research on computing education, we would like to find out about educators’ views on machine learning. Before you start the course, we will ask you to complete a short survey. As a thank you for helping us with our research, you will be offered the chance to take part in a prize draw for a £50 book token!
Learn more about AI, its impacts, and teaching learners about them
To develop your computing knowledge and skills, you might also want to:
- Attend our free online research seminars on teaching young people about AI and data science
- Take our free Impact of Technology: How To Lead Classroom Discussions course to help you think more about the impacts of AI (although the course is aimed at teachers, it is open and useful for everyone
If you are a teacher in England, you can develop your teaching skills through the National Centre for Computing Education, which will give you free upgrades for our courses (including Introduction to Machine Learning and AI) so you’ll receive certificates and unlimited access.
I can remember when Acorn user ran a series back in the day, all about balancing an umbrella on its point using ai 🤣