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New course on artificial intelligence starts up in Belgium

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A free online course on artificial intelligence (AI) is now being offered in French and Dutch for the Belgian public, under the academic supervision of the universities of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve.

The course, Elements of AI, was devised by the university of Helsinki and the tech company Reaktor in 2018. According to the course website, the course is free, open to everyone over the age of 15, and requires no specialist knowledge of mathematics or computer science.

To date, more than 530,000 students in over 170 countries have signed up to take the course, 40% of them women, or twice as many as in conventional computer courses. That is about 11.5 times as many students as attended Oxford and Cambridge universities combined in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Until now, the course was available in English, Finnish, Swedish, Estonian, German, Norwegian and Latvian. Now, with the support of Belgium’s federal and regional authorities, French and Dutch have been added. The course is already available in German.

The Finnish government committed to making the course available in all EU languages, when the country held the presidency of the European Council in the second half of last year. The goal is to teach 1% of the EU population – or about 4.5 million people – by the end of 2021.

The successful completion of the course, which combines theory and practical exercises, leads to the award of a certificate issued by the KU Leuven in the case of Dutch speakers, and by UCLouvain in the case of French speakers.

AI is already having an impact on the lives of all of us and on our society,” said Professor Tine De Laet of the faculty of engineering science at KU Leuven. “Everyone should be well-informed about what AI is, what it can do already and what it can’t do yet. Elements of AI is the perfect way to get a glimpse into AI.”

Artificial intelligence is evolving at lightning speed,” commented Philippe De Backer, the federal minister for the digital agenda in the Wilmès government.

The possible applications are almost too many to count. AI will in future have even more influence over the way we live, so in order to fully understand both the possibilities and the challenges, the people have to be made aware. This course that we are offering to the whole population is of an unprecedented scale, and demonstrates how great our ambition is.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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