During the EMOOCs 2019 in Naples Oliver Janoschka (Hochschulforum Digitalisierung) will chair the session "Policy Track - National Digital Initiatives". Ville Valtonen, Chief Marketing Executive of Reaktor, is one of the speakers. Reaktor developed the Elements of AI course in collaboration with University of Helsinki. Elements of AI is a MOOC designed to teach the basics of AI to everyone. Implementing the 1% challenge they set a goal to educate 1% of the world's population and demystify the construct of artificial intelligence. I met Ville on our Community Platform Mattermost for an experiment. We had a live chat interview with members of our network attending and participating. Here you can read our conversation.
Hello, I'm welcoming the people curious enough to skip their lunch break and be part of our first live interview
And of course, hi Ville. Thank you for your time
Oliver told me that you are Chief Marketing Executive of Reaktor, but when I asked Google for some Information the result was this.
Are you a person of various professions?
That's a different person, my name is not that unique
he's a famous professor, but we are not related
Maybe you can give us a short introduction to what you are doing?
My background is in IT, I started my career in programing and also joined Reaktor as a programmer.. then maybe 8 years ago I switched into marketing and communications
But I guess I'm here more in the role of a co-founder of Elements of AI, I've been running the project from our (Reaktor's) side
Talking about AI then. You have developed the 1% challenge. Is AI a challenge?
When we were nearing the launch of the course, we needed to have some kind of goal to be put on the press releases. That's how we came up with the 1% of Finland's population (~55 000 people)
we thought we would need till the end of the year (2018) to get to that goal, but ended getting there in 4 months
And why to do it in the first place, we think that AI is far too important to be left in the hands of programmers. We want to enable everybody to be able to have an intelligent discussion around AI and see the possibilities instead of fears
And also, as you achieved having 1% of the finnish population attending the course, you started to provoke Sweden to do so as well. Is the 1% challenge the Ice Bucket Challenge for an educational reason?
I surely hope so! It is quite early to compare it to the ice bucket challenge, but it would be an honor to be as widespread as that
I think the most important thing that we did was to approach the course from a new perspective. We knew we had to fight for users who are more willing to watch Netflix than to educate themselves
and first thanks for this cool chat opportunity!
So where are the most participants from? Online you say like 110 countries or so
@Jan Baumann most of the participants are still from finland - maybe 40-45% but we have had visits to the website from almost every country on the planet - except north korea
Today we just launched the swedish site in collaboration with the university of linköping and AI innovation of sweden
In your Video about Elements of AI, you are advertising with people who are – let's say – not in a typical education cycle anymore. Everyday people. Is your target group that widespread?
Yes it is .. we aimed to course originally for english speaking finns around high school age .. and also did want to create the course equally for women, who tradionally are unrepresented in IT
Now over 40% of the participants are women and over 25% are over 45 years old
we even have families where the course is being taken in three generations
The Elements of AI course was developed with University of Helsinki. Now you launched the Swedish version – congrats btw. What expertise does collaborating with higher education instituions bringt to your work? Did you learn something that might be adoptable for future formats?
This is the first university collaboration of this magnitude we have ever done but I think we had luck getting such a good team from the university of helsinki's side
They were really willing to listen, learn and co-create, instead of heavily standing behind their methods of teaching
So I think the biggest lesson in this - and in any project for that matter - is trust. If you don't have it, the project does not succeed as well as it could
Would you say there are certain needs that have to be fulfilled by a participating institution?
pretty cool! Are there plans for more collaborations within Europe? From my students perspective - I would like my university to participate too. How to convince universities?
@Till Rückwart I think commitment is key .. at first we did not have it either, first Teemu (the professor) was the real driving force behind the collaboration and did not have just positive support from the university's side. But as the course became more succesfull, I think it has been harder and harder to disagree
@Jan Baumann we are really happy to collaborate with any university, who has the means and willingness to do so!
At least here in Finland the university is used to doing most of its work alone and not trusting any outside partners. so this collaboration is anything but normal
at least in the university of helsinki context.
You also said, that there are three generations in families doing the course. Might that be, because of your communication strategy in having companies pledging to use the course? I think more than 250 did so just in Finland.
What means would there exactly be? The course is hosted in finland, right? So what do international partners have to contribute besides the translation?
@Till Rückwart I think that was one key part of the success that we got so many companies to join and to educate their staff in AI - that's how the word spread really far
@Annabell Bils Are you referring to partnering with Elements of AI? We are actively looking for partners all over the world who are willing to help us spread the course to their countries. We are looking one funding partner and one academic partner in every country. The funding partner - well - funds the expasions and in return get's the brand visibility and associated goodwill. The academic partner helps with the translation, student support and of course being the public face of the course in the respective country In the university context it would mean to help with translation, student support and of course being the public face of the course in the respective country. We are actually quite far in negotiations with german parties
But I was also referring to any other collaboration. Reaktor is a consulting company, so we are extremely happy to help with any digitalisation project or doing the "Elements of AI treatment" to any course
Yes, that's what I was referring to. Sounds interesting to me.
I was just calculating a litte bit.
1% of the global population are almost the german population
You tend to have that many people at least signed up for the course by 2020
It's quite a big number in total, but most big numbers can be broken into smaller numbers
Can you explain that?
It's good to have ambitious goals - even if you don't make it till the very end, it ensures that you are staying on a really ambitious track
and if we can get 1% of every country educated and spread the course to every country, we suddenly have 1% of the world's population
So you are running a different programm as – for example – Coursera. I was just thinking about that, because Coursera is with about 35 million users the biggest MOOC platform at this point (I guess). You tend to double that in 1,5 years
I think MOOC's and online education are still in the infancy. so far we have mostly seen courses that are just copied to the Internet. We begin to see real growth when we start to changing the ways of teaching to the new medium
And I am not saying, that we are experts on this - this is the first course we have ever done
And you did it in collaboration with a higher education instituions as consulting experts. Would you say institutions should be more willing to open to the market?
it really depends what they are aiming at of course I am in no way an expert on higher education. But if they want to reach people on the Internet, it is good to take into account how people behave noweverdays.. many industries have changed with digitalisation and I do not think education is excused. Some things will stay the same and many will change
At least in Finland the law just changed and one of the core tasks of the universities became life long education
that's going to be quite a challenge
In Germany, we are also having an ongoing discussion whether there should – or should not – be a collective MOOC platform. So maybe, this is my last question. As you say there are governmental changes in Finland right now. What concessions by politics would there be to establish one, also talking about how to communicate it to other people?
A good question .. we have also having conversations with two of leading universities here (Helsinki & Aalto) about an online platform. I think this should be approached like any good IT-project. Research who the users are, build something that can be tested - start maybe just with a couple of courses and expand from there
At least here the government tends to be a little slow in the movements
But we have some really good examples of public IT projects as well, we digitalised the matriculation exams a couple of years back.
so far there are two course parts with several chapters, is that right? are there any plans to expand the content in addition to the 1% population range? e.g. like in chapter real world ai - so that you can use examples to show where "artificial intelligence" is already in action and how it helps the population? and one last question from me: did you or how did you integrate students in your planings?
@Jan Baumann Currently we have one followup course planned - codenamed Building AI. The idea is to give people at least the possibility to read code - maybe also to write some. And to give real life examples of applied AI from around the world
When designing Elements we had beta testers from a couple of finnish high school classes - we fine tuned the content with their comments in mind
Regarding impact, I think it is yet a bit early to say what the real impact on an economy is when teaching the whole population about AI. But at least we can say that many people are more interested in AI in general, they do not fear it and for many this has been the first online course they have ever taken - and likely not the last
As time is running out. I'd like to thank you a lot for this interview
We are curious to see where the Elements of AI story leads to.
Thank you for having me! If somebody is interested in partnering with Reaktor, please email us at email@example.com
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