Today’s students are graduating into a world that is in a significant state of transformation due to developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related information technologies. “Our current and future students are the ones who will be facing these challenges and opportunities when they enter university or the work force. We are committed to offering new, updated and upgraded classes and learning opportunities to help prepare our students adequately,” said Richard Filion, Director General of Dawson College.
As a sign of that commitment to its students, Dawson College has decided to make an investment of over a million dollars in a comprehensive Artificial Intelligence initiative, the largest investment in an AI project by a CEGEP in Quebec. On Tuesday, June 4, the College announced that a three-year strategic plan for the academic years 2019-2022 has been adopted and that $1,050,000 has been budgeted for its implementation, hoping to establish Dawson College as the centre of excellence in AI in college education.
The announcement took place at the SALTISE Conference, which brought 600 educators from across Quebec to Dawson College for sessions on active learning and technological innovation in education. AI expert Doina Precup of DeepMind and McGill University, and rock star David Usher, founder of Reimagine AI, were present for Dawson’s AI project announcement. Both also participated in a subsequent panel of experts on Augmentation in the Age of AI.
“With the extraordinary support and participation of major actors in the AI ecosystem, such as the Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’intelligence artificielle et du numérique, and a mobilized and dedicated faculty and staff, Dawson is poised to revolutionize college education to better prepare the leaders of tomorrow,” Filion said. “Dawson’s approach begins with the needs of the student. We know that these changes will impact all our students, not just those specializing in computer science. That is why we opted for a comprehensive approach to AI, including the ethics of AI, which will eventually reach most students in most programs.”
The college’s investment will cover peer-to-peer mentorship for faculty (through a community of practice dedicated to AI education); the creation and development of teaching materials related to AI; research funding for AI and Machine Learning, Ethics of AI, and Digital Humanities; development of programs of study; professional development, knowledge sharing and networking; hiring of external consultants; and licensing cloud based computing engines for AI programing.
“The general education core classes, which all CEGEP students in both pre-university and career programs must take, are a wonderful opportunity to integrate AI into the education of all students,” Filion said. “Our society will need engineers and scientists who are well educated in ethics, and we will need leaders and artists who have a good understanding of technology. We will need well-rounded people who excel in collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. Instilling a culture of lifelong learning will be key.”
The first fellows, faculty members who are partially released from their teaching load in order to engage in AI related research and integration, will be participating in the Dawson AI Community of Practice as of next semester.
“This group will lead the College through this transformation,” Filion said, “and will help both faculty and staff grow and learn. They will foster connections with partners in the AI ecosystem, in the community and across the College, and they will promote a culture of data literacy.”
New and returning students at Dawson this coming Fall semester will have the opportunity to explore topics related to AI during the weeklong Humanities and Public Life Conference Sept. 16-20. The first two days will be devoted to the latest developments in AI and machine learning, how they influence knowledge acquisition in various fields, and the ethical questions arising from the latest research about the impacts of AI on society.
Members of the new Dawson AI Advisory Board, who will be helping guide the College through this project:
- Nathalie Beaulieu, Chief learning officer, Direction de l’enseignement et de l’Académie CHUM
- Sabine Bergler, Professor, Department of Computer Science, Concordia University
- René Breyel, Founder, IoT/AIoT Canada
- Mickaël Camus, Cofounder and COO/CTO, My Intelligent Machines
- Rob Cassidy, Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Concordia University
- Aaron Courville, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Operations Research (DIRO), Université de Montréal, Canada CIFAR AI Chair (Mila)
- Julien Crowe, Leader, Artificial Intelligence, National Bank
- Mike Deutsch, Director, Education Development, Kids Code Jeunesse
- Abhishek Gupta, Founder, Montreal AI Ethics Institute
- Vince Iannotti, Sr. Director AI and Core Technology Product Management, Nuance Communications
- Jason Lewis, Professor, Computation Arts, Design and Computation Arts, University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary, Concordia University
- Philip Mitsopoulos, Head of Partnerships, Stradigi AI
- Brian Moore, Training Coordinator, IVADO
- Tim Pereira, Founder, ConcordAI
- Doina Precup, Associate Professor and Co-Director, Reasoning and Learning Lab, School of Computer Science, McGill University, Research Team Lead, DeepMind, Canada CIFAR AI Chair (Mila)
- Réjean Roy, Vice Director, Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’intelligence artificielle et du numérique
- Aubert Sigouin-Lebel, Project Lead, Research and Content, TECHNOCompétences
- Sydney Swaine-Simon, Founding Member, District 3, Concordia University
- Tamara Vandersluis, VP Innovation, R2i.ca
—Christina Parsons, Communications Counsellor