Chinese students confined to their homes amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak now have the opportunity to learn about artificial intelligence after the country’s AI champion SenseTime offered its self-developed educational tools online.
The online AI learning programme, offering a full range of open classes, experimental tool kits for programming, and distance learning training for teachers, will be available free of charge, the company announced on Monday.
The move comes in response to the Education Ministry’s call to help 180 million students across the country “keep learning even with classes suspended” after schools postponed the upcoming spring semester until further notice.
Chinese authorities have encouraged people to stay at home to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus through human-to-human contact.
Students can access AI and programming knowledge and conduct interactive experiments through python-based coding tasks, while the platform also provides teachers with programming tools and training in how to conduct distance teaching and tutoring, according to a SenseTime statement.
In addition, a series of online videos will be available to students, ranging from common educational clips on topics like AI and robotics to open classes designed for college students to keep informed on industry developments and emerging issues.
It is the first time that SenseTime has made available a countrywide education programme for free, according to a company spokeswoman.
During the last semester a basic AI education curriculum developed by the company was adopted by about 250 primary and junior high schools in mainland Chinese cities like Shanghai, Qingdao and Chengdu, as well as in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
“Today’s education will turn into tomorrow’s technology and bear economic fruit the day after,” the company statement said. “As AI serves its value in big data, disease screening and diagnosis amid the coronavirus outbreak, it has become a brand new productive force of social development.”
The aim of the nationwide learning programme is to empower students with “AI knowledge and mentality” and enable them to solve problems using AI, according to SenseTime.
The online AI initiative also comes after China launched a national online learning platform on Monday which involves the broadcasting of primary school classes on public TV as well as a cloud based programme aimed at students ranging from the first grade in primary school to the third grade of high school.
The health crisis has put China’s online education market in the spotlight. While the sector grew 25.7 per cent year on year in 2018 to 251.7 billion yuan (S$50 billion), the previous forecast of annual growth of between 16 per cent to 24 per cent in the subsequent three to five years may need to be revised upwards, according to the iResearch Consulting Group.
Before the launch of the national online learning platform, Chinese tech companies including Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei stepped forward to offer free online classes for students of different levels as part of efforts to cope with school closures and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
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This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.