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Ohio State among select schools to launch curriculum with IBM Watson

IBM is partnering with The Ohio State University and six other top technology universities to launch cognitive computing courses that give students unprecedented access to one of the company’s most prized innovations: Watson.

For the first time, enrollment is now open for fall 2014 cognitive computing courses at Ohio State, Carnegie Mellon University, New York University (NYU), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University of California Berkeley, University of Michigan and University of Texas - Austin. 

IBM’s Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence and learning as it goes.

IBM WatsonCo-designed by the Watson Group and leading academic experts in fields such as artificial intelligence and computer science, the courses will empower students with the technical knowledge and hands-on learning required to develop new cognitive computing applications fueled by Watson’s intelligence.

Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Eric Fosler-Lussier knows that Watson will instantly enhance Ohio State’s Knowledge-Based Systems capstone experience course.

“This course will complement our extensive offerings in natural language processing, data mining, and software engineering,” he said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for students across many disciplines, including majors in our new data analytics program.

“With Watson as the ultimate virtual capstone team member, students will be empowered to explore cognitive computing in depth while promoting team design and life-long learning principles.”

Interest among Ohio State students is high. Fosler-Lussier said that enrollment is already nearly full.

Each partner university’s students will have access to their own Watson instance via the Watson Developer Cloud. As a classroom, they will select an industry to focus on, such as retail, travel or healthcare, and then will work as a team to ingest relevant data into Watson and train it. Ultimately, the students will break into teams and develop prototype apps and a business plan based on their Watson industry of choice.

For example, in the retail domain questions can focus on: "How can Watson be applied to personalize consumer shopping experience?  In the travel industry: "What information would be applied to help consumers target their next vacation based on their experiences and interests? As result, each student will gain the aptitude and vision of a technology entrepreneur who can transform industries and professions with cloud-delivered expert advisors that think, learn and discover valuable insights from massive amounts of data.

The initiative is part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen student skills and understanding of big data and analytics in order to meet the growing demand for highly skilled analytics workers. The explosion of data-driven content has sparked a new wave of career opportunities for today’s college students, from business analytics professionals to Chief Data Officers.

According to research firm Gartner, Inc., smart machines will be the most disruptive change ever brought about by information technology, and can make people more effective, empowering them to do "the impossible." Building on the 4.4 million IT jobs Gartner predicts will be created to support Big Data by 2015, the following universities will educate a new generation of innovators who can bring to life this new dynamic of people and machines working together to solve pressing industry and societal challenges.

"By putting Watson in the hands of tomorrow’s innovators, we are unleashing the creativity of the academic community into a fast-growing ecosystem of partners who are building transformative cognitive computing applications,' said Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group. "This is how we will make cognitive the new standard of computing across the globe: by inspiring all catalysts of innovation, from university campuses to start-up offices, to take Watson's capabilities and create apps that solve major challenges."  

To ensure its participating universities succeed in their vision to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s cognitive computing leaders, the IBM Watson Group will provide a range of resources and support, including: 

Support from IBM experts, including world-class developers and researchers, on course development, materials and implementation  

  • Guest lectures from senior IBM executives and thought leaders  
  • IBM Watson technical mentors who will provide guidance throughout the semester, as students work with Watson and build prototypes of cognitive computing apps
  • Access to IBM Watson through the Watson Developer Cloud

Watson has deep roots in the academic community, as IBM collaborated with eight universities to develop the cognitive innovation’s capabilities. Since Watson’s introduction to the world in 2011, IBM has introduced a range of activities to engage students in the emerging era of computing, including business case competitions, technical challenges and a Watson internship program.