Published: 20th July 2020
AI will transform the way online education works: IIT Madras professor Dr Balaraman Ravindran
In a conversation with Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Head Dr Balaraman Ravindran, we find out the impact, ups and downs of the technology
With an increased dependence on technology after COVID-19, the time for some disruption has never been more important. With a firm eye on the future is IIT Madras with much help from its Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. The institute recently launched an online BSc programme in Data Science and Programming, only highlighting how much it prioritises the course. "Faculty from ten departments of IIT Madras are part of the Robert Bosch Centre — including from several engineering departments like Computer Science, Civil, Chemical and Mechanical, Mathematics, Management Studies, Biotechnology and even Humanities," Dr Balaraman Ravindran, Head, Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence told Edex.
Speaking about the importance of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in a post-COVID world, Ravindran says, "Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used by companies like Google to personalise and enhance the performance and user experience. However, the use of AI has been impacted in the logistics and e-commerce industry but they are figuring out a way to get around the hurdle."
"But, at the same time, the use of AI has boomed in education and has the scope of improving further. AI can revolutionise online education by customising the feed, using Augmented Reality to enhance teaching aid," says Ravindran. However, he says this is easier to do in schools rather than national level institutes like IITs. "In schools, the students are clustered in the same area but we have students from all over the country and we can't assume that they have the same kind of connectivity," he adds. But, he believes that AI can do a lot more in the education sector as the dependence on online learning increases.
Ravindran adds how AI is driving research for new COVID drugs and how it is progressing faster due to the technology. "If we have been following the same methods we had been following some 20-25 years ago, then we wouldn't have been able to come up with such swift results," says Ravindran. So, should students consider applying for courses in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, "Certainly," says Ravindran, adding, "As we continue to go online, more and more data gets digitised and so the role of Data Science and AI increases. Evaluation can be done easily, a person's productivity can be tracked much easily."
He feels that after a short period of downturn, the demand and need for Data Scientists will increase within a year. "We are generating huge volumes of data right now and there will be a need for someone to make sense of it. Moreover, people are tracked more closely than ever before. The world is worried about the next pandemic and people will be watched more closely. Soon, we will reach a critical point with this data generation and then new job profiles for Data Scientists and Analysts will open up," explains Ravindran.
IIT Madras offers a dual degree in Data Science — with students graduating with an MTech degree — and several of these students choose to associate with the centre while working on their projects, says Ravindran. "The centre also has an Associate Researcher programme, where faculty from other IITs, especially the newer ones, can work as an Associate Researcher at the Robert Bosch Centre. They visit the campus and can do so for upto six weeks a year, during which they can conduct lectures and workshops with the students. work on projects and so on. We have had faculty come from IIT Tirupati, IIT Palakkad, IIT Guwahati, among others," says Ravindran. This interdisciplinary centre is now funded by the CSR initiative of Robert Bosch after being initially founded by the institute in 2017.