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Online education provider Udacity said today it’s launching a nanodegree program to teach product managers how to create AI-powered products. The nontechnical course will also teach product managers how to identify business opportunities with AI or machine learning.

Enrollment for the first program begins today and consists of 6 lessons and 3 projects, and lasts about 2 months.

“Students will start off by learning the foundations of AI and machine learning, starting with the unsupervised and supervised models that are used in industry today,” Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun told VentureBeat in an email. “As a next step, they will learn how to use Figure Eight’s data annotation platform to develop a labeled dataset for supervised learning. Finally, students will develop a business proposal for an AI product of their choice, while learning strategies for continuously learning and updating a machine learning model.”

Case studies from industry as well as ethics, compliance, and privacy-first approaches to AI for products will also be part of the course.


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Udacity’s new course comes at a time when AI operations at major companies like Google and Microsoft are evolving to bring more AI researchers to product teams, according to The Information. Cloudera general manager of machine learning Hilary Mason predicted that as more AI platforms for people without deep knowledge emerge, more product managers will grow to understand AI this year because people with the most knowledge of products naturally recognize opportunities to apply AI.

The AI product manager course was made together with product and machine learning teams from San Francisco-based data annotation platform Figure Eight. Udacity and Figure Eight first worked together last year to create a data scientist nanodegree program.

The AI product manager course is just the latest such offering from Udacity, a company made popular in part by the draw of founder Sebastian Thrun’s Stanford University machine learning course.

A privacy-focused course about making AI systems with encrypted data or methods like federated learning launched with support from Facebook AI last month, while a course on how to use TensorFlow 2.0 was introduced in April

Google’s open source machine learning framework TensorFlow launched 2.0 in alpha in March and in beta earlier this month.

Over the course of roughly the past year, Udacity introduced several courses reliant on AI including nanodegrees for robotics, autonomous vehicles, flying cars, and a collection of programs referred to as the School of AI.

Over about the same course of time, Udacity has made precipitous cuts to its staff. Roughly 25 employees were laid off last summer. In a November 2018 VentureBeat exclusive, Thrun said he plans to take over day-to-day operations and the company will continue to downsize and lay off 125 employees. An additional 20% of the workforce was let go this spring, according to TechCrunch.

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