The lockdown has seen a significant surge in online courses in programming, coding, Machine Learning, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and so much more. But will the job market, in general, provide more jobs if you have these skills? While we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in not just education but also the type of jobs, will the future be driven by AI and the likes? Dr K L Vasudev an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, and Dr A Padmavathi, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science Engineering at the institute answer our questions with insight and patience.
So we have been hearing these terms Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning for a while now. But we don’t exactly know what courses students should do to get into doing these fields? Could you elaborate on that?
KLV: Essentially, there is no particular stream of engineering students have to follow to study Artificial Intelligence and Data Sciences and Big Data. A choice-based credit system encourages everyone to opt for courses from different streams like electives. Universities are also encouraging interdisciplinary research activities, for example, a person who is working with medical robotics should also know the human anatomy very well. Computer science and IT students will have an advantage in these subjects.
AP: Any person with computer knowledge and some mathematical skills can go into these fields. They must have some degree. It might not be an engineering degree, it might be a BCA or it might be an MCA or BSC Computer Science. If they want to have a career in Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, A master’s degree is preferred.
In the current pandemic scenario, AI and ML have been helping a lot. We have seen solutions like drones, robots that are being used. How can it help even more?
KLV: There are many ways robots can help combat the Coronavirus disease. Spraying robots can be used to disinfect places and drones can monitor people during a lockdown. AI-based robots have the potential to be developed to deliver essential goods like food items and medicines. In the containment zones where people are not allowed to trespass, it’s always better to have a robot serving the people. Such robots are available in the market.
AP: By using a deep learning algorithm and a machine learning algorithm, they can diagnose a patient, they can identify the spread of the virus and they can map who is the most susceptible patient and so on. Also, one of the applications of artificial intelligence is a chatbot. It can be used to create awareness among the people about the virus spread and how they must be careful at home or at workplaces.
A recent healthcare report says that there’s a 50 per cent increase in the use of Robotics for medical and healthcare delivery services. Where do you think India will be by 2030 in terms of robotics in healthcare?
KLV: I think even before 2030, we will be making a mark in the industry. For example, you can see that many hospitals like AIIMS in Delhi, Apollo Hospitals, Fortis Hospitals and Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi already utilising this Da Vinci Surgery machine robots. Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences has already conducted 1300 operations with the assistance of these Da Vinci robots. If you consider the whole of India, it might be significantly more.
What are the future job opportunities like for prospective students?
KLV: The transformation to AI-based Industries is undisputable. It is going to create a transformation in each and every industry. There are a number of fields from software to even mechanical engineering and manufacturing where automation is required these days. Robotics is already in each and every field of our day-to-day life. We can do jobs using these robots and that is going to be the future.
AP: They can become data analysts, software developers, machine learning analysts, cloud content managers, robot engineers, manufacturing engineers, machine learning engineers, people who can handle the drones, electricians who can work with the aviation control and military.
We came across a study that was done in the US which showed that a lot of robotic engineering positions are in the pipeline. Do you think India can also match up to that?
KLV: India is a country with the youngest population and stands in third place with regard to AI research. With regard to the COVID situation, our IT strengths are going to go up. Our Indian brains that had migrated to other countries may return to the homeland and bring plenty of applications in the job market for providing remote services.
We came across another study conducted by Oxford University, which says that 47 per cent of the US jobs can be automated by the next 20 years. Which sectors in India do you think will have more jobs?
AP: In India, by 2030, around 9-13 per cent of the human workforce will be replaced by robots or automated machines. So, the Oxford Economic Report says most of the 20 million manufacturing jobs will be replaced by a robot. Another study by McKinsey says that by 2030, 44 million jobs will be replaced with robots. There will be more job opportunities in the health sector like doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, drug developers and so on. By 2030, there will be no outdoor games, almost everyone will sit inside their homes and there is a possibility that people will develop a lot of diseases. So healthcare will have a lot more opportunities, as will logistics and automation specialists.
KLV: In all fields, manufacturing included, AI and robotics will leave its mark and the whole world is going to look towards India.
What do you think are good online courses that can be taken up by students who want to learn machine learning, artificial intelligence?
KLV: Basic mathematical knowledge is a must along with coding knowledge. Basic linear algebra and calculus also help.
AP: Any student with some computer knowledge and mathematical knowledge can go for the Python Programming. If they want to specialise in Machine Language, they have to go for R programming. If they want to write some ML or Deep Learning algorithms, either they can go for a Java or Python course.
We have seen a lot of online learning courses coming up right now on several digital platforms like Udemy and Unacademy. Will these courses act as an advantage for students when they apply for a degree?
KLV: These courses are going to differentiate them from the rest. A majority of people attending these courses are working professionals and they join to enhance their skills and find themselves suitable for a job change or a hike. We in Amrita encourage students to take up online courses, and we provide credits to students who have done extra courses.
After the lockdown ends how will the college follow social distancing norms inside the classroom and also while on transport?
AP: Our Chennai campus has limited students around 150 students in the first year. Only 11 students are travelling on the college bus. We can make them sit away from each other and insist that they wear a mask and use sanitisers. With that, we can maintain social distancing on transport and also we can split the classes. Common canteen rules have to change.
KLV: Social distancing in class is the most difficult task which needs to be very keenly addressed with utmost care and precautions. Our management is very sensitive to this issue. We abide by the government advisory from MHRD, UGC, AICTE and other regulatory bodies. We are already using smartboards on our campus and online learning platforms to supplement classroom teaching. So I think we will try new strategies, which is giving us fruitful results based upon that will go for a choice.
Do you think digital learning is the way to go?
AP: Before COVID-19, we were already conducting online learning classes and quiz assignments on Google classroom. But after the pandemic hit us it has become mandatory. So nowadays, we are able to complete our portions on time. We are more confident and handling online classes pretty well. Students are also gaining more interest in digital learning platforms.
KLV: Actually COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to get rid of the fear of poor quality online teaching and teachers’ hesitation to use online portals. It is heartening to know that teachers have taken up online teaching with great interest digitally proficient students are going for online learning with great excitement. Even before COVID-19 in 2019, if you see the statistical data, approximately 19 billion dollars has been spent on education technology with online education and it is going to be 350 billion dollars by 2025. That is the expectation. Online learning apps have seen a significant surge in usage since COVID-19. So I think this is going to last and now every person needs to learn new things and keep updating themselves.
Careers After Corona is a series that has been curated and produced by EdexLive in partnership with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and Amrita School of Engineering
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