Google, Coursera Launch Machine Learning Course Series

Google, Coursera Launch Machine Learning Course Series

Google and the online learning platform Coursera are launching a five-course machine learning specialization to teach developers how to build machine learning models using the TensorFlow framework, Frederic Lardinois reports at TechCrunch:

The new specialization, called “Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform,” has students build real-world machine learning models. It takes them from setting up their environment to learning how to create and sanitize datasets to writing distributed models in TensorFlow, improving the accuracy of those models and tuning them to find the right parameters.

As Google’s Big Data and Machine Learning Tech Lead Lak Lakshmanan told me, his team heard that students and companies really liked the original machine learning course but wanted an option to dig deeper into the material. Students wanted to know not just how to build a basic model but also how to then use it in production in the cloud, for example, or how to build the data pipeline for it and figure out how to tune the parameters to get better results. …

It’s worth noting that these courses expect that you are already a somewhat competent programmer. While it has gotten much easier to start with machine learning thanks to new frameworks like TensorFlow, this is still an advanced skill.

The new series is a continuation of Google’s longstanding partnership with Coursera, through which the tech giant went public with its internal IT support training curriculum earlier this year.

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LinkedIn Launching AI Bootcamp for Employees

LinkedIn Launching AI Bootcamp for Employees

LinkedIn is developing a major new training program to teach its employees about artificial intelligence, which it predicts will be a part of everything they do in the near future, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reported last week:

The AI Academy program will start with classes for engineers, product managers and executives, but the company hopes to expand it so every employee can gain some degree of AI expertise. The first cohort from LinkedIn engineering just started going through the program, but the company is already looking at making the AI Academy part of its onboarding process for all new employees. There are four levels of classes, each one a deeper dive than the last. When participants are done, LinkedIn wants them to have an understanding one of the most important issues in the field: which problems AI can solve and which ones it can’t.

LinkedIn’s Head of Science and Engineering Craig Martell writes in a blog post about the program that AI is “like oxygen—it’s present in every product that we build and in every experience on our platform.” There it has common ground with parent company Microsoft. Like LinkedIn, Microsoft has infused AI into many of its major initiatives, and it offers an online training program for developers.

Microsoft has made huge bets on AI and sought to position itself as a leader in the field, hiring thousands of scarce and expensive AI experts and building AI functionality into its suite of enterprise products—with which LinkedIn is also becoming increasingly integrated. In that context, it’s no surprise to see LinkedIn make AI knowledge a priority for its own workforce: They’re going to need it.

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It’s Not All Fun in Gamification

It’s Not All Fun in Gamification

In a recent overview of gamification technologies at Employee Benefit News, John Soat looked at the growing number of ways in which organizations are gamifying HR processes. Soat highlighted three areas in which gamification is most promising: pre-hire assessments for recruiting, training programs for current employees, and encouraging participation in wellbeing initiatives and other benefits programs. Game-like tools are popular and effective because they are fun and engaging, so employees are more likely to use them voluntarily, even outside working hours. This impact on engagement, Soat hears from vendors, is part of the often intangible ROI their clients see from gamification.

This is a trend we’ve been following both here at Talent Daily and in our research at CEB, now Gartner, for several years now. Looking at how various organizations have gamified their processes, we’ve discovered some surprising use cases for this approach and developed a robust understanding of what makes gamification initiatives most likely to succeed.

In the training space, it’s interesting to note that companies aren’t just using gamification for entry level or technical skills. In 2014, we profiled GE’s Experienced Leaders Challenge: a week-long, immersive development session for experienced GE leaders designed to help them develop a leadership mindset aligned to today’s inherently unpredictable business environment. A key part of the program is a simulation that lets leaders practice navigating common challenges and observe the unexpected consequences of their decisions or actions. (CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can check out the full case study here.)

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Some US Companies Are Investing Tax Savings in Learning and Development

Some US Companies Are Investing Tax Savings in Learning and Development

In the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the US Congress in December, which slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, some large employers announced that they were raising pay, expanding benefits, or (most commonly) issuing one-time bonuses for their employees with the billions of dollars in savings they would gain from the tax reform package. Critics of these tax cut bonuses say they are a cynical attempt to curry favor with the Trump administration and mask the fact that investors are reaping the lion’s share of the rewards. Most of the windfall is being passed on to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks, as the Wall Street Journal noted in a recent article noting the impact of the tax cuts on corporate earnings in the first quarter.

Some companies are investing their tax cuts in in employees in a different way. The aerospace manufacturer Boeing, for example, announced in December that it was investing $300 million of its tax savings in employee programs, one third of which would go toward learning and development (its total savings from the tax cuts are expected to be around $400 million a year, the Seattle Times reported in January).

In fact, many organizations are putting part of their tax savings toward learning: Our pulse survey on tax reform at CEB, now Gartner, found that among organizations allotting part of their tax savings to HR, 39 percent were investing in employee training, development, and education—the second most common target for these allotments after pay and benefits. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can see the full results of that survey here.)

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American Airlines’ ‘Cadet Academy’ Aims to Make Pilot Careers More Accessible

American Airlines’ ‘Cadet Academy’ Aims to Make Pilot Careers More Accessible

The commercial airline industry is currently facing a shortage of pilots unprecedented in recent decades. As Jon Evans observed at TechCrunch last week, the number of active pilots in the US has fallen from over 800,000 in 1980 to just 600,000 in 2017, a quarter of whom are student pilots who are unqualified to operate commercial flights. And as Evans discovered by taking up pilot training himself, part of the reason behind that shortage is that the training is “complicated, and difficult, and stressful”; many would-be pilots get frustrated and give up long before they make it to the big leagues.

Another barrier to entry, however, is expense. The reason so many commercial pilots have military backgrounds is that the military is about the only place pilots can log the thousands of hours of flight time they need to become certifiable commercial pilots without having to pay for it themselves. With the US airline industry expecting to face a shortage of 3,500 commercial pilots by 2020, Travel Weekly’s Robert Silk takes note of a new vocational training program American Airlines is launching in an effort to build a bigger pipeline to the cockpit:

The Cadet Academy will train participants for up to 18 months at American Airlines’ partner flight schools in Dallas, the Fort Lauderdale area, Memphis or Phoenix. Students will follow what American calls “a carefully choreographed flight-training track, where you will learn the skills to become a safe and competent aviator.”

Those who finish the program will have the opportunity to interview at [American’s wholly owned regional carriers] Envoy, Piedmont and PSA. Program applicants need not have experience in the cockpit. Participants will have the option of receiving financing from Discover Student Loans. The company said it would offer loans at competitive rates, either variable or fixed, that have no fees. Payments can be deferred for up to three-and-a-half years.

American’s new program is in keeping with a trend among employers facing current or prospective shortages of talent in their industries: Rather than wait for governments or educational institutions to produce more qualified candidates, they are taking matters into their own hands. The most notable companies pursuing these self-starting workforce development strategies are tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook, but other companies are also investing in vocational training on the blue-collar side of the labor market.

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Edtech Is Ready to Graduate and Join the Workforce

Edtech Is Ready to Graduate and Join the Workforce

The ASU+GSV Summit, the world’s largest industry-facing conference in the field of education technology, took place earlier this month in San Diego, California. Edtech strategist Frank Catalano, who attended the conference, offered his take on the industry’s current direction at GeekWire last week. The main lesson Catalano took away from the event was that edtech companies and investors are seeing the workplace, not the classroom, as the most influential and lucrative venue for deploying these technologies in the future:

An emphasis on training the workforce, both current employees and future, was evident throughout ASU+GSV. It seemed to outshine earlier years’ emphases on disrupting the K-12 classroom (perhaps students do that well enough now) or completely upending college as we know it (MOOCs, or massively open online courses, are now corporate training tools, too). An entire programming track was focused on “talent,” including human resources, recruiting, and staff education.

In a session titled, “Mixed Reality: Can AR/VR Transform Enterprise Learning,” Dan Ayoub, Microsoft’s general manager of mixed reality and education, said that Microsoft HoloLens is skewing toward universities and the enterprise so far. Part of its appeal, he said, is that HoloLens has a front-facing camera that allows a remote expert to evaluate how the wearer is doing. …

Derek Belch, CEO of ‎STRIVR Labs, talked about the work his company does with virtual reality for WalMart, noting that 70 percent of trainees who used VR did better than those who did not. He also described how STRIVR was able to put what had been a three-hour lecture into a 12-minute VR experience for an insurance company, and found retention of the training material was about the same.

Amazon’s ongoing foray into learning technology was also on display at ASU+GSV, Catalano added:

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Amazon’s Cloud Business Sees Potential in Learning Management

Amazon’s Cloud Business Sees Potential in Learning Management

Amazon Web Services appears to be developing its own enterprise learning management system (LMS), CNBC technology reporter Jordan Novet noticed recently, suggesting that the e-commerce giant’s cloud computing business is shifting its focus from digital infrastructure toward ready-to-use business services:

Amazon already has online training programs for partners to train their employees on how to use AWS offerings. This would be a broader general-purpose service that companies could use to manage all kinds of corporate training and learning programs. Amazon explored the learning-management field and concluded that none of the available tools were just right for its own workers, and executives decided the company would build its own system, one person familiar with the matter told CNBC. The idea was to build something “commercializable,” the person said. It’s not clear when the service could become available publicly.

Novet points to several job listings Amazon has posted recently for roles related to this project, including one for a solution architect that is billed as “an opportunity for an experienced technologist to be on the ground floor of building a learning platform.” Several companies that offer existing learning management platforms, including Instructure, Cornerstone, and Workday, are AWS customers.

The news also helps explain Amazon’s recent hire of Stanford professor Candace Thille, an expert on non-traditional learning, applications of technology in education, and data-driven approaches to training with a background in both academia and corporate training. While Thille’s role as director of learning science and engineering is focused on developing Amazon’s training programs for its own employees, a version of whatever the company develops internally could ultimately be marketed to customers, as Novet’s source indicated.

As Amazon is a prominent leader in the technology and user experience space, the learning and development community is interested to see what they can do with an LMS: a staple of L&D. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, finds that most organizations are already striving to create an “Amazon-like experience” in their learning portals (recommending learning based on your personal profile and experiences, in the same way Amazon recommends products); now Amazon has the opportunity to build it themselves.

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