I’m paying $49 to watch marketing videos that are also on YouTube just so I can get this Coursera certificate

I’ve finished maybe the most tedious online course in existence. Getting Started with AI using IBM Watson, is quite possibly the worst online course I’ve ever taken.

This course was painful at best and a rip off at worst. It felt like one giant marketing campaign for Watson.

Bad corporate video? Check.

Terrible generic music overlaid PowerPoints? Check.

Endless praise for a product? Check.

Zero instruction? Check.

Videos can also be found on YouTube for free? Check.

The course is the second in a series for the IBM Applied AI specialization on Coursera, a certificate program I’m pursuing to help me get hands on experience with AI.

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Can you learn statistics and data science from a chatbot?


I’m deep in my learning journey to understand applied AI and machine learning. I’ve started by trying out intro courses to artificial intelligence for non-coders. I’m also looking at supplemental resources to help me understand more about data science and statistics, which are related to machine learning.

One of the most intimidating parts of learning applied AI is the math and statistics. I don’t have a background in either. I’ve been diving into resources like YouTube videos (Crash Course Statistics is amazing) and Khan Academy to learn the foundational math and statistics for machine learning.

But this process is piece meal. A lot of it is also pretty boring and requires piles of self motivation to sit through statistics lectures without the help of an instructor to liven it up. Plus, when I get stuck, there’s nowhere to turn.

So I was pretty stoked to stumble on Korbit.ai, a platform to learn data science by chatbot. Korbit.ai is the “first-ever personalized learning platform where you learn data science skills with an AI.”

Here’s what it looks like to have a chatbot as your teacher:

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AI courses for non technical people: Elements of AI

After writing a book on upskilling and making a career change into working on AI products, I get a lot of questions about how to learn about artificial intelligence for non technical people. So I’ve started looking for online courses that teach AI for everyone who doesn’t have programming skills.

So much of the content about learning AI has been directed to software developers over the years. If you wanted to learn AI for non programers you had to cobble together YouTube videos or find articles that were written for non technical people. (In fact I wrote a post on how to learn about AI without coding a few years ago and it feels kind of out of date now!)

Thankfully we’re in a better place now and there are far more online courses to learn about AI and machine learning (a subset of AI). These online courses are designed so non engineers can learn AI!

Artificial intelligence is reshaping business, work, and the products that we interact with on a daily basis (hello Netflix, Spotify, gmail, Insta, the list goes on!). It’s imperative that people understand the basics of AI and how the technology shapes their lives.

More importantly, we need people from non technical backgrounds to bring their expertise into AI product development to reduce bias and harm.

Online courses – or other learning experiences – that teach the basics of AI to non tech people can help bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the field.

Courses to learn AI for non technical people

I’m researching and reviewing courses to learn the basics of AI by taking them myself.

I started with a course that I’ve had a crush on the moment I saw it: Elements of AI. It’s a free online course by Reaktor and University of Helsinki.

I chose it as the first course to review because of it’s mission and the international perspective. Elements of AI is a Finnish initiative to “encourage as broad a group of people as possible to learn what AI is, what can (and can’t) be done with AI.” It’s been built in partnership with the national government to educate all Finish citizens about AI.

It’s a brilliant initiative and as it turns out, it is so well executed.

Here’s what makes this online course stand out:

🔥 Beautiful Design 🔥
Elements of AI feels like you’re learning in a creative studio, compared to Coursera, which feels like you’re learning in a drab cubicle

🔥 Active Problem Solving 🔥
Forget passive learning by video, I worked on problems related to probability, linear regression, naive Bayes classification – no code or complex math req’d

Learning game theory
Getting a bunch of answers wrong, which the instructors encourage to enhance learning!

🔥 Approachable 🔥
No code, no complex math, just simple explanations. True to their initiative, they make it easy to learn about AI without a programming background.

🔥 Personality 🔥
The writers are helpful, cheeky, and not so serious. It’s a delight to see in a technical space.

Surprisingly, this course uses no video. I thought it might make things slightly boring but it did not. The text is not full of dense technical speak and the design makes it all very digestible. The course functions like a practical, non technical guide to understand machine learning.

The only thing this self paced course is missing is a learning community. While the designers encourage learners to join a forum to discuss learnings, forums are static places. I’m not a fan of forums at all.

But that’s a person learning style, so I’m not going to hold it against this course. It’s such a good course for learning AI for non technical people.

I highly recommend it for people who want to understand AI and machine learning.