Growing business demand for AI sees UNSW partner with IBM

More than two dozen companies and non-profit organisations have enlisted UNSW Business School students to solve challenges for their organisations, helping students prepare for the future of business.

University of New South Wales (UNSW) Business students have solved 50 real-world problems for more than 30 businesses and non-profits using new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of a collaboration between UNSW and IBM.

The collaboration is part of IBM’s global commitment to provide 30 million people of all ages with new skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow by 2030 and to address critical skills shortages in Australia.

The Product Analytics course (part of the Master of Commerce Marketing Analytics specialisation and the Bachelor of Commerce Marketing major) gives students access to the latest IBM technology to create AI-powered virtual assistants that use natural language as part of their term project. The program creates an immersive experience in creating AI solutions and helps to prepare students for changes in the workplace.

IBM Technology Garage Leader, David Provest, said businesses across all industries, from e-commerce and marketing to healthcare and finance, are increasingly turning to virtual assistants to improve customer and employee experiences.

“Today and in the future, building virtual assistants is a career skill that is highly desired by both enterprise and start-ups as more organisations look to adopt AI,” he said.

“Many aspects of AI application and design thinking are not limited to technology and engineering students - instead anyone can learn and add these skills to their toolkit and apply them to various parts of the business landscape. This is why IBM is committed to building partnerships with a range of organisations.”

Within the course, students are asked to briefly outline the organisation’s goal or mission, identify the business challenge, and consider whether their organisation already has a chatbot or why it might need a new one (for better customer service or for selling products, for example). The students must then identify customers’ needs using a design-thinking process before developing a chatbot.

Students working with a company called Scale Nomad created a lead generation chatbot, which means it can identify potential customers, initiate their interest in products or services offered by the business, form relationships, and answer customers’ questions in conversational English.

To date, 11 companies have expressed their interest in hiring student interns who worked for their chatbot projects during the past year. About 40 students have also been offered internship opportunities with the organisations they completed projects for to implement their proposed chatbots on their website or social media messenger.

UNSW Business School’s Jack Cadeaux, Professor and Head of the School of Marketing, said university education should challenge lecturers and students to jointly develop knowledge that will be relevant across a diverse and changing range of possible future scenarios.

“Not only will graduates be better suited to the work setting, but their performance and productivity will be enhanced as they continuously examine how to apply knowledge and gain new knowledge from practical applications.”

He said students gain several benefits too. “In the short run, they better understand how their study relates to industry problems and needs, thus increasing their motivation to solidify their knowledge and master their skills. It also helps create a smoother if not seamless transition from study to work, rewarding them with a more competitive entry into their careers and a more successful career over time,” he said.

UNSW students used the Watson Assistant platform and Node-RED for design and chatbot communication, IBM Watson Studio for building recommendation models, and Mural for a design-thinking template for specifying customer needs. IBM also created action plans, guest lecture videos and Q&A for the course. The tools are digitally available enabling international students to successfully collaborate online from anywhere in the world.

 

Read the full story on BusinessThink.

For interviews with UNSW Business School’s Jack Cadeaux, Professor and Head of the School of Marketing, and lecturer Dr Junbum Kwon, Master of Commerce Marketing Analytics Coordinator, please contact Kate Bettes on 0407 701 034 or k.bettes@unsw.edu.au.

For interviews with IBM Technology Garage Leader David Provest, please contact Mehpara Khan on +6421375742 or Mehpara.khan@ibm.com