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Finland Releases Crash Course in Artificial Intelligence

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Finland has released a crash course in artificial intelligence (AI) to all European Union citizens. The release came as a sort of Christmas gift, and the course will be free-of-charge. The six-week program will be available for anyone to take, and the course was translated into every EU language. The course is not restricted by location, so individuals outside of the EU can take it as well. At the end of the year, Finland will relinquish the EU’s rotating presidency. 

The course is popular in Finland, and more than 1 percent of the 5.5 million citizens of the nation signed up. The course is called Elements of AI, and it provides a way for individuals to learn the basics of artificial intelligence (AI). With the growing influence of AI technology in our society, it is important for people to be prepared and have a basic understanding. 

Also working on the project is the University of Helsinki, which is Finland's largest and oldest academic institution. They are joined by the Finland-based tech consultancy Reaktor. 

The course is a $2 million project and a “civics course in AI,” according to Teemu Roos, a University of Helsinki associate professor in the department of computer science. He said that it is meant to help EU citizens become accustomed to the changing of the economy and increasing digitalization. 

WIthin the course, elementary AI concepts are covered. It does not cover harder concepts such as coding.

“We have enormous potential in Europe but what we lack is investments into AI,” Roos said. That comes at a time when other nations such as China are pouring money into AI technology.

The project is financed by the Finnish Ministry for Economic Affairs and Employment. According to officials, the course is meant for all EU citizens, no matter their age, education or profession. 

Finland launched “The Elements of AI” back in 2018, and it has been extremely successful. It is the most popular course ever offered by the University of Helsinki. The university dates back to 1640, and the course has had over 220,000 students from more than 110 countries, according to Roos. 

A quarter of the students who have enrolled are aged 45 and older, and about 40% are women. In what is often a male-dominated industry, the share of women among the Finnish participants is about 60%. 

The course consists of several modules, and it lasts around 6 weeks full time. If it is taken at a slower pace, it will last about six months. The current languages are Finnish, English, Swedish and Estonian, and the university is set to translate it to the remaining 20 of the EU’s official languages. That should be completed within the next two years. 

Megan Schaible is the COO of Reaktor Education, and she spoke about the collaboration between the company and the university. According to her, they are working together “to prove that AI should not be left in the hands of a few elite coders.”

Whoever passes the course will receive an official University of Helsinki diploma, and many EU universities could give credits for the course. If that is the case, students could include it in their curriculum.

Finland has become an important nation in the tech industry. Back in September, Google created the free-of-charge Digital Garage training hub in the capital. Its purpose is to help individuals find jobs, as well as entrepreneurs and children to increase their digital skills.


Alex McFarland is an AI journalist and writer exploring the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has collaborated with numerous AI startups and publications worldwide.