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New Calgary course teaches students how to use AI as a business tool

ChatGPT artificial intelligence software generates human-like conversation. (Nicolas Maeterlinck/Getty Images - image credit)
ChatGPT artificial intelligence software generates human-like conversation. (Nicolas Maeterlinck/Getty Images - image credit)

Students at the University of Calgary will now have the opportunity to learn how to take advantage of AI as a business tool, thanks to a new course that's being taught at the university this fall.

The Generative AI and Prompting course is being offered through the Haskayne School of Business and aims to teach students how to use popular AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney in real-life settings.

The course allows its students to gain an "in-depth understanding of generative AI technology" while teaching them "to effectively harness its power," according to a release from the Haskayne School of Business.

"Students will learn how to effectively use tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney in various professional settings and find innovative solutions to real-world problems," it adds.

Mohammad Keyhani, associate professor in entrepreneurship and innovation at the Haskayne School of Business, believes that students who decide to take the course can "really start to get the skills to make the most out of generative AI" in a competitive environment.

Keyhani, who designed the course, thinks it's crucial to appreciate the importance of contemporary AI tools and understand how they're changing the way we work.

"I feel like one of the reasons I really wanted to teach this course is that many people aren't fully appreciating how powerful generative AI is and how much of an impact it's going to have on all our lives," he said in a conversation on The Calgary Eyeopener.

"For example, ChatGPT is presented to us as a chatbot, and that anchors our thinking about what it can do in terms of previous chatbots that we've seen and many people don't realize how powerful it can actually be."

LISTEN I Professor Mohammad Keyhani talks about the importance of AI tools:

Keyhani reckons that students can ultimately use AI tools in systematic ways to "be more productive" and "make better uses of the technology."

The new course has already attracted interest from undergraduates and graduate students — while the undergrad seats are fully occupied, there are a few seats left for graduate students interested in pursuing the course.

The professor believes that this course can be a learning experience in more ways than one.

"[I hope to] learn from the students as much as they learn from me because to a large extent, learning about generative AI is a collective discovery process. It didn't come with a manual," Keyhani said.

"And I think I'm hoping that in my class, we will discover some things that I didn't know was possible."

Mohammad Keyhani, associate professor in entrepreneurship and innovation at the Haskayne School of Business, thinks it's crucial to appreciate the importance of contemporary AI tools and understand how they're changing the way we work. (Submitted by the Haskayne School of Business)

Hadi Fariborzi, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University, is also using AI tools in his classes this year.

Fariborzi has a mini bootcamp planned for his students — they will spend one week using AI tools to think of a business idea and create a brand identity with a name, logo, company website and more.

"The idea is for them to first start from the ideation stage, use AI to help with their ideation, come up with a new idea, or basically tweak an existing idea that they have," Fariborzi said.

Improving productivity

According to the professor, AI tools can streamline the process and can make things a lot easier.

"I can't imagine … in two years or even in a year, somebody, for example, writing a high-level report without getting help from some sort of an AI tool," he said.

"We couldn't do half of this stuff just a few months ago … why not be excited about this? This can really change our lives. This can be … our way to get back the work-life balance."

While new AI technology seems promising, it's important to tread carefully, according to Tom Keenan, a professor at the University of Calgary and board chair of the Information and Communications Technology Council.

"One of the things that business people are going to need to do is use AI but then be critical of it," he said.

"[People need to] say, well, is that really true? How do I know that?"

Keenan gave an example — he often tells his students that it's acceptable to use an AI tool like ChatGPT to conduct research.

There's one caveat, though. Students need to double-check their references and make sure everything adds up.

"If there's something in there that doesn't exist, you're in trouble," Keenan said.

The professor acknowledges that taking the time to learn AI tools will put students ahead of their peers in the job market.

"Students who know how to use AI will have a competitive advantage," he said.

"Or to put it differently, if you're ignorant of this, you're not going to get the job."