Sensetime has launched a series of free online educational tools allowing Chinese students to learn about artificial intelligence, as schools around the country resort to using online classes amid a virus outbreak that has rocked the country.

Why it matters: An epidemic of a flu-like virus dubbed Covid-19 has killed more than 2,000 people in China. The outbreak has resulted in extended closures for schools well beyond the Spring Festival holiday.

  • China’s education ministry on Monday launched a national cloud learning platform that is aimed at providing learning resources for high school students around the country.
  • Meanwhile, schools have started hosting classes online and broadcasting them on TV so students don’t fall behind on their studies.

Details: Sensetime will offer complimentary videos for AI-focused online classes, an interactive platform for learning to program and practicing AI theories, and courses for educators to learn how to teach the content, the company said in a statement on Monday.

  • The video classes focus on the fundamentals of AI, machine learning, and robotics. The content is available on several online learning platforms in China, including provincial educational cloud platforms and video-sharing site Bilibili.
  • Meanwhile, teachers can use Sensetime’s instructor training materials, which include details on “AI development to applications and algorithms.”
  • Sensetime is also offering free live-streamed lessons that allow for real-time conversations, the company said.
  • During the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year which began in September, 140,000 students from cities including Shanghai, eastern China’s Qingdao, as well as Hong Kong and Macau used the company’s AI curriculum, Sensetime said.

“AI applications have made contributions to the prevention and control of the epidemic—in terms of screening, diagnosing and monitoring the disease through data analytics. With the rapid adoption of AI technologies in various industries, we see a rising demand for AI talents.”

—Lynn Dai, general manager of Sensetime’s education business

Context: Sensetime is not the only company offering free online classes as a result of the outbreak. Vipkid pledged to offer free classes to children between the ages of four and 12.

  • Meanwhile, schools around the country have been using Alibaba’s enterprise communication platform Dingtalk and Tencent’s Wechat Work to conduct remote video classes so students don’t fall behind.
  • Around 50 million students and 600,000 teachers used Dingtalk to conduct remote classes on Feb. 10, the first day back in class for many students after the extended holiday.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.

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