At MDC, the future is now, with new AI courses, AI Centers and a Metaversity

By Nancy Dahlberg

Miami Dade College is going all-in on AI.

In April, Miami Dade College  unveiled its second Artificial Intelligence Center at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami, following the opening in late 2022 of an even larger AI Center on the North campus. The state-of-the-art facilities have been in the planning and construction stages for years – long before ChatGPT became a thing. That’s thinking ahead.

And just this week, MDC announced the School of Engineering and Technology will be offering new degree and certificate programs in AI that will start in the fall, the first of their kind in Florida, and others are in development. Meanwhile, professors are being trained how to incorporate AI into all kinds of courses well beyond engineering. It’s all about preparing the future AI workforce and upskilling current professionals in this growing field.

First, here are some details on the new courses.

MDC will be offering three new college-level programs in Artificial Intelligence starting in the fall: an Associate degree and two College Credit Certificates. The programs were developed with input from national AI experts and funding from Knight Foundation.

An Associate in Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence, one of the first AI associate degrees in the nation, will prepare students to fill the rising demand for professionals with technical expertise, such as AI Developers or AI Specialists, MDC said. Along with an  understanding of AI’s lifecycle management and the ethical considerations for design and implementation, students will also learn about machine learning, data collection, classification, natural language processing, and the functions of AI virtual assistants, among other concepts and popular tools.

MDC also received the state’s approval to offer two of College Credit Certificates in AI for those seeking to learn the fundamentals of AI or sharpen skills. The 3-course CCC in AI Awareness is designed to provide students from any field with an understanding of AI concepts and applications, while the 6-course CCC in AI Practitioner is designed for students seeking to develop the technical skills required for real-world AI applications.

In an effort to make AI education more affordable for local residents, Miami-Dade County provided MDC with the funding to offer scholarships for all new AI courses offered in the fall 2023 semester, which begins August 21. Find  more information about the new programs here or attend an information session on June 6.

“Miami Dade College will continue leading the way in artificial intelligence training in South Florida, and beyond,” said MDC President Madeline Pumariega, in a statement. “As AI continues to grow and evolve, it is essential to prepare a workforce with the necessary skills to succeed in this dynamic, in-demand industry.”

Indeed, Antonio Delgado, MDC’s VP of Innovation & Tech Partnerships, said a Bachelor of Science degree for AI is in development. What’s more, over 500 faculty members from across the university – for instance from journalism, education, philosophy, etc – have taken faculty training to demystify AI and learn to use it in their classrooms as part of the college’s AI for All initiative. “We know that every industry, every job is going to be disrupted with AI and we want every student at MDC to have AI skills,” Delgado said.

The new AI Center downtown, as well as the larger AI Center at MDC’s North Campus, will welcome students and the community at large with speaker series, classes, workshops and more. Downtown, the 5,000-square-foot center, equipped with advanced computer classrooms and flexible spaces for experiential learning and events,  opened with much fanfare with a ribbon-cutting for the community on April 18. However, the real impact of the new center will become apparent in the fall, when the facility “will serve as an epicenter for AI-related activities,” Delgado said.

While I was not able to attend the ribbon cutting, Delgado and Chechu Lasheras, MDC’s Executive Director of Emerging Technologies, gave me a tour a week later.

All photos of the AI Center on Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus were provided by Miami Dade College.

Delgado and Lasheras explained that the Center’s design was inspired by the human brain. As you enter, the left side “follows the rules” with two computer classrooms, each with 25 high-end computer workstations,  that can be combined as needed, for instance for a hackathon. The right side – the creative side – has flexible spaces of interesting shapes and sizes for students, faculty and companies to collaborate on projects. The Center is supported by funding from the Downtown Development Authority, Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade County and City of Miami. You can read more about the 13,000-square-foot North Campus Ai Center here.

As part of the grand opening of Wolfson’s AI Center, MDC launched its own Metaversity, MDC’s digital-twin campus that will allow students to use VR to attend virtual classes and take college tours.  Delgado and Lasheras explained this will allow anyone to attend class from anywhere but feel like a part of the classroom and  campus, complete with VR replicas of iconic Wolfson buildings and classrooms. It was developed by VictoryRX, a company that creates classroom and campus models for VR use.

This metaverse, a hyper-realistic 3D model of the College’s physical grounds and buildings, will allow students, faculty and visitors to really feel engaged in classes, events and more, a missing element in many online experiences today.

Once a student dons a headset, he or she is also free of distractions from the outside world, which can accelerate learning, Delgado said. “We believe this is where education is headed.” At MDC, the future is now.

Miami Dade College Digital Twin Tour – YouTube


Nancy Dahlberg