MTSU Professor Addresses Development and Use of AI in the Workplace

MTSU Professor Addresses Development and Use of AI in the Workplace
MTSU's Dr. Keith Gamble Discusses AI and Human Resources. Photo by Lee Rennick

At the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce’s latest We Grow Talent Workforce Summit, Dr. Keith Gamble, Director of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Data Science Institute addressed the development of data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI, he explained, is an expanding subset within the young but rapidly growing field of data science. It can now be used in the workplace to manipulate the massive amounts of data available on the internet to make the Human Resources (HR) job easier in a number of areas.

“Data Science is a set of tools and techniques designed to interpret and communicate complex information,” explained Gamble. “About five years ago me and some other leaders at MTSU recognized the need to create new programs in what is now called data science. It is all about working with data to gain insight…Our world has gotten very good at collecting data.  Over the last 20 years, everyone has started collecting data. And whether you knew it or not, you have been providing data to the corporate world with things like your Facebook presence where they can learn everything about you.”

While these companies have been collecting data, they have not necessarily known what to do with everything they have learned. The new area of data science is all about how to use this massive amount of available data and how to gain employable insights from that data to solve real world problems.

Students in data science at MTSU want to work with real-world information, so the university formed the Data Science Institute to provide them with opportunities to work with companies in the community who have lots of information about their customers, but do not know how to use it to solve a business problem or problems.

“We can take that data and provide insights,” explained Gamble. “That’s what we do. We have a lot of paid projects that we bring to students. We have partnered with Rutherford Works, Rutherford County Schools…and several [other] organizations and small businesses. The kind of businesses who cannot afford the McKenzie Consultants of the world.”

There are many ways to process data once it has been cleaned up and put into a functional format, one of those ways is using AI. AI is software that takes a lot of data and organizes that data in a way to do something helpful or something new to solve a problem in a human-like way. It is when a machine does something human-like.

“Artificial Intelligence is actually a very old concept,” noted Gamble. “[It] has been around for decades and decades and decades. But why is it now the “it” word right now in 2023? The answer is because there has been such rapid development in the area…The change in the world that has happened in the last year is that some companies started to develop something called large language models…[with] new techniques…and larger memory…that people look at the output and go “WOW!”

Gamble went on to explain how various AI software programs available for free on the internet can be used to help those in Human Resources make their jobs easier., developed by Anthropic, is a free and easy-to-use large language model. It is now a partner with Amazon web services. ChatGBT is Microsoft’s version through BING. BARD is Google’s version.

“AI is the next wave in the digital revolution and it is going to change everything,” said Gamble.

While one does not want to put sensitive personal data into, one simple way that it can help those in HR is by writing job descriptions. Gamble demonstrated how anyone can use the program to put in various parameters of a particular job and will take those parameters and write a complete job description in less than a minute by reaching out into the vast sea of knowledge stored out on the internet, sorting it using the provided parameters, and creating the requested job description. It saves the HR professional massive amounts of time researching a job they may know little to nothing about.

“It is like having a personal assistant that can get you started by writing a first draft,” added Gamble.

Claude can also be used by a job applicant. An applicant can enter the job description and their own skills and have create a resume that plays to the job description provided by a specific company.

What Gamble did emphasize is that while AI can pull all of the information together and write a first draft, it is important to note that what comes out will be very much like a first draft. Sometimes it even gets things wrong. Therefore, it is important for the writer to customize the piece for their business or to be more personalized.

Those who are working full time, but who are interested in getting training in data science, can get a Certificate in Data Science from MTSU. The university also offers a Bachelors, Masters and PhD in the area. It is a hot topic, as enrollment in data science is growing while overall college enrollment is falling.