Future-proofing coding studies in the AI age


As AI technologies become more prevalent in our society, a lingering question looms over the future of coding studies and the value of getting a tertiary coding or IT qualification of degree.

“The ability of programs like ChatGPT to automatically produce texts and even software code that appear to be written by a human has led to widely varied reactions, from visions of an idyllic future of liberation from drudgery to dystopian nightmares of the widespread destruction of quality jobs,” John Burgess, Manager of Cyber Security & Digital Technology Programs at Victoria University told EducationDaily.

“The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, and coding jobs are not likely to disappear anytime soon.”

The human touch is still needed

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Faculty of Science and Technology Associate Professor Niusha Shafiabady says that while AI can do a lot of the grunt work in coding, humans will still be needed to interpret the codes written by AI.

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“As a simple example, as a human, even if we might not be a chef, we should be able to identify the ingredients of the food we eat and have an understanding of a healthy diet,” she told EducationDaily.

“If we know nothing, someone might feed us ‘rubbish’ and we won’t realise. The same applies to AI.”

Evolving job prospects

Mr Burgess is also the author of The Australian Cybersecurity Handbook and says there will still be many career prospects after the advent of AI.

“In many respects, AI is no different from the many significant technological advances which have occurred over the past 50 years,” he told EducationDaily.

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“If history is any guide, the rise of AI is likely to lead to more jobs in the technology sector, not less. Even as AI improves and can independently generate more code, there will still be a need for humans to understand and specify requirements and work out how to represent them in a logical way.”

There will also, he says, be a need for people who can test and fix the output of the AI models and to envision new applications of AI technology.

“And, of course, there will be an increasing need for people who know how to secure the vast new data stores created by the AI revolution.”

Workplace skills for a tech-driven future

So, what skills should young people interested in the world of technology be taking up?

“The answer to this question depends on each individual’s goals and abilities,” Professor Shafiabady told EducationDaily.

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“Some people want to excel and become creators of technology rather than just users of technological advancements. For those people, things like applied mathematics are important to learn; AI is based on applied mathematics. They should study the subjects that help them develop their critical and analytical thinking skills.”

As AI continues play a key role in the evolution of education delivery and engagement in the future of the workplace and the classroom, the playfield for students of coding will shift too.

“Nowadays, kids can leverage AI to help them create and generate the codes,” she says.

The evolution of coding

Professor Shafiabady says that coding should still be studied but with a new approach. She also points out that, while anyone can learn coding, not many are good at algorithm design. Learning that, she says, is a valuable knowledge and skill.

“Algorithm design needs strong analytical thinking skills, which is important,” she says.

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For people who are planning to be technicians and users of technology, working to expand their knowledge of different tools and their capabilities, she says, is a smart move.

“They should be able to learn to use those tools quickly and move to the next one when a better tool comes to the market,” Professor Shafiabady told EducationDaily. “So, the keyword for the first group is ‘critical thinking’ and for the second group is ‘expanding knowledge of technological advancements’.”

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