IBM Industry Day: Bringing Technology & Education Together


By Paloma Shakouri, second year, Business & Enterprise student

On Friday 30th October, it was time for our second industry day. This time across the Thames from 80 Strand, at the headquarters of IBM.

We were very privileged to be addressed by David Stokes, the CEO of IBM. He expressed how our Pearson tagline ‘Always Learning’ really resonates with him.

He explained how important it is to “make the most out of life as you only have one opportunity”, and how important it is to learn, whether that be from experiences, books, colleagues or even friends.  

David described IBM as an “innovation company” and I would absolutely agree - we were amazed to learn that their first products, 104 years ago, were in fact weighing machines and cheese graters! David Stokes’ closing advice to us was to “learn, have no fear and collaborate across boundaries”. Following David Stokes was Pearson’s very own Rod Bristow (Whom many of us recognised from being on the panel at our Pearson Plc. industry event, just two weeks before).

He began by drawing out the similarities between IBM and Pearson as both being purpose-driven companies. The relationship between IBM, the largest technology and consulting employer in the world, and Pearson – the largest education company in the world, is so important for integrating data technology in education and developing learning. Rod highlighted, that us, as the Students of Pearson College London, “have just listened to the CEO of one of the largest companies in the UK, and that is something very unique that you don’t get to experience at other universities”. This, along with many other reasons, is why Pearson College London is disrupting the education industry.

IBM event

The next presentation was from Duncan Anderson on IBM Watson - the next stage of Cognitive Computing. At present, Watson can deeply understand natural language, down to tone and context. Duncan explained that IBM want to form “a new partnership between computers and people” to help them make better decisions and optimise their capabilities.

To show us just how clever Watson really is; Duncan showed us a clip of the Jeopardy IBM challenge, a game show where Watson competed against humans to answer the questions correctly. It is important to note that during the show Watson was disconnected from the Internet and still proved to be more intelligent than humans, answering the questions in impressive time.

Despite being already impressed, Duncan went on to explain some of the further talents of Watson, such as IBM Watson News Explorer, Ask Watson a Question and IBM Watson Health. Duncan explained how the intention is to have built a computer system that actually emulates how the human brain functions, by integrating a Neurosynaptic Chip, which will “transform mobility and the Internet of Things”.

The talk before we were due to split into our teams (and have lunch!) was from the Innovation Team. They posed the question: How we can use IBM technology in Education? We were then sent off into pre-determined teams, mixing PCL and IBM graduate interns, for the Innovation Challenge.

IBM Event

Our idea was an application (both phone and web) that integrates Watson technology in order to help make University more manageable and thus more successful for both the students and the institution.Whilst we felt our idea had huge potential for future development, for the purpose of the task and presentation, we decided as a team to focus on the Education-side of university.

Our main elements included:

  • Using Watson Q&A to ask questions during a lecture or seminar, rather than interrupt the flow of a lecture by raising your hand and asking the tutor a question.
  • When it comes to group work, the application would use Watson Profiling to analyse which characters work best together, for optimum efficiency and results.
  • Referencing & Plagiarism Tester: In order to help with assignments, students could upload their work to check they have not unintentionally plagiarised and Watson will provide the correct referencing, using its wide body of ‘knowledge’ and potentially give feedback for areas of improvement.

After just half an hour of preparation, it was time to present our idea in a room full of IBM professionals, IBM student graduates and PCL students. We were delighted to learn that our team came second place in the challenge; and as a result we were told that we would be attending an IBM Hursley event in December! I thoroughly enjoyed the industry day. I would like to thank both IBM and Pearson College London for organising it. I learned so much about IBM as a company, their welcoming culture and their incredible innovation - I am fascinated to see what the future holds. 

#AlwaysLearning #InnovateTogether

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