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CWRU to collaborate with Microsoft on AI in education, research

After a decade as partners advancing augmented reality in higher education, Case Western Reserve and Microsoft will once again explore how the company’s technologies can enhance the university experience.

Through a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Case Western Reserve and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on new ways to use artificial intelligence (AI) across the university’s curriculum, research and administration functions.

“AI is driving rapid growth and transforming entire industries,” said Case Western Reserve Provost Joy K. Ward. “I’m eager to explore how Microsoft’s advanced AI technologies can help us improve the outstanding academic and research experiences we offer to our students.”

The MOU signifies a shared commitment to advancing AI technology and its applications to benefit society. 

Through this new collaboration, Case Western Reserve looks to use the Microsoft Azure AI platform and Microsoft Copilot in multiple ways, such as:

  • Developing an advanced AI curriculum;
  • Equipping students with the necessary skills for the workforce;
  • Jointly conducting research projects in Azure AI; and
  • Advancing productivity across offices, such as automating routine tasks, enhancing decision-making and improving efficiency.

Plus, by infusing curricula with Microsoft’s platforms, the university will expose students to the power of AI across all disciplines, said Miro Humer, vice president of University Technology and chief information officer.

“Microsoft’s capabilities in AI can arm Case Western Reserve students with advanced understanding of not only how to use AI effectively but also ethically,” Humer said. “It also gives everyone at the university a chance to explore how AI can enhance or streamline the work they do.”

Among the first uses being explored: Weatherhead School of Management’s Executive Education program will launch a series of courses on generative AI. To help design the new classes, Microsoft representatives will lead a “prompt-a-thon” with key faculty and staff members, explained Youngjin Yoo, the Elizabeth M. and William C. Treuhaft Professorship in Entrepreneurship and associate dean for research at the Weatherhead School.

“In the last century, during the peak of industrialization, the Weatherhead School led the world by creating the first PhD programs in organizational behavior and operations research among U.S. business schools,” Yoo said. “Now, we are leading the way again by creating human-centered AI programs building on our traditional strengths in emotional intelligence, organizational transformation, design, and digital innovation.”

“We’re pleased to collaborate with Case Western Reserve University, exploring the transformative potential of AI. This collaboration resonates with the university’s dedication to using AI for the benefit of its community,” said Lydia Smyers, vice president, US Academics, Microsoft. “United by a commitment to excellence, integrity, and inclusivity, our relationship champions ethical innovation for the nation’s future.”

A history of collaboration

This initiative marks nearly a decade of collaborative work between Case Western Reserve and Microsoft. In 2014, Microsoft and Case Western Reserve began collaborating on software using the Microsoft HoloLens augmented-reality product for anatomy courses—announced in 2015 and later launched as HoloAnatomy

Since then, university collaborators, especially within the Interactive Commons, have developed myriad uses for the headset device—such as an exploration of narwhals led by Meryl Streep, a futuristic dance performance and, more recently, putting medieval objects into the hands of student researchers.

In addition, in 2019, Microsoft researchers’ “quantum-inspired” algorithms led to dramatic improvements in the application of CWRU’s pioneering technique, magnetic resonance fingerprinting.

Planning for the future

This collaboration with Microsoft marks another initiative at Case Western Reserve to embed AI across the university.

Last summer, President Eric W. Kaler asked the Office of the Provost and Faculty Senate to assemble an AI in Education Task Force to explore the impacts of AI on student learning and teaching, with the goal to prepare students who are AI literate and who can employ the power of AI. 

The AI Task Force is co-chaired by Ward and Faculty Senate Chair and Associate Professor of Neurology Maureen McEnery, and its members include about 40 faculty, staff and administrators. In January, the task force shared a report with Kaler that included a roadmap and recommendations to achieving leadership in AI educational outcomes.

“The possibilities for using AI to revolutionize what we do and how we do it are remarkable—so long as we enact them ethically and responsibly,” President Kaler said. “This collaboration with Microsoft marks yet another way in which we are providing forward-thinking experiences for our community that can transform our academics, research and overall operations for the better.”