WASHINGTON — Classes on and insights into the fields of artificial intelligence, big-data analytics and wireless communications technologies are now available across the U.S. Department of Defense courtesy of an arrangement with a prominent school.

The Defense Department’s Chief Digital and AI Office, or CDAO, on Nov. 16 announced the launch of “Digital On-Demand,” providing both military and civilian workforces access to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s online learning library.

The initiative, made possible through the Air and Space forces’ Digital University, is meant to foster a baseline understanding of AI and other emerging technologies, according to Craig Martell, who leads the CDAO. The office was established in 2021 to expedite the defense world’s embrace of AI and best-in-class data practices.

“This resource demonstrates to the DoD workforce how they fit into the future of these advancements and further enables their adoption throughout the department,” he said in a statement.

Results of a previous pilot show a vast majority of participants found the teachings relevant. The tools are available as the Defense Department pours money into AI and advocates for its ethical employment on the battlefield and in the boardroom.

The department in fiscal 2024 sought $1.8 billion for AI. It was juggling more than 685 AI-related projects as of 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Widespread understanding of the technology — its strengths, weaknesses and blindspots — is critical to its successful application. Building trust between man and machine is a complex process, often requiring repeated exposure, according to a GAO report.

“The DoD is on a historical journey of building a digital workforce. When it comes to AI and emerging technologies, it is really important that their employees are all speaking the same language,” Kathleen Kennedy, the senior director of MIT Horizon and executive director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, said in a statement. “We are excited to collaborate with DoD on this effort to accelerate AI knowledge and emerging technologies across their entire workforce.”

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

More In AI & ML