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Thursday, November 30, 2023

AI initiative incentivises creation of UF AI courses

Almost 100 classes involving AI will be taught during Spring

At least 99 courses incorporating AI will be taught at UF during the Spring semester. 

The UF registrar has over 200 courses in its database denoted as AI courses, said David Reed, the associate provost for strategic initiatives and inaugural director for the Artificial Intelligence Academic Initiative Center (AI2).

In 2020, UF alumnus Chris Malachowsky donated $50 million to help UF expand AI research and courses across all fields. Now, under UF President Ben Sasse’s strategic plan, UF plans to expand research and education on AI.

In December, courses with less than 50% material in AI will be denoted as Enable-AI. These courses are made to help students understand and use AI, but the AI content is lighter than other AI courses, Reed said. 

Students can also now filter the course search on ONE.UF to show courses that have been attributed as AI courses by the registrar. 

AI2 promotes the development of AI courses across all disciplines. Some courses labeled as AI next semester are Advertising Strategy, Econometrics and Business Finance. 

Additionally, there are courses not labeled as AI in the course search but utilize AI in the course content. In the Spring, five courses have AI in the title, but they do not have the AI attribute. Classes like AI in Biology and Geographic Artificial Intelligence do not have the AI label. 

These classes do not have the label because the labeling process is ongoing. Courses taught for the first time or only for one semester use rotating course numbers, which can’t be flagged. 

Matt Gitzendanner works in UF IT and manages the plant evolutionary genetics lab for the biology department. For the past three years, he has taught AI in Biology, which teaches students how to use AI to analyze data sets. 

The class starts off learning about data tables and how AI can help make predictions from the data. The class then looks into the different machine-learning methods.  

“It’s applicable to any field. You don’t need any biology knowledge for any of the stuff I cover in the course,” he said. 

Biology researchers often look for patterns in their data, and AI can make their data organization quicker and more efficient. 

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“AI does a really good job of finding patterns and data. Anything that has a pattern is what it keys in on best,” Gitzendanner said.

Gitzendanner created the course with former UF museum faculty member, Brian Stucky, after Malachowsky made a donation to UF for the construction of Malachowsky Hall and the creation of the HiPerGator supercomputer. The donation persuaded the president and provost to implement AI education across every discipline, Gitzendanner said.

“I was like, ‘Well I’m in biology and I’m learning AI. I should teach about it,’” he said. 

Gitzendanner sees the growth of AI into fields outside of technology and computers as a positive. 

“I think having the ability to use AI and understand the technology and how you can use it to do whatever it is you want to do will give you a leg up in whatever industry you’re in,” he said. 

Seth Raber, a 19-year-old UF computer science junior, hasn’t taken any classes on how to use AI, but he has discussed the ethics, development and popularity of AI in his classes, he said. 

Raber believes the development of AI and UF’s AI initiative is positive progress. 

“Computers came out of nowhere and nobody thought computers were going to be cool,” he said. “AI will just be another tool we’ll eventually use, even if it might change the [scope] of how we learn.” 

AI will enhance the job market, not take jobs away, Raber said. 

“AI nowadays takes information and produces something based on that information,” he said. “If we didn’t have that information to begin with, it wouldn’t be able to create anything. So I believe people who are still making new content, like art online or new code, will still have jobs for it.” 

Contact Megan Howard at Follow her on Twitter @meganmhxward.

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Megan Howard

Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the University General Assignment reporter. In her free time she enjoys reading and belting Taylor Swift songs.

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