From the winter semester 2023/24 LMU students can study AI as a minor subject. | © IMAGO/Shotshop
ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, you name it: AI is now everywhere you look. “Right now, it is important to understand what you can and cannot do with AI,” explains Dr. Iris Trautmann, course coordinator for artificial intelligence as a new minor subject in bachelor’s degree courses at LMU. “Not only do we encounter AI in society, industry and business: It is also affecting the sciences.” Accordingly, it is important for students of IT – but also those of completely different disciplines – to acquire a basic understanding of the concepts and methods used in AI.
This new subsidiary subject in the AIM@LMU program – part of Germany’s National-Regional Development Initiative for “Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education” – initially targets students of the humanities, social sciences and economics. Geography students too can sign up for the course at the Department of Informatics. In the years ahead, the 60 or 30 ETCS points minor subject should also become an optional minor subject for other LMU disciplines and students. Like LMU’s digital humanities postgraduate course in history and art, which teaches practical digital skills for students of the humanities, and like the digital cultural heritage course, which engages in research at the point where archeology meets informatics, AI as a subsidiary subject likewise transcends the boundaries of individual disciplines. One aim is therefore to help students grasp the relevance of AI to their main area of study.
The minor course in AI starts right at the beginning: The basic segment teaches the fundamentals of mathematics and statistics. Programming with Python is also part of the curriculum, making room for initial practical applications. Students learn to program their own script with which they can then tackle problems in their major discipline. “I am looking forward to exploring an area that, from a content perspective, is essentially completely new to me,” says Miriam Dietrich, who is studying general and comparative literature at LMU.
The second segment provides an introduction to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Since the individuals studying it are obviously not IT specialists, the course content will again be presented in a very graphic, hands-on manner. As much of the syllabus as possible will be available in digital form so that students can refer back to it later on.
The fourth and fifth-semester courses combine elective subjects, while the content is determined by the student’s major subject. Students can, for example, contribute issues raised in their major discipline and tackle them with their own AI project in their bachelor’s thesis – blending their major and minor subjects in a very practical way. The choice can reflect their personal interests. Other options include internships, presentations and synopses of what the students have read about AI in relation to their given discipline. “Everyone thus has the chance to link an aspect of their major subject to this subsidiary discipline,” Trautmann explains. To support this interdisciplinary approach, lecturers from other disciplines are likewise involved in the AI course: “That is the only way to give students a multidisciplinary understanding of AI.”
As digital developments advance, it is especially important not only to grasp the potential of artificial intelligence, but also to be aware of where dangers exist. “The more we understand about AI, the better we can master it. That is where we need human intelligence,” Trautmann says. This too is an issue for which students of LMU’s new minor subject will be prepared.