Developing Career-Ready Graduates: The Importance of AI Literacy Across the Curriculum

by Jane Southworth & Kati Migliaccio, University of Florida, USA.

Are you curious about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be incorporated into undergraduate education across a diverse university with many different colleges? The University of Florida (UF) is developing a new program that aims to provide every undergraduate student with the opportunity to learn about AI. The program, called AI Across the Curriculum, will engage students in an interdisciplinary manner reflecting real-world workplace environments. The program involves all 16 UF colleges, includes new high performance computing infrastructure and is boosted by 106 recent AI faculty hires. This approach will enhance workforce development and career readiness to prepare students for their future. The program will feature newly developed courses and academic programs featuring AI, innovative partnerships, such as I-CURE (Industry partnered Undergraduate Research Experience) courses, increased internship opportunities focused on AI, and dedicated faculty and staff to support cross-institutional engagement. The ultimate goal is to prepare students with real-world marketable AI skills, awareness of AI implications in society, and improved communication about AI. The program seeks to develop successful digital citizens and global collaborators while fostering more engaged faculty, students, and staff. The program’s pedagogy will provide an innovative model for other institutions to adopt and be adaptable to different campus-wide initiatives, not just AI.

AI is everywhere in our society and is becoming an integral part of our daily lives. As such, it is important for students to have a basic understanding and knowledge of AI to become successful global citizens. UF is taking this idea to heart and is infusing AI learning activities across the curriculum, making it a cornerstone opportunity for all students. To achieve this goal, UF is taking advantage of its significant investment in AI campus-wide to innovate the curriculum and create activities that nurture interdisciplinary engagement while ensuring student career readiness. All students are provided with a suite of AI opportunities and are encouraged to engage, regardless of their discipline. The ultimate goal of the AI Across the Curriculum initiative is the creation of an AI-ready workforce covering the essential 21st-century competencies identified as workforce and government needs worldwide. Qualified human capital is essential to face the challenges of the 21st-century, and UF is positioning itself to lead in meeting this global societal need.

AI has already become a part of our everyday lives, and its influence will only continue to grow. How can we make sure that we use AI in a responsible and ethical manner? The answer is AI literacy (Figure 1). AI literacy has different components which include the ability to understand, use, evaluate, and ethically navigate AI. To be AI literate, one needs to have knowledge of machine learning algorithms, data science, and the limitations and biases present in AI systems. Additionally, one needs to be able to use AI tools and platforms to solve problems, assess the quality and reliability of AI systems, and make informed decisions about the use of AI. We acknowledge that every student will not need or desire the same AI literacy level when leaving the university for careers; however, our model allows students to tailor their program to fit their career goals and provides the opportunity to acquire as many career readiness skills in AI as they desire no matter their major or college.

Figure 1: AI Literacy concepts and the four AI literacy types for use in course design and curriculum evaluation

This education model focuses on these four core areas of AI literacy: knowing and understanding AI, using and applying AI, evaluating and creating AI, and AI ethics (Figure 1) in terms of AI courses and course tagging. A fifth category, “Enabling AI,” was also identified which includes courses that support AI through related knowledge and skill development. The AI literacy model will be revolutionizing the way AI is taught in academia. This model is integrated into different AI initiatives as a foundational component, making AI literacy accessible to all students regardless of their field of study. The model is present in the four initiatives designed for implementing the AI Across the Curriculum. These initiatives include (i) curriculum development, (ii) academic programs, (iii) AI undergraduate scholars and medallion programs, and (iv) AI career pathways and career readiness.

While the AI Across the Curriculum initiatives were initially designed for undergraduates, they are applicable across campus audiences. The curriculum development initiative aims to integrate AI literacy into course content, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of AI applications in their field of study. The academic programs initiative develops a strategic plan for integrating AI across various academic programs, enabling students to develop AI-related competencies in their chosen field, as reflected by certificate programs and other accreditations. The AI undergraduate scholars and medallion programs provide students with the opportunity to work on AI projects with expert faculty, engage in campus wide events, and focus on AI research, thereby enhancing their workforce and critical thinking skills. Finally, the AI professional pathways and career readiness initiative is coordinated by UF’s Career Connections Center. This initiative commits resources and support through partnership toward identification and promotion of AI career readiness competencies; development of professional pathways and industry partnerships; and facilitation of AI internships and experiential learning.

Being AI literate is crucial for both individuals and society. It allows for responsible and ethical use of AI and helps us understand its capabilities and limitations. By developing AI literacy, we are better equipped to face the challenges of the future and make informed decisions about the use of AI. The AI Across the Curriculum program is an important step towards creating an AI-ready workforce that possesses essential 21st-century competencies. It is a program that is inclusive, broad, and transformative, providing interdisciplinary AI literacy opportunities campus wide. By doing so, UF is positioning itself as a leader in meeting the global societal need for qualified human capital in the age of AI and creating a transferable model for others to utilize.


Jane Southworth, Co-Chair of UF’s AI Across the Curriculum Program Development, University of Florida, USA


Kati Migliaccio, Co-Chair of UF’s AI Across the Curriculum Program Development, University of Florida, USA