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Penn Engineering rolls out an online master’s degree in AI, first in Ivy League

The move follows the introduction of Penn's new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence earlier this year.

One of many Frank Furness-designed buildings at the University of Pennsylvania (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)
As artificial intelligence becomes a hot job category for tech workers, academia introduces programs to match.

For the second time in less than six months, the University of Pennsylvania is introducing an AI and engineering degree program, this time at the master’s level. The West Philly university announced on Tuesday an online masters degree of science and engineering in artificial intelligence.

The recent addition of AI-focused degree programs will hopefully prepare students to integrate AI into companies of any size in an ethical and responsible way, Chris Callison-Burch, associate professor of computer and information science at Penn Engineering, told Technical.ly.

“Recognizing the seriousness of potential for impact in artificial intelligence is something that we’ve done,” Callison-Burch said. “Our ability to create a degree program quite rapidly is something that I’m also quite proud of.”

The degree program includes seven required courses which will cover the history of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, statistical foundations of machine learning, the ethics of AI and programming graphic processing units. Students will also be required to take two technical electives and one other elective.

The targeted students are people who already have an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering or a similar field. Professors from the computer and information science department and the electrical systems engineering department will teach the courses.

The program will be called the Raj and Neera Singh Program in Artificial Intelligence Master of Science in Engineering in AI Online, named after Raj and Neera Singh, principal owners of tech and innovation focused investment firm Telcom Ventures.

The first cohort will start in spring 2025, with applications opening on June 3, 2024. The school will also launch a tester program in May where prospective students can try out four of the courses

Taking the AI program online, for greater accessibility

Penn Engineering announced an on-campus undergraduate degree program for AI in February. This was the first AI and engineering undergraduate degree program among Ivy League universities, according to Penn.

The school already offers online masters degree programs in data science and computer and information technology. It also plans to offer a non-degree certificate course for its alumni that would involve taking five courses in the curriculum.

The school chose to make the AI master’s degree  an online program because it caters to a wider audience, Callison-Burch said. The course is offered asynchronously with scheduled time for office hours. The students enrolled in online degree programs are also working full-time, so he usually offers office hours in the evening.

“The online degree program,” Callison-Burch said, “allows us another avenue to scale up and offer to a wider group of students.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: University of Pennsylvania

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