Getting started with algorithms yourself: digital sciences minor for all Tilburg students

Getting started with algorithms yourself: digital sciences minor for all Tilburg students

Students hear a lot about algorithms and artificial intelligence. But how can they use it themselves, now and after their studies? In the new university-wide minor Digital Sciences for Society, students from all fields of study learn about the interaction between digital technologies and societal developments.

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Digital technologies are penetrating every nook and cranny of everyday life. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the latest addition to the digital tribe, is making remarkable advances. Scientists from digital sciences are closely following developments. And students from all fields of study can also start doing so in a university-wide minor starting after the summer.

The minor covers an entire semester and is ideally suited for Tilburg University students, says Boudewijn Haverkort, Dean of the School of  Humanities and Academic Lead of the strategic program behind the minor. ‘If you look at the University’s motto, Understanding Society, that also means ‘understanding the digital society’ because it has become an integrated part of the world.’

For students at all Schools

‘With this minor, we want to provide the opportunity for students who are in fact not majoring in digital sciences because they too will soon come into contact with it in their professional lives,’ Haverkort says. ‘Therefore, good knowledge of the impact of digital technology is important for all disciplines and fields of study.’

‘The minor is offered inter-school, so all students are invited to participate in it,’ Haverkort says. The focus is not only on the technical side. Human interaction with digital technology and the impact of digital technology on society are explicitly part of the curriculum. ‘This is pre-eminently a theme suitable for this university.’

Getting started with data

For example, there is a lot of talk about algorithms, but how can students use them themselves in their field? And how, for example, do you safely interact with the digital world without harming yourself and others? Legal, psychological, and philosophical approaches are also discussed, among others.

Students will brush up on their knowledge in six months maximum. ‘Up to a certain basic level,’ says Haverkort. ‘So students get elementary knowledge about algorithms that is mainly meant for people with a limited mathematical background.’

Working with the municipality

Associated with the minor is a challenge in collaboration with third parties. In the first version of the minor, this is the Tilburg Municipality. As program coordinator, Ching-Chu (June) Sun is responsible for organizing the minor: ‘With Tilburg Municipality, for example, we will investigate the degree of social cohesion in different neighborhoods.’

‘The students have access to datasets from CBS and Brabantscan with relevant variables, such as migration background, poverty, health, or design of public space,’ Sun says. ‘Students are being challenged to propose possible solutions based on the data and interviews, which Tilburg Municipality can eventually use to develop new policies to increase social cohesion.’

Working in teams to find solutions

During the challenge, students will work in teams. This is where the interdisciplinary nature of the minor comes in handy. Haverkort: ‘In daily professional practice, professionals from different disciplines also work together.

‘I imagine that during such a challenge a law student would be paired with an economics student, for example, or with a culture studies student. That could produce interesting combinations of students who then work together on solutions.’

Students can register for the minor starting August 12. There are two variations: one of 18 credits (without the challenge) and one of 30 credits (including the challenge).

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel

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