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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

AI: Robot Overlord, Replacement or Colleague?

Course Unit Code


Course Unit Details

This unit has been designed specifically for online learning and offers a unique interactive experience.


  • Level 2
  • 10 Credits
  • Department of Computer Science and School of Health Sciences


Artificial intelligence (AI), the ability of machines to learn from data, make decisions and perform actions, is now creeping into every aspect of our lives. This unit explores the mechanisms, implications and ethics of an environment where AI plays an increasingly important role.

  • We will consider the science behind the headlines to help you develop an informed opinion regarding the complexities of the use of AI in society
  • We will discuss the conceptual frameworks behind AI methodologies and the sources of the data on which they operate
  • We will provide an introduction to computational thinking. What sort of problems can AI realistically be expected to help with?
  • There will be an in depth analysis of a series of case studies highlighting the use of AI in work and society
  • You will work alongside students from a wide range of disciplines, to understand the benefits and opportunities AI offers now, and how this might change in the future

If you are interested in the ways in which AI impacts on society, but have not had the opportunity to study it, this is the unit for you. The unit does not assume any background knowledge.

This online unit, delivered via Blackboard, is made up of online modules that are released at intervals. The unit is highly interactive and adopts a blend of approaches including video inputs and case studies.


This unit will demystify AI, explaining how it works, and demonstrating its limitations. Its overarching aim is to equip Manchester graduates from all disciplines with an understanding of the impact this technology currently has, the way this is likely to change in the future and, crucially, the ability to grasp the opportunities it brings, whatever your chosen career.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

  • Describe and review the basic concepts underlying AI and Machine Learning
  • Identify and debate the impact of AI on society both now and in the future, and from diverse, interdisciplinary and non-technical viewpoints
  • Employ computational thinking approaches to formulate a problem in such a way that a computer can tackle it
  • Critically evaluate AI applications in an innovative and socially responsible way towards ensuring that technology is used in the future to improve the way we work and live
  • Collaborate within a team to analyse and evaluate a case study


Examples of topics covered:

  • Can you get a machine to learn? Finding out what AI can do (and more importantly, what it can't do)
  • Can AI help your business grow? Using big data to target your ecommerce activity
  • Do humans or machines make better drivers? The importance of 'systems thinking' in the human-technology relationship
  • What is the impact of AI on our legal system? Can robots make fair and ethical decisions?
  • Can robots care? The use of robots in social care


  1. Essay (50%)
  2. Group case studies (30%)
  3. Project (20%)

Formative feedback:

  • Weekly formative feedback on group case study activities
  • Optional formative feedback on the skeleton of your essay
  • Optional weekly interactive sessions to get support and broaden your knowledge on AI and robotics through games and guest speakers (both humans and robots).


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Teaching Staff

Iliada Eleftheriou, Caroline Jay and Andy Brass

Teaching and Learning Methods

  • Online modules in Blackboard
  • Introductory face-to-face session
  • Optional weekly drop-in session
I liked that it explores the social implications of AI as well as the technical hurdles in its development. I was also happy to find that even though the unit gives students the opportunity to experiment with a real AI algorithm, it wasn't too complex for me (a first year humanities student) to keep up. All in all, a detailed yet accessible foray into the world of AI.Timothy Hughes, Humanities Student

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