Future cities / Responsive Cities -Massive Open Online Course

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The ETH urban MOOC series ‘Future Cities’ has launched its first three editions; ‘Future Cities’, ‘Livable Future Cities’, and ‘Smart Cities’. While ‘Futures Cities’ provides an overview on the latest research results on planning, managing and transforming cities, ‘Livable Future Cities’ focuses on livability in existing and new cities, by exploring different focus areas (climate, energy, mobility, ecology and ecosystem services) that affect livability and quality of life in a city. In the process of building up the ‘Futures Cities’ urban MOOCs series, the third edition, ‘Smart Cities’, explores the concept of smart buildings and cities and forms the basis of our fourth edition: ‘Responsive Cities’.
Similar to previous editions, ‘Responsive Cities’ intends to present realistic approaches, methods and techniques to increase the sustainability and resilience of cities.

There are no other courses focusing on this particular, yet very important topic in a holistic way. The Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and Zürich has produced carefully researched results in various urbanization related scientific fields. The knowledge gained from the correlation of research results is an absolute need for the next generation of city planners, city builders and city managers. Moreover, as it is a topic of global interest, there is a necessity to engage people worldwide regardless of their profession, and stimulate them to be part of the planning of their own cities.

The ‘Responsive Cities’ MOOC continues the exploration of a new learning experience to ETH students, Active Learning: The inclusive MOOC allows students to interact with participants around the world and to engage in multicultural discussions. ETH students participating in the exclusive ETH ‘Responsive Cities’ elective and in the MOOC at the same time, add- broader knowledge on the topics explored than they could acquire if they would work exclusively with their ETH colleagues. ETH students interact with and learn from citizens around the world about experiences in other cities through the successful techniques developed in our first urban MOOCs.

A Responsive City is the next generation in urban development after the Smart City. It is also the exclusive topic of the fourth in a series of the ETH ‘Future Cities’ Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). ‘Responsive Cities’ was launched for the fall semester 2017 and builds on the experiences with our first urban MOOCs: (1) ‘Future Cities’ as an introductory course with more than 25’000 registrations in 2014 and 2015, (2) ‘Liveable Future Cities’ with contributions from 10 eminent ETH faculty in Zürich and Singapore in 2015, and (3) ‘Smart Cities’, the first successful test run of our Active Learning approach in 2016.

‘Responsive Cities’ focuses on (1) Active Learning: ETH students directly interact in parallel with their teachers and colleagues at ETH and with the participants of the on-going interactive MOOC; ETH students thus benefit from the ETH teaching environment, and at the same time from their MOOC partners throughout the world; (2) Research driven Learning: The course mains to teach results of the Responsive Cities Urban Science research project; the findings will be accessible to all ETH and MOOC students on an interactive design research platform – something not achievable in traditional courses; (3) Learning driven Research: Learning driven Research is the working tittle for a method that aims to complete the circle between research, teaching and learning. We developed the design learning Qua-Kit platform for the MOOC “Smart Cities”. ETH and MOOC students applied the browser based software successfully in the Fall Semester 2016 (see images below). The next generation of the QUA-Kit software will be available for the Fall Semester 2017 to citizens in Singapore as part of a research project on Citizen Design Science. ETH students will benefit by following a real-time application of their design tool and will be able to interact directly with citizens using the software. The Citizen Design Science project is part of the BigData informed Urban Design project in Singapore. It will be employed in a major urban design research project in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar region.

In the past, we carefully evaluated the ETH-exclusive elective course and developed our new teaching approach connecting the ETH course with the MOOC. We have learned that the added value for ETH students from the inclusive ETH ‘Smart Cities’ elective course in combination with the MOOC was a two-way learning interaction with participants around the world. For the inclusive ETH ‘Responsive Cities’ elective course and the corresponding MOOC, we want to upgrade and strengthen this process with Research driven Learning and Learning driven Research (working title).

Cities become first smart and then responsive. Dynamic behaviour differentiates the Responsive City from the Smart City. Smart Cities are technology driven and produce large amounts of data. Smart Cities and Smart Buildings are in an early stage of development, as every building and every city is a prototype. The Responsive City we present and develop in this course builds on Smart City technology, but places the human in the centre of decision-making, design, and management of the city. It uses the stocks and flows of information as the main driver of change. Data for the Responsive City come from smart buildings, smart infrastructure, and most important, from its citizens.

To deepen the knowledge about Responsive Cities, we define the concept of Citizen Design Science, a combination of Citizen Science and Urban Design. Both are conducted, in whole or in part, by citizens or nonprofessional scientists. This approach is still in an early stage of development and, with the Responsive Cities elective course, we aim to explore its potential together with participants around the word. We engage participants in the discussion and activate citizens around the world to be part of the planning of their own cities. A concrete example will be the urban design project of Tanjong Pagar in Singapore, as part of the ETH Future Cities Laboratory research at the Singapore-ETH Centre.
By offering the ‘Smart Cities’ course in HS 2015 as an ETH-exclusive elective and in HS 2016 in parallel with the MOOC, we were able to identify the benefits to the ETH students and design, upon feedback and learning experiences, the next parallel ETH course and MOOC edition on Responsive Cities.

Our medium-term goal is to make the ‘Future Cities’ series of urban MOOCs the worldwide first and complete series of urban courses dealing with different focus areas for the design, management and transformation of cities for their sustainable and resilient future. This leads to a modular collection of urban MOOCS for each part of the urban system. The first edition, ‘Future Cities’ opened a holistic view on existing and future cities. Each following urban MOOC increases in depth and in specialization.
With every edition, the series increases interaction between ETH students and citizens around the world and empowers them to become part of the development of their own cities, especially in those places in the world where this knowledge is needed most. In addition, each coming MOOC will learn from the previous by linking research with teaching, a new approach that will be continued with this fourth edition on ‘Responsive Cities’. Specifically, we expect to integrate research results from a large urban Citizen Design Science project in Singapore directly into the MOOC Responsive Cities
With the successful completion of the course, the participant are be able to better understand the city by going beyond the physical appearance and by focusing on different representations, properties and impact factors of the urban system.

In this fourth edition on ‘Responsive Cities’, we aim to complete the circle between research, teaching and learning, (i) Research driven Learning and (ii) Learning driven Research (working title):

(i) We investigate data-driven approaches for the development of the Responsive City, based on crowd sourcing and sensing. By the end of the course, participants will explore aspects of Responsive Cities with the use of interactive online tools and share their findings and understand how cities around the world can benefit from data-informed design and dynamic behaviour.

(ii) Participants become citizen design scientists guided by an ETH teaching/research team to explore the topic of Responsive Cities. They will support research projects by working on specific tasks by the use of citizen design science methods. The QUA-Kit software developed for the MOOC Smart Cities will be employed in a major urban design research project on Responsive Cities in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar region.