How it Worked
Students were placed in teams with members from all different backgrounds and geographic locations. These teams worked together to complete 6 assignments.
Each assignment had two deadlines – one for the Peer Review, after which all participants were asked to give feedback on other teams´ solutions, and one final deadline before which teams submitted their assignments. Communication between participants took place on the online platform and different forums (each with individual topics) as well as a messaging system, which enabled participants to communicate with their peers and teachers.
Throughout the course, we provided video lectures and reading assignments from our team of professors and guest lecturers to help the participants deepen their knowledge of the topics and aid in completing the assignments.
The Method To the MOOC
Since the course was taught in an online format, individual preparation and participation was vital to a productive learning environment for all participants. The course concept was built on the principle that participants learn from each other as much as from instructors or reading assignments. In other words, what and how much you would learn in this course would be directly related to the amount of time and effort you invested. We empowered students to learn, their teammates and peers supported them, but in the end, it was the individual student’s own motivation that determined how much they took away from the course.
This also affected the overall structure of the course: The MOOC format relies on active contributions, participation and feedback - it allows for much flexibility and access to incredible resources. We believe it encourages learning by co-operating, not by competition. Although we most likely give up the experience of meeting each other face-to-face in an online setting, the wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as the pool of questions and ideas brought together have the potential to make a richer learning experience than any traditional classroom can offer.
Credits and a University Certificate
While participation in `ThinkTank Ideal City of the 21st Century´ was free in itself, a nominal fee of €20 (≈ $26) was charged to obtain the University certificate which the Leuphana Digital School offered to all those participants who have successfully completed the course. Since ThinkTank is organized by Leuphana University, students from all over in the world – depending on their home university – were able to apply the course credits towards their degree program.
Participating in ‘ThinkTank – Ideal City of the 21st Century’, students formulated their vision of an ideal city by completing six consecutive assignments in teams. For each assignment, our lecturers contributed specific academic input from a multi-disciplinary perspective via video keynotes and other supporting materials. All involved – instructors and peers alike – provided feedback and advice on the main project categories such as architecture, economics, social science, cultural history, sustainability, infrastructure and public health. While working on their respective assignments, students engaged in virtual classroom discussions with their peers and instructors on the project platform.
1 - Significant Detail: Your Personal View on Today’s Cities
Every look into the future starts with understanding the present. Within your daily lives you come across many different characteristics of city life, from distinctive and eye-catching to urban decay, from functional and sustainable to inefficient and impractical. In the first assignment, we asked students to hand in photographs of details in their current home city that were definitive to the city and mattered to them personally – for good or bad.
The students were then asked to describe each picture in a short and concise paragraph. Why was the element chosen representative of that city or cities in general? Why and how does it matter to you personally?
2 - Planned Cities: Learning from the Past
In this assignment, we asked the students to compare several historic planned cities that tried to find answers to prevalent challenges of their time. They studied different approaches, as well as respective social, political and economic conditions.
Next, we asked the teams to compare two cities that tried to find answers to a challenge of their time. To guide them through the process of comparing visions and their realization, we provided a framework of leading questions – all regarding the focus of this assignment: what makes a city?
3 - Vision for Society: Setting the Stage
At this point in the course the students moved from a focus on current or past cities to formulating a vision of their own “Ideal City of the 21st Century.” The first step focused on governing thoughts for the prospective society. In the form of a short text, we asked participants to choose and explain their own ideal city’s constitutive principles – what would the role of government, the citizen, and the market be, what about mobility requirements, and the framework for sustainability?
4 - The List: Elements of the City, and How they work
This assignment focused on the functional elements of each team’s ideal city. Taking into account their vision for society at large in Assignment 3, we asked what exactly would be needed for their city? For example, universities, schools, hospitals, theaters, public transport, city hall, religious buildings – and how many of each? How would each of these projects be financed? In this assignment we asked the teams to really focus on decoding their vision and principles and to describe their team’s city in terms of real functions and key elements in list form. We encouraged the participants to think creatively, how can functional city elements work in new and more efficient ways? What are potential new opportunities?
5 - Interaction in the City: A Conceptual Map
In this assignment we asked the participants to create their team’s city´s layout in a conceptual map. This step was about communicating each team’s spatial concept so that others could easily perceive it. In addition, we asked that they explain their concept in concrete terms: How do the particular elements of your city relate to each other spatially, how do they interact? What are the core use cases of the inhabitants of your city, and how will they be implemented?
6 - Your City: The Visualization
For the final submission we asked participants to distill all their prior thoughts and ideas and move on to implementation, producing a final all-encompassing visualization of their team’s ideal city that reflected the vision, priorities, elements, and concepts reached in the previous assignments.
Even though this was primarily an exercise in visualization, we emphasized that teams should also think about other sensory experiences and try to convey them visually. What does your team’s city smell like, taste like, what do you hear when you walk down its street? This assignment was not about the sleekest production but something that best conveyed the “experience” of living in their city. To supplement the visualization, we also asked for a 1000 word descriptive text to aid in explaining their process and final results.